back to the Black Table
               
  THE HISTORY OF THE BLACK TABLE.  
   
 

2003

January 7: The Black Table launches, with an editor's letter from Eric Gillin, and several recycled stories from Nine Planets, the Web magazine the BT's editors had doodled with a few months prior. They include an instant messaging session on How To Tie A Tie, an interview with a elderly porn star and, of course, Life As A Loser, which, at this point, has run on every non-child porn Web site on earth. On a whim, A.J. Daulerio and Will Leitch decide to mock Hot Or Not Lists with a deranged list of their own, full of the first photos the site has ever run. Eric Gillin spends hours trying to figure out how to code photos for the Web. The Black Table, from the get-go, is on top of its game.

January 17: The Black Table discovers Photoshop and makes up a picture of a fat Kate Winslet. It becomes the BT's first link on the recently launched New York City gossip Web site Gawker.com, which launched exactly three weeks before The Black Table. No one expects the gossip site to last, but BT editors decide to try to make friends with editor Elizabeth Spiers anyway.

January 23: In the midst of a night full of drugs, Judas Priest and Spin The Bottle, Daulerio, Gillin and Lindsay Robertson decide to take pictures of their beer bottles and write "reviews" of them. Months later, the beer reviews will end up on countless university message boards, inspire several sequels and will be the BT's first breakout hit. In lieu of this success, this method of "research" will become commonplace at Camp Bowery, The Black Table's world headquarters.

January 24: The first-ever Waxing Off runs, with Robertson, Amy Blair, Claire Zulkey, Theresa O'Rourke and future BT managing editor Aileen Gallagher contributing women's thoughts on the Super Bowl. The feature becomes a monthly hit for the site and is responsible for 65 percent of Daulerio's sexual conquests for the next three years.

January 31: Robertson writes the first ever "Week In Craig" column, featuring the funniest posts from Craig's List during the week.

February 4: Johan More makes his debut as poet laureate of The Black Table. The South Carolina-bred copy writer's work is the only poetry the BT ever runs.

February 10: A yearly tradition, born at Mattoon High School in Southern Illinois, continues on the BT when Leitch and Tim Grierson exchange their top 10 movies of the year on the site. Other editors, semi-affectionately, refer to this as "Dorkfest." It clocks in at more than 10,000 words.

February 20: Gillin, known for taking strange household items and making them into even stranger ones, does his first mad scientist project, making a blender lamp out of, well, a blender and a lamp. The last line: "Feel like Estelle Getty on PCP."

Sometime in Spring 2003: Aileen Gallagher joins the BT as the fourth editor, despite telling Daulerio that "this will never amount to anything." They remind her of that often.

April 1: Daulerio interviews racist, anti-gay minister Fred Phelps, who calls the FDNY a "fag fire department." The story is linked on Phelps' personal Website and is usually one of the 10 most popular BT stories, every day, to this day. It also inspires three separate emails from FDNY firemen, requesting Phelps' contact info. The BT is happy to oblige.

April 22: Grierson's "Consumables" column debuts, which gave letter grades to various current pop culture peccadilloes. It's far too well-written, measured and sober to last long on The Black Table, however, and it only runs a few months before it is transformed in The Black List, which becomes, in short order, the BT's most popular regular feature.

April 24: Daulerio, Gillin, and Leitch spend an evening drunkenly invading New York City's new 3-1-1 information line with prank calls. Unfortunately, Daulerio forgets to hit the RECORD button on the tape machine, and our three heroes must paste together an entire series of phone calls from memory.

April 25: The Black Table is chosen as a Yahoo "Pick Of The Week." Yahoo calls the site's vision "hazy." They don't know the half of it. Also this day, Amy Blair takes over Robertson's "Week in Craig" column. Leitch tells Daulerio, "she's a great writer, but she won't last two months. She'll get bored."

June 5: A landmark: Daulerio's "Rock And A Hard Place" interview series debuts. The conceit: Ask a media person a series of increasingly disgusting questions and, hopefully by accident, stumble across some insight. The first victim is Vice Magazine's Jesse Pearson, who utters the immortal line, "the permanent damage of serious testicular abuse would outweigh the gross factor of having a dog shit in my mouth."

July 1: Gillin makes a trucker hat out of garbage, which might be a statement on something, but we're not sure. Daulerio poses for a picture with the hat, a photo that two years later, inexplicably, will be used by a stranger as their Friendster photo.

July 31: Leitch publishes "Running For President, On Empty," a piece killed by The New York Times magazine about fledgling presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. It remains the most expensive BT story to produce; W. 43rd Street paid the bill.

August 12: The Black List launches.

August 16: The New York City blackout wipes out the BT for a week.

September 10: Yankee Pot Roast's Josh Abraham writes a story about New York City port-a-pottys that is so good, so well-researched, that BT editors think he made it up. He didn't.


October 12: In an ill-advised, mostly drunken attempt to convince their parents that they're not just wasting their time with their "Internet page," the BT editors take on a one-week experiment in advertising, signing with a New York City Web advertising firm to run an "exploratory" pop-up ad. The ad is for the band Finger Eleven's song "One Thing," and, much to the frustration of BT readers, show up on computer screens and starts playing a rather wretched racket. (For the record, Gillin's father, in one of his first compliments to his son about the BT, claims to "really like that song.") The editors immediately hate themselves for the ad and discontinue it after one week, though it can still be found in this week's archives. The BT is entitled to $145 for the privilege of running the ad; the check is never recieved, nor cashed, and the BT never runs an ad again.

November 1: Gallagher's fourth book for children, Hepatitis, is released. No one reads it. Not even her mom.

December 8: Leitch releases his first book, an anthology of his "Life As A Loser" columns with a forward by Little Children author Tom Perrotta.

December 17: Gillin produces turducken and is so efficient and bloody about it that no one at the BT sleeps for a week. The story is so detailed that it's included as a source for the Wikipedia entry on turducken.


December 31: The BT celebrates its first year of publication by getting drunk at Gallagher's apartment in Queens. Gillin says, "We made a year. That's all I really wanted."

 

2004

January 14: A man in Olympia, Wash., as a joke on his friend, encases the guy's entire apartment in tin foil. BT writer Rachel Elder interviews the perpetrator and has its first big hit of the new year.

February 12: BT writer Rachel Elder continues her outstanding winter run with her famous "Wimpster" article, a guide for women on how to spot and avoid girlie men like Conor Oberst and Lloyd Dobler. The piece is reprinted in several publications, including Bust, which remains BT editors' favorite women's magazine. (A few months later, at a Bust party, editors will hold their mouths and giggle when they see Tina Fey.)

March : Daulerio interviews media reporter (and, we hear, former heroin addict) Seth Mnookin in what Gawker.com calls a "man-on-man catfight." Our personal favorite excerpt:
Daulerio: Do you think blogging is gay?
Mnookin : Wow. That's a tough one. How about: no.

Contrary to popular opinion, Daulerio and Mnookin do not hate each other and, in fact, are currently living together in South Florida, playing croquet and not doing heroin.

March 16: The Black Table finally harpoons its great white whale: A Rock and a Hard Place interview with disgraced New York Times "journalist" Jayson Blair. (Daulerio and Leitch once had a drug-fevered three-hour conversation discussing the notion.) In a watershed moment, Blair actually admits that his small stature helped him hide from Times fact checkers.

March 17: The first-ever version of "Six Things You Don't Know About:" series, showcasing different U.S. states, debuts. The BT dreams of finishing all 50 states but only makes it through about 15. Which is still better than what Sufjan Stevens will end up with.

March 29: Leitch's "Life As A Loser" column finishes its five-year run with "Smith Street," his 200th column. Typically, he finishes it about six hours before it is supposed to run.

April 5: On the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide, Tom Perrotta, Jonathan Ames, and best-selling (cough) "memoirist" James Frey, among others, opine on what his life and death meant. Also, the Incoming column, previewing the news of the week ahead, debuts.

July 17: If there is such a thing as the definitive Black Table Experience, this might have been it: The BT's Year And A Half Birthday Party. We're just going to list the highlights:

  • About 125 people show up on the roof of Camp Bowery, where Gillin is grilling hamburgers. It eventually begins raining.
  • In a drunken "rage," Leitch, frustrated by Daulerio's typical mocking of him, does his version of a "fight" by limply shoving Daulerio and stomping off.
  • Standing nearby, Mike Bruno looks at Daulerio for a half second, then bursts into gales of laughter.
  • Three women begin making out with each other, impromptu, in the middle of the party.
  • Gillin grills all night.
  • Gallagher stupidly leaves at 9 p.m. to go to Atlantic City in order to lose money more efficiently

This party was like the Bell Curve of the BT; all that came before it, and after it, was precursor or aftermath. It was the peak.

August 23: Tim Grierson, now free to be as serious and sober as he wants, introduces his "Believe The Hype" column.

August 30: The Republican National Convention invades New York City, and the BT publishes 18 on-the-scene stories, including a story where future Mediabistro blogger Rachel Sklar sneaks into a Republican drinkfest. General consensus among editors: No way President Bush possibly wins re-election.


October 12: Gillin becomes the first editor to escape his soulless day job covering finance (a job that, oddly, all BT editors had) and becomes the entertainment editor at Maxim. In response, the BT somehow runs fewer breast shots.

November 2: The Black Table's big election day story runs 4,600 words and covers from 6 a.m. Election Day to 2 a.m. the next morning, when it appears President Bush has won. The BT makes national news by disclosing that, early in the night, when it appeared John Kerry was winning, CNN's John King had told producers that he had cancelled plans to attend President Bush's victory party "because there isn't going to be one." (CNN immediately contacts the BT to deny the story and request a retraction.) Leitch, who has spearheaded the BT's election coverage from the beginning, stays up for 30 consecutive hours writing up the story, compiled of reports from BT contributors all around the country.

December 31: The Black Table completes its second year of life.

 

2005

January 2: Gallagher leaves PI work to join BT cohort Jeff Koyen at New York Press, a newspaper much like the BT in print form. Which is exactly why she gets laid off within three months.

January 5: Susan Kim, a reporter covering U.S. response to disasters, starts off what will be a busy year for her by explaining to readers what donations to tsunami victims are needed and which ones are just superfluous. She signs the story "Tsusan Kim."


February 21: Hunter S. Thompson commits suicide. Gillin and Leitch, who visited the Good Doctor in his Woody Creek, Colo. home in 2000, reprint the best stories from their trip.

February 23: Jerry Oppenheimer, tell-all bio king, tells even more about his subjects in a special two-part series for the BT.

March 17: BT creative director Jim Cooke illustrates the children's book, Heroes and She-Roes. He uses some of the editors as models. Nude.

In fact, lots of BT contributors write books.

May 11: BT contributor Todd Munson does a story about failed stand-up comic Gaylord Dingler and his mysterious disappearance. Later, influenced by the story, a documentary film is slated to be developed about Dingler's life.

May 16: Daulerio and Leitch finally leave their financial reporting gigs to go be bloggers. They will edit the Gawker Media sites Oddjack and Deadspin, respectively. Oddjack launches in May (Yay!) and folds in December (Boo!). All BT editors provide Daulerio with freelance work at their respective publications to ensure his survival. Deadspin launches in December and is still going.

August 6: The Black Table editors, feeling overworked, make a call for interns. Many apply, but the editors can't figure out exactly what the interns are supposed to do. The applications are ignored. Sorry.

August 23: The BT's somewhat befuddling "Dominatrix Week" begins. Mostly unintentionally.

December 1: Leitch's second book, Catch, is released.

December 8: The final Rock and a Hard Place, with Stuff magazine's Jimmy Jellinek, runs.

January 27, 2006: The Black Table runs its final story and invites you to a party. You should totally come.