Liar Liar, Pants on Fyre

Did you watch the documentaries on The Fyre Festival? Hulu and Netflix both have a version of this story. I watched both. If there were 6 versions I would have seen them all. I can’t get enough. I watched the first one twice. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me try to explain…

A young, upstart entrepreneur from NYC decides to partner with Ja Rule to host a music festival on an uninhabited island in the Bahamas (once owned by Pablo Escobar) in 6 months.

Why does he think he can do it? Because he’s been hosting “parties” for a few months in penthouses all over the city. Ja Rule performs at one of those fun parties and decides, “yeah, ok, I’ll partner with you on a multi-million dollar event”.

What happens next is a mash-up of ego, lack of experience, lack of leadership and lack of morality. It’s a hot mess.

Billy McFarland, the young entrepreneur that I mentioned earlier is either a smart dude who let things go out of hand, or a sociopath who let his ego lead every decision he made. Maybe a bit of both.

The documentary tells a month-by-month, day-by-day story of everything leading up to the non-festival. Here’s what they did first. They created a slick, well-produced teaser. They filled it with top models. They went to the island where they wanted to have the festival, stayed on private yachts (not on the island) and partied for a few days while they filmed the promo. Turquoise seas, beautiful women, expensive boats, it had it all. The promo was incredibly well produced. I think you can still watch it somewhere on YouTube. The company they hired to do the teaser gave them an incredible digital and social presence. Their website was super slick and their marketing was off the hook. Really high-end and modern.

They spent the next few months designing an experience. Luxury tents. Luxury villas. Beautiful packages that made you feel like you were going to a music festival in some private piece of heaven. And it had a price tag to match. Each package was thousands of dollars. And they all still sold out, in record time.  Through their social campaign (which was genius), they sold every package they had. All the tents. All the villas. Sold.

Just one problem. There were no luxury villas or tents. All the images were created. Nothing was real.

Turns out the island they originally wanted couldn’t be used. The owner of the island had only one deal-breaker in the contract – don’t mention Escobar – so what did they do? They mentioned it in the first teaser. Game over.

Luckily Great Exuma was near-by. This island, under other circumstances, was a much better place to host a festival. It had infrastructure, hotels, restaurants, etc.

Sadly, by the time they decided to go there – everything was sold out. The only thing they were able to get was some undeveloped real estate on one side of the island by the water. They grabbed it.

The details of what went down are so crazy. Instead of luxury tents – they put up hurricane tents left over from the last season.  There weren’t enough homes on the island to get for private villas, so those who signed-up and paid for one got a tent too. And they didn’t even have enough crappy tents. 380 for 900+ people attending.

Not enough food. Not enough bathrooms. No plan B for rain. The attendees were f**ked. The musicians who agreed to perform weren’t any better. There was barely a stage – let alone multiple stages for a festival. Most of the acts started dropping out. Still, the producers let the event go on.

In the end, it was a nightmare. You can google how much of a nightmare it was.

I can’t tell you how validating it was to see those documentaries. I watched the first one with my husband. The entire time he kept turning to me and going, “ohh babe, can you believe it?”. Even he knew. He knew because he’s been married to an event planner for 20 plus years.

I couldn’t believe it. But I could believe it. It was totally believable. Let’s be honest. People think they can do it. On the surface it’s a job that literally everyone thinks they can do. Oh you planned your sister’s shower? Sure! You can be a planner! You organized the office pot-luck lunch? Sure, you can plan a 1,000 person event. Go for it.

I would re-title those documentaries as, “So You Think You’re An Event Planner?” or “You Are Not A F**king Event Planner”.

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. I know. You’re a teacher (love teachers), or a nurse (love nurses), or whatever. You are impacting the world. You’re maybe literally saving lives. But here’s what I know for sure. I know that in this world of big picture thinking, one thing is lost. Execution. No one likes to say they execute. Everyone wants to be a “strategist”. Big thinking. Not big doing.

Ok, sure, you had a really great idea. A world-changing idea. Awesome. Good for you. Can you actually execute it? Can you plan the steps it’ll take to get it done and make it happen? Can you think 10 steps ahead to all the problems that might pop up and solve them before they happen? Can you manage the emotional toll it’ll take on people to get them to do what you want them to do for your idea to come to life?  And can you do it without complaining and whining? Better yet, can you work for never-ending hours and days while pretending to be happy and smiling the whole time? Can you be a 20 year professional that’s managing million dollar budgets while still being asked to get someone a tampon in the middle of an event – and do it without question? If the answer is no. Please, for god’s sake, go back to your day job. If the answer is yes, welcome. You are welcome here. In the group of people who immediately start figuring out how to get something done.

When I saw those documentaries I was so moved. In the last few years, a value has been placed on people who can weave a good story in 280 characters. People who can produce slick, marketing ads and pieces that last about a minute or two. They are digital geniuses. They can make an idea viral. Get a million impressions. Which is great. But guess what they can’t do? They can’t execute. They can’t figure out the one million things that need to go down before something happens.

Billy McFarland had no planners working for him. He had digital teams and marketing teams. He had supermodels and rappers. He even had someone called a “producer”. But no planners. To give credit where it’s due – he did have some people with festival experience that he ignored. But those people basically went along with a plan they knew would fail.

One of the things that is the most troublesome about the documentary isn’t the attendees, ok fine, they didn’t get a music festival. Uptown problems. They had to go back to Miami with their miniature dogs and flower halos. Boo hoo. To me, the saddest part was that the island residents were dragged into making this nightmare happen. Hundreds of workers signed up to help Billy and his crew. No one got paid.

So maybe calling Billy an entrepreneur is wrong. He’s a cheat. A fraud. A con man. And I know that’s what this story is really about. But what I got from it was so different. His story validated and brought to life everything I know to be true. You can be a big idea guy or gal. You can be good at tweets and posts and ‘grams. You can get a thousand likes, and a million impressions, but can you bring that vision to life in the real world? A world full of bad weather, cancelled flights, broken technology, and unhappy people? Can you handle it? Maybe. But let’s be honest, probably not.

 

 

 

Dear 2018

Thanks for being you. You weren’t like the best ever or anything – but you were pretty pretty good (in the words of Larry David).  It was the year of the Dog. The year for loyalty, consistency and dependability. But it started off with anything but consistency. It started off with a bang.

Bang….my sister’s married! Bang….I had to go to India for work! Bang….a headhunter called with a big job offer! Bang…my sister was pregnant! In between those things were other big things. A beautiful wedding (Jon and Amy!), a beautiful baby cousin born (Norah!), a bestie turned 50 (April!), and so did the heart of our family (Dennis!) – and it went on and on.

Work took me from India, to Aruba, to Ireland – with a pit stops in-between. Work was good. Sometimes it wasn’t good. As it should be.

My kids kept growing. Doing good. Doing some not good. Doing it all. As it should be.

You threw us some curve balls 2018, I won’t lie.

I got distracted by a shiny offer, thought about it for too long – but decided to stay loyal in the spirit of the Dog. Not loyal to a company – but loyal to the people. My people. Shiny and new can’t compete with solid and true. Who knows what the future holds – but for now, it was the right turn.

It also brought some worries. Some sadness. When loved ones get sick – you get sick too. But then you see family coming together, you see all the love, and somehow it gets better. Even when it’s not actually getting better.

The year ended with a bang too. My sister-in-law got engaged a few days before Christmas!

There were also some breakthroughs. For those of you who don’t know me that well, I have been a vegetarian for my entire life. Like the whole thing. No meat, poultry or fish has ever crossed my lips knowingly. I may or may not have had a month in 2004 of eating Pad Thai without knowing it had fish sauce in it, but that’s it. So now, for the first time ever…hold on to something….I am eating Caesar salad with abandon. Anchovies? Who cares! Salt of the sea I say! We’ve even been to restaurants that I know put actual anchovies on their salad (not paste) and I still eat it. Like a champ. And then, last week, my husband and I went to a diner to have breakfast. I ordered my usual omelet. Egg whites, spinach, onions, peppers and American cheese. Side of rye toast and homefries. As I was eating, from the corner of my eye, I spotted it. It could have been mistaken for a piece of well done potato, but I knew better. I’m no amateur. A little piece of ham was hidden under the homefries. Now if this was 2001, or even 2010 let’s say – I would have freaked out. I would have stopped eating and never gone to that place again. You know what I did in 2018? I carefully lifted it with my finger and put it on a napkin and continued my meal. CONTINUED MY MEAL. With ham. Granted I never touched the homefries again but still…there was no scene at the diner. I’m like a new person.

I don’t know if photos help you when you’re reading a rant like this – but they help me. I’ve always been partial to books with pictures. I included some below.

2018, you are free to go. I was never a dog person anyway. Year of the pig! That’s where it’s at now.

 

 

Remember me?

I wrote my first blog post in 2012. It was called Nosey, Nosey, Nosey. You can still find it on here if you look. My kids were 9 and 14. I was working from home and needed to do something in the day for just myself. I decided the posts would have no rules. Some were super short with just a picture. Some were longer. Once in a while I’d throw in a cooking post (that’s when I cooked almost every night….who was I?). I would write daily, weekly, monthly. No pressure. Just when I felt like it. It was so much fun.

5 years and 486 posts later I stopped. May, 2017. What happened? What went down? Nothing! Not one thing. I mean our lives are different now for sure. Things are hectic – but things were always hectic. I just didn’t feel like writing (if you could even call what I was doing writing!). So I stopped. I didn’t force myself to do it. And I didn’t miss it.

Until now.

Guess what people? I’m going to start writing again. You may not know it, but you’re my public! And I’m going to give you what you haven’t asked for and don’t think you need. You’re welcome! Enough with the New York Times. You need something less meaty. Less thought provoking. You need a mental break. And I’m just the person for the job. The last thing I’m going to get you to do is think. But you knew that.

Ok. Now that we’re on the same page let’s catch up quickly:

  • Wife – yep still married
  • Mother – my babies are 20 and 15
  • Event planner – 23 years and counting

Now you’re caught up! Haven’t you missed reading posts that abuse exclamation mark usage? No need to fret. Even though I’ve gotten older, my writing is still 8th grade level (regular, not honors track).

I’m excited to be with you all again. Or with you 3 again. Anyway I’m excited.

See you tomorrow – or worst case in 2020!

Werk

We had a very fancy event in Palm Beach. Went to beautiful places where even the dogs don’t drink tap water. A place where crazy sports cars are the norm and your morning workout is literally on the ocean. 



But there are other pics that tell another story… like this one. We were playing,”how many boxes can we fit into a sedan with 4 people and a driver?” The answer – all of them.


How about the fact that the majority of time at this fancy place we were in the back. This is my fav pic. Taken by one of the planners on our team. Thanks for the memory Patty.

Or this one which really is how we all feel onsite (girls don’t worry about how you look in this pic. No one reads this blog anyway).

Lots of memories for sure. 

Like when I tried to get a pic of Barron Trump playing soccer with the secret service and was kindly asked by another secret service dude to stop and delete all pics (I followed half his direction).


Or how about our Orthodox chef trying to take a fully blown-up pool flamingo back on the airport shuttle. I don’t know the end of that story.


Or our last night at the event by the ocean when almost every single person was singing and laughing and smiling – including our team. 

This was the view I had all last week

ā€‹ā€‹
This is my view today. Guess which one I love more? Home is where the heart is. It’s also where my bed, tv and magazines are.


And this guy. 

Zika on the brain

About 7 days ago every single conference I had planned for 2016 and 2017 got cancelled because of Zika. Two were in April. One was for over 1,000 people.

Almost 2 years of work basically out the window. There were tears. There was anger. But at the end of the day, it was the right decision.

We made our calls to let everyone know. We sent our apology emails. Not only did we distrupt the lives of all our attendees, but we also had to face our hotel partners. Yes they would get some of what we would be spending, but not all of it.

But it was done. And now we move on. Like the Bionic Man, we will rebuild. Better. Stronger. And we did. Or are. 

We’ve worked 24/7 to reschedule almost everything we’ve cancelled. It wasn’t/isn’t easy. (Insert your pity here)

These are all uptown problems, I know. No one is sick or dying or even hurt. We derailed vacations, not real life. Things will be fine.

Although I woke-up the other day, in mid-March, with frost on the ground and found this on my wrist. A mosquito bite. Oh universe. You’re so hysterical.

   

 

So you wanna be a corporate planner?

I’ve done corporate events for my entire career. I love what I do. I love my job. Really I do. Even now, in our busy season, when we seem to work 24/7. It makes me happy. I started doing event planning almost right out of school and haven’t looked back since. It’s stressful. It’s creative. It’s fulfilling. In every sense of the word. I adore working with a team, and being with them in the trenches. I like working with the business to figure out how the event can help spread a message or build goodwill. There’s tons of fun to be had too. I’m not going to lie. We laugh a lot. And sometimes we cry. Unlike baseball, there is crying in corporate event planning.

So with all that said, it still isn’t what you think it is.

Here’s the best way to describe it:

Imagine you planned your brother’s wedding or party. You worked for months to help plan the look, the feel, the whole experience. You advised him on if the vows should be long or short – or if the newlyweds should do a first dance or have a cake cutting. You decided that because of budget, his party should probably be only appetizers, not a full meal. You worked with him to invite the right amount of people and were careful to not offend anyone.

Now imagine that after all that – the day of the wedding or party comes and the happy couple exchange vows or the invitees start coming in –  everyone is seemingly happy and content.

Now imagine guests start coming up to you randomly and telling you things like:

  • “Who picked this place? I was really hot in the back”
  • “The party…umm it was ok, but this morning the hotel I’m staying at took really long to bring my breakfast – kinda ruined the day for me”
  • “Why am I not sitting with the groom? He loves me. He told me I’d have really good seats”
  • “I wish we could have done it in June. August is so hard for me”
  • “I really wasn’t crazy about the vows. They were kinda cheesy”
  • “I know you can’t do this for everyone but my kid likes hot, curly fries for dinner. Everyday. Made with organic purple potatoes. Can you get that for us?”
  • “Did you actually pick the food on the buffet?”

And guess what. You do get the organic purple potatoes. And you apologize for the hotel not delivering room service fast enough and picking the wrong time and wrong space. You nod your head instead of saying the groom hates that person and specifically asked not to sit with them. And finally yes, you picked the food. You didn’t know it would suck that day. You should have known. Somehow.

You do all of this not because you’re forced to – but because your job is to make people happy. Not just the bride and groom or one family – your job is to make everyone happy. Which, by the way, never happens. So good luck with that.
Welcome to corporate events. Leave your sanity at the door.
 
 

TTYL

For almost every single weekend this summer, we’ve been on the go. It’s been so much fun. Visiting friends and family, celebrating milestones and plain old hanging out with them has been a blast. Loads of fun in the sun. In between all this, work has sucked up the rest of my time. Which is normal I guess. Work hard, play hard is a family motto. But when you spend a few months in a whirlwind, somethings get dropped. Spontaneous meet-ups. Sleeping in. Spending a day “putzing” around, as my father-in-law would call it, that stuff falls by the wayside. This past weekend, the official end to the summer, was no exception. We had planned on fitting in everthing we committed to. A housewarming, a surprise party, dinner with old friends, furniture shopping, etc. What we didn’t account any time for was the following:

  • taking my daughter out for test drives so she feels ready for her driving test. But between the obligations of a 16 year old and the stuff we always need to do – we never seem to find the time
  • my son had asked for weeks to go to a trampoline park, but it was 30 minutes away – in the oposite direction of everywhere we needed to be.
  • spending time with the kids when they were done for the day. You know that time? When they’ve had their fun with friends and they come home, tired, hungry – ready to zone out. It’s the time when they are most likely to tell you stuff. But I’m always the first one asleep because I run around like a looney all day.

It’s so hard. Because we want to do all of these things. We so wanted to be there for Corinne’s housewarming. She’s starting a new life and I’m so proud and excited for her. We wanted to be there for Marcello’s surprise 60th. I don’t know anyone who is more full of love and life than he is. Maybe his beautiful gal, Lorraine, the one who surprised him! We wanted to meet Rachael and her new beau for dinner in Philly. We met Rachael when we first moved to Yardley, she watched our kids for us for a couple of summers. She was/is the best! We really wanted to do all of these things. But instead, we said no. Even though we’ve said yes for weeks, we said no. We said no and hoped that these folks would understand and invite us again. We said no so we could do random, unplanned, unaccounted for things.

And here’s what we got out of it:

  • My son’s face when I told him that our plans had changed and I could spend the entire day driving him around.
  • My daughter’s excitement at being able to spend the afternoon driving (and then fighting about her driving)
  • Having two days where my husband and I were home base and the kids were able to bounce around from friend to friend and know we were home if/when they needed us – or that they could invite friends over to our house.

Seems small. Seems like no big deal. But it was exactly what our little family needed. We plan on making it up to everyone! But not next weekend. We’re busy.

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