Published Dec 5, 2008

I should’ve known when I missed the first turn to the Marshall Alumni Holiday Reception and my next four chances to turn around were blocked off by LAPD auto and bike officers that things did not look good. But I drove around the northern half of Downtown and finally managed to get headed in the right direction to park and head into the event.

In retrospect, it would’ve been better to head home and get the AIG the Red Mango she wanted. But, like any proper MBA, the allure of networking was irresistible. So I dragged the AIG in, promising her a cocktail of her choice.

I had actually gone to this thing last year. And it was great! There were 3-400 Marshall alums, of varying ages, at the Jonathan Club, enjoying passed hot hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar,1 and great networking options. This year: not so much.

It wasn’t the venue, which was beautiful. It might’ve been the crowd, which was small — under 100 when I got there, which was about 8pm in an event lasting from 6 to 10 (even worse, when I got there, virtually everyone was paired off having a conversation, and the pair is the most stable and closed group out there). It might’ve been the cold appetizers they offered, which were tuna sandwiches. It might’ve even been the lack of vermouth at the cash bar.2

But most likely it was the band. Most of us — me, that is, and you, my loyal readers — would not choose to book a band for a networking event in which everyone wants to, you know, talk. One of the dim bulbs that seem to populate this year’s Alumni Association3 had booked a four-piece rock-and-roll-type band to perform some hot uptempo songs. You know like the always hip 4 Non Blondes4. Then it got better: some Brandi Carlile5. Something we think might’ve been Grant Lee Buffalo. Because what you need at a networking event is depressing music. And it was a good 10 of these in a row — at one point I was practically expecting the band to treat us to some Low.

Not only did this band bring us down, but they were a force of nature. The lead singer’s power and range — and at least she had some excuse to try to sing some Brandi Carlile — steadily forced the crowd out of the main ballroom and into the cramped, pillar-filled anteroom.6 The masses apparently were prepared to trade elbow room for the ability to carry out a conversation at some level below a yell.7

Anyway, we finally abandoned the networking event. For her trouble, the AIG got Gaby’s for dinner on the way home, and she also got to tease me about how the program she got her Master’s from at USC — and it’s not a whole school, like Marshall, it’s just a program — had a much better party earlier this year. So much better. I guess we should outsource!

1 There was a cash bar this year too — they must know something about how Trojans drink

2 I have no idea how the bartender managed to make the AIG such a delicious dirty martini, except perhaps by making it surpassingly diry.

3 I would not be so judgemental, except that three nice ladies who clearly had some role in planning and running the event were sitting exceedingly listlessly at the check-in table, encouraging no banter, small talk, energy, or even promptness in check-in. They didn’t even try to upsell us on the USC-UCLA game tickets they were silent auctioning off, which might’ve been a mistake since they’d left the sign-up sheet out and I could see they only had one bid, which was not only low but rather less silent than I might’ve expected.

4 The fact that this video was made non-ironically makes it truly, truly priceless.

5 Could’ve used something more upbeat maybe?

6 Running out of tuna sandwiches may have had something to do with this too, depending on your opinion of fish and onion at networking events.

7 Although, I will give the band credit, their volume level did give me the excuse to leave the ballroom when I found myself talking to someone who smelled like the weight room at a gym. The entire weight room. In use.