Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cake Catastrophe and the Lightening Quick Script

In the world of public relations, there is no daily work schedule. The exciting, boring and demented happen every day. This week, my big coup was pulling off a 4-hour birthday dinner concert for 300 of the Big Boss’ closest friends, one of whom is a US ambassador.

With only 10 days notice.

The day of, seven hours before the event, I show up to see how prep is going.

Blaring band sounds great. Slides are working. Half of the 31 eight-top tables are set. No big deal, we’ve got time. My partner in crime from the office, Chris, will be around shortly.

In the meantime, I go look for the club manager. No where to be found. OK, still have time. I’ll put the finishing touches on the 23-page script and put out the balloons.

Now, it’s an hour to cocktails and the tables are set but there are no candleholders. Finally found a manager who just walked in the door. Got holders and gave that job to two women from my office.

Paintings are being put on display and the overhead is out for a rotating powerpoint. No laptop. Chris is on that.

The bar floor is disgusting. Todd’s getting a vacuum.

Where are these club workers?

60 minutes until cocktails. Where are the wine bottles? Each table must have an open bottle of red and one of white.

Club manager rushes away to avoid me but I catch her. She doesn’t have the staff to put out the wine bottles. Lord help us. Alison and Bill jump on that as the manager slinks away.

Chatting with the band on last minute slide concerns, I see the manager rushing up to one of her waiters and something doesn’t look good. They’re pointing at the largest birthday cake ever made in the corner. It’s actually supposed to be in the back so they can cut it up and serve it at intermission. There is a smaller cake already in the back that will be wheeled out on a table so the Big Boss can cut it in a huge ceremonial, photo op, pivotal point in the evening.

She keeps looking at me. Wringing her hands. Points the waiter to the kitchen and looks around.
I walk from behind the speakers and slowly walk over to her. The MC glances at me and holds up the script. I give him the thumbs up and keep walking.

45 minutes til cocktails.

She wrings her hands.

John asks me where to put the remaining balloons. Point at the bar.

She shifts her feet.


The ceremonial cake is ruined. Dropped by the club staff.

And that’s not all. There is no table big enough to hold the other cake and still wheel it in the back to cut, which will take at least 45 minutes because it’s so big.

Breathing. Breathing.

Boss is looking at me.

OK, change the ceremonial timing, change the script, change the order of the slides. Put the big table with the cake out front. Everybody get busy.

30 minutes til cocktails and I’m scrambling to find a laptop, a printer, my thumbdrive and deal with the cake. The MC comes over and tells everyone to get busy and leave me alone. Typing, typing, typing….printing. Change the slides.

Cocktails have started. Guests are arriving. I’m hiding in the band’s dressing room, slamming away on the laptop. Maybe next time I'll use

5 minutes til start time. Running the script up front. Doublechecking.

Lights, camera, action. Official party enters.

Big boss’ speech. Slide show starts.

SHIT….slides weren’t changed.

Breathing. Breathing.

As soon as dinner is served, I can change the slides before the next speaking part and no one should notice.

Prime rib comes out. I jump up. MC rushes over. Slides are changed.

Cake cutting ceremony. Off without a hitch.
Intermission is called. I grab four guys to move the cake to the back.

Saber drill team performs.

Dessert is served.

Band performs.

Big boss dances.

He smiles.

He laughs.


It's over and I'm still in one piece. But my goodness do I need a drink. Paco the bartender pours me a pretty one with an umbrella and I toast with Rosa.

Boss comes over. Great job. Terrific. Clinks my glass.

By the way, his anniversary's in April.