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Finding the Fun in Failure

Lessons learned from a giant melting ice pop, the War of the phone check, and Hamptons valet delays.

Who me? Tommy boy before the cell phone snafu.
Who me? Tommy boy before the cell phone snafu.
I love a disaster, don’t you? When a waiter drops a glass at a restaurant, I clap and say, “Now it’s a party,” which none of my friends think is funny. I always read the police blotter, and if I see that some friend has been mugged or robbed, I call feigning sympathy, but really I mostly want to hear the details.

That’s why I loved the failed erection of the Snapple frozen ice pop that aimed to break the Guinness world record, but instead ended up sending gallons of sticky, sugary goo onto the street and bikers and pedestrians slipping their way to the hospital. The attempted frozen tower, staged in Union Square Park, got way too little press coverage—I wanted to see so much more. It looked like it was just gushing like crazy. I will pay for footage. But the little I did glean begs for follow-up.

The group that staged the fiasco was called Art Below Zero, which I assume means it makes ice sculptures or something. People were asking, “Why didn’t they start earlier?” or “Why not do it on a cooler day?” My question is: why do this out-of-doors at all in the summer? And once it started melting, why keep wearing your company logo T-shirts, so even the lamest reporters could assign blame?

Snapple has pledged a donation to the city to pay for the cleanup, but I think there should be a very steep fine. Since we all know that Snapple has the rights to brainwash schoolchildren into thinking their sugar water with coloring really is “the best stuff on earth,” one assumes the company’s cozy City Hall relationship will make this go away.

I for one intend to see that justice is done. If I can’t get accountability for torturing prisoners or an underplanned Iraq occupation, well, I’m not going to just look the other way on this ice pop tempest. Anyone with info please contact me. And stay tuned for Norma Rae-style updates.

The next lamebrain idea to come my way was Paramount's requirement that all guests attending the premiere of War of the Worlds check their cell phones and purses. This was after a ban on all the print press. I gather wee Tommy Cruise doesn’t like that people are finally hep to the fact that Scientologists think we came from an alien spaceship. (Whatever you do, don’t tell Katie!)

But the phone/purse ban was planned in advance, and printed on the invite. Apparently, Mr. Spielberg was paranoid that someone would record the movie’s climax on the Motorola or with her Balenciaga bag and release it in Japan.

Putting aside that noggin buster for a second, how come the event organizers didn’t realize that this little stunt would mean virtually every guest would check something, and make the necessary arrangements? I’ve never checked anything at a movie theater—do they even have cloakrooms? And forgive me for being mean, but the staff at my local cinema can barely work the popcorn machine. How in the hell did the planners expect them to differentiate 500 phones that all look the same?

Again, sorry shmorry. I want justice. Heads must roll.

An otherwise swell evening at the Hamptons Decorator Showhouse benefiting Southampton Hospital and sponsored and organized by House & Garden magazine (who doesn’t enjoy cocktails on the lawn of a zillion dollar beach house tricked out in every imaginable sconce and swag?) was marred by a wait of as much as an hour for valets to run up your car. House sponsor Andrea Stark (whose swirling sisal in Alessandra Branca’s witty and intentionally not-waterproofed pool house is to die for) was spitting fire.

I had noticed the parkers’ T-shirts that said “your keys please” and thought that was clever. I believe it was the name of the firm that did the parking. (Someone tell these event vendors to stop advertising when they screw up, or at least turn their T-shirts inside out.)

I’m not a patient queuer, so I moseyed on back to the lot to see what the hell was going on. Well, the attendants were partly at fault; their numbering system had failed due to a big turnout, and that was compounded by searchers not having enough flashlights. Oh boy.

But the other problem was the surly and clueless guests, who stormed the lot thinking they could unpark themselves (admittedly, I was one of them, until I realized that every other car was a black SUV, just like the one my Aunt Pam shuttled me in). The female guests tottered on their Jimmy Choos (why do women wear high heels to a Hamptons party when there is always grass, sand, or a long hike to the car? Why, why, why?) and shouted, “Honey, does our Jaguar have a Bob Marley bumper sticker?”

But I must say, the attendants kept their cool, were unfailingly polite, and get good marks from me for making the best of a bad situation. I even pitched in and did a little traffic directing, and I got one of their shirts for my efforts. But it still cost me $20 to bribe my way into the line and get home. So if you are at a party and see a disaster waiting to happen, make sure it keeps happening and call me. I’ll be right there.

Posted 06.28.05

Columnist Ted Kruckel is an experienced and opinionated former event and PR pro who ran events for 20 years for high-profile clients like Vanity Fair, Elle Decor, Christian Dior, and Carolina Herrera. He shuttered his firm, Ted Inc., in 2003. You can email him at [email protected].

Photos: Evan Agostini/Getty Images (Cruise), Patrick McMullan (showhouse)