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Party, Barroom, Bathroom, or Funeral?

For some weeks the Daily Planet has been advertising a big money making shindig that would “Save the Planet” from its evil detractors. See here.  The event was planned for January 24 at a place called “The Omni” at 4799 Shattuck.  I thought to drop by and check it out.  I was happy to pay the $50 entry price as a show of support for the concept of a good local press.  After all, I have consistently lobbied for the reform of the paper, and never for its destruction.  I was also feeling rather generous towards the Daily Planet since I had just given its latest issue, January 21, 2010 an all-too-rare No Hate Award (and this despite the fact that it had published an op-ed that condemned me personally).  I am also a sucker for a good silent auction, and planned to bid on several items.  Finally, as an intrepid reporter for DPWatchDog, I thought this would be a large civic event meriting coverage.

As it happens, 4799 Shattuck turned out to be a nondescript building without any signage.  It had the vague look of having been a funeral parlor in better days.  There was nothing happening there.  Thinking I had the wrong address, I turned to leave, when I espied at the corner of the building half way down the block a side door with balloons attached.  That must be the place.  I approached.  The door was open, though the view inside was blocked by an interior wall, like one sees when passing a seedy bar or the entrance to an airport lavatory.  Creepy and silent.  No music, no din of celebrating voices; nothing but a few balloons waving in the wind. 

Here I must become confessional.  I suddenly froze, and basically chickened out.  You see, I had thought that I would pay my $50 at the door and slip into a large crowd.  Certainly, there would be many hundreds, maybe a thousand or more in attendance.  After all, even a thousand people represents well less than 1% of the population in the Daily Planet’s readership region.  What I did not bargain for was that I might literally be the first and only attendee.  I spontaneously shuddered at the thought of Becky and Michael O’Malley sitting forlornly by the door ready to fall upon with hugs and tears of joy the first person to actually show up—me.  The O'Malleys would no doubt soon realize that they were hugging their most relentless critic. Doubtless, they would have been overcome with embarrassment at the realization that I was an eye-witness to their humiliation.  I am a critic, but I am not a lout who would so rub their noses in this shame.

So I left, got in my car, and then, clearing my head for a moment, circled the block and parked with a clear view of the entrance.  Perhaps I had gotten it wrong.  The party had been called for 4:30.  I had arrived at 5:00.  Maybe the crowd was en route, fashionably late, one and all.  So I waited across the street and simply observed for 20 minutes.  During that time, one person walked out of that dark door.  Then a car pulled up and a woman leaped out and ran in as though she were dreadfully late for something.  That was it.  

My account differs widely from O’Malley’s (January 28, 2010).  She claims there were 180 people in attendance, and that she earned ten thousand dollars.  With a little math, one sees that this was probably ten thousand gross, not ten thousand net.   Typically, there is $10,000 of expenses in an event such as this, meaning that the Daily Planet netted little, if anything.  My wife has organized a number of identically structured events and invariably has netted $35,000 – 50,000.  She has typically done this for a school with vastly fewer would be attendees to draw upon (just the parents) than a newspaper that services a whole city, and that ran weeks of large and totally free ads for the event.  O’Malley says that she is losing $10,000 per week (see here) at the Daily Planet, and even this number may be conservative, since this was an estimate given by O’Malley before her advertisers began to flee en masse.  So even if she netted $10,000, this would have covered a week’s worth of her losses at most. 

Thus, by any measure, this event was a stone cold failure.

Without a doubt, the Daily Planet has a wide range of supporters.  There are overt anti-Semites, Marxists, Trotskyites, neo-Trotskyites, tree-sitters, Israel haters, advocates for cop-killing, jihadis, a former Hindu astrologer who claims to be a Jew (see here), a psychotic who probably is a Jew (see here), and various well-meaning “useful idiots.”  Apparently, however, for reasons that escape me, these people seem to believe that it is the place of Berkeley’s businesses to pay for its message of hate with their advertising dollars, rather than the place of its supporters, well, to support.  

In summary, this event seems to have more resembled a wake than a party.  Our sympathies.

John Gertz


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