All the ingredients for a fabulous fest were there:
- An incredible venue: The Lot, formerly the Warner Hollywood Studio, is steeped in movie history and located on still up-and-coming Santa Monica Blvd. in WestHo. The sheer size of the outdoor grounds allowed for endless creative potential.
- A big-name performer: The Violent Femmes, recognizable though clearly past their prime, headlined the evening. Their biggest hit is the rock classic and karaoke favorite “Blister in the Sun,” which still had everyone crouching and whispering…then jumping and screaming.
- Great press: Los Angeles magazine confidently declared it one of the “top ten coolest things to do in July” and LA Weekly selected the fundraiser as a “pick of the week.”
- Super attendance: The Justice Ball website promised over 3,000 attendees and from the looks of it, I wouldn’t argue with that number. The crowd was unquestionably large and decidedly lovely. Women were dressed in chic summer dresses and men (mostly) in sharp dress shirts.
So what was missing from this large, colorful salad?
Those tiny finishing touches that make all the difference between mediocre and magnificent. Here are some things that could have made the party even more palatable:
- Friendly and attentive volunteers. More than a few seemed flustered by the lack of organization and therefore were just focused on doing the minimum to keep things operating, instead of concentrating on making guests feel welcomed and appreciated.
- Extended VIP benefits past 9:30 p.m. Free drinks and munchies were passed around early in the evening for those who could get it together before the sun set, but after that, there was no apparent advantage to having paid an extra $75.
- Food options for Jews and vegetarians. The Italian sausage and chicken quesadillas seemed strangely incongruent with the Jewish L.A. scene.
- Cheaper drinks. $9 for a small mixed drink?
- Better lighting and more creative decorations (I can’t recall if there were any at all) to bring the entire venue together. Dark walkways and deserted areas made the party seem disjointed and uneven.
- Enviable swag bags. And enough of them. They ran out before the party had even ended. I have to admit, I was very excited to see what would be in the VIP gift bags. My mom called me Sunday morning to find out what was in the bag. They’re legendary for being the cherry on top. Here is what was in the Justice Ball swag bag (you decide whether it’s worth writing home about):
1) A can of Lost Five-o energy juice
2) Two packets of Alterna Ten moisturizer
3) Wonka Bottle Caps
4) A can of Izze sparkling juice
5) A gift certificate for a haircut at Lance Christopher Salon
6) $50 gift certificate to Petit Tresor children’s furniture store
7) A CozmoCard with discounts to shops, restaurants and spas (not sure which ones)
8) A deck of Cozmo Cards with discounts to restaurants
9) A free ticket to Pros in the City’s summer mixer
10) 10% off discount card to Tarina Tarantino
11) A Damien Rice CD
12) A DVD of Batman Beyond
13) A bag of peanuts
14) The Jewish Journal (yes, we are a proud sponsor)
15) A Sees Candy butterscotch pop
16) Lawdragon magazine
In the end, it was a nice event. I had a good time and I’m sure most other people did too. And of course, most importantly, tons of money was raised for an excellent charity. I ate the proverbial salad and left satiated, but if I had to pay for it with a journalist’s salary, I would have to think twice before ordering that dish again. Since I generally prefer to donate something more precious than money - my time - maybe next year I’ll volunteer to prepare the salad.