It was near 100 degrees in New York City yesterday. The asphalt was melting. The heat was a palpable presence you cut your way through as you made your sorry, soggy way down the street. The air was so thick you could eat it with a spoon, if it wasn’t so toxic. And I couldn’t have been happier to be here. After all, I could have been at the mogul fest in Sun Valley. Of course, I wasn’t invited. But just the thought of it gave me a welcome shiver in all this heat.
There are people who fight for an invitation to the thing. Me? I’d rather be stabbed in the head.
For those of you who have been residing either in the real world or on Planet Mambo, the basic facts are simple. Herb Allen, whose business, like all men of his stature, seems to consist mostly of being Herb Allen, advises major moguls on business deals. He’s like Yenta the Matchmaker — only for Big Business. Once a year, he hosts a big extravaganza at his place in Sun Valley, Idaho, and anybody who is, was, or wants to be anybody has to go there or they are dead in show business. If you are a mogul of any size and you are not there, your body discorporeates and your spirit is left to wander this spectral plane until it can find another career to inhabit.
All these gigantic egos coalesce around this event and rub elbows and psyches all week long. Naturally, the event swarms with journalists, bloggers and video types, all eager to suck up any shred of information, scuttlebutt, rumor, innuendo or, lacking any of that, fiction that may fall out of the sequestered assembly. For the most part, the Big Dudes stay away from the media. It’s considered bad form to mingle with the groundlings on this occasion. But inside, the crème de la crème of the media that covers media helps to hold workshops and Think Big Thoughts. That leaves really nothing for the swarm covering the thing, though. So the journalism that comes out of the event is a pretty limp affair.
Like, the big news on the first day was that people had arrived. A list of names made its way across the blogosphere, accompanied by exciting pictures of moguls alighting from their cars. I believe several seem to have driven themselves, which was a form of news, I guess.
The rest of the events appear to be going on much as they ever do. All the names you would expect are scrumming about in the lobby, attending the panels, receiving swag and publicity copies of Ken Auletta’s 2009 book on Google. They have lunch. They have dinner. They closely observe each other, the way certain competitive animals do during mating season. For these guys, it’s always mating season. A few years ago, some big deals were cooked up at the Allen thing. But nobody expects much of that anymore. Now it’s mostly talk about the economy and a mutual affirmation of self-importance that keeps everybody going for another year.
Did you ever go to a party where the persons you were talking to all seemed to be distracted by everybody else who was in the room? With people who didn’t really make eye contact because they were looking over your shoulder to see if there was a better, more prestigious conversation available? Have you ever been forced to be informal with people whose relationship with you is based on formality? Ever seen a guy in dry-cleaned, freshly pressed denims, knowing that he’d rather be in pinstripes? Ever stand in a room with at least half a dozen people you’d like to kill, but know you have to hug them and grin into their faces when they are by you?
So yeah, it’s hot in New York. I hear it’s also disgusting outside right now in Las Vegas. And last week I near froze to death in San Francisco. Got another place that’s hell on earth right now? Take me there.
Anywhere but Sun Valley. This week, at least.