Kosmicki: Masquerade for the Money

The Women's Club, pictured above at its annual tea fundraiser, is one of several agencies that is partnering with the Community Foundation for San Benito County to create a Women's Fund.

If Hollister council members hand out a hundred grand in taxpayers’ money to their favorite nonprofit groups, they might as well class up the selection process and assess potential recipients through a series of tests played out on every local do-gooder’s home court—the dining room and lounge at San Juan Oaks Golf Club.
For just $3,500 of the total giveaway, my newly formed nonprofit organization—Waterbeds for Soldiers & Miscellaneous Corporate Services LLC—will organize the poshest, stuffiest event in the history of this county as a challenge-packed forum for charity groups to earn a piece of the city’s money.
Unofficially, we’ll call this gala the San Benito’s Smiling Masquerade & Ball, where candidates for the cash endure three and a half hours of general unease, speeches somewhere on the boring scale near watching Into the Woods twice in a row, and more judgment than the Russian gymnastics championships.
Under my plan, a team of secret volunteer judges will assess dozens of local nonprofit representatives—among about 150 groups in the county vying for the tax money—on performances during three primary phases of the evening.
Phase 1: Surprise Entrance
As attendees line up in the San Juan Oaks atrium—with light piano notes bouncing over their tension-laced veins—a team of intimidating volunteer observers (wearing nametags identifying each one as a “Volunteer Observer”) will grade local Good Samaritans and acquaintances on such categories as Smile Quality; Smile Duration; Chat Cadence; Blink Frequency; Shoe Cleanliness, which always gives away seriousness toward the schmoozing process; and Line Spacing, because there’s something mysteriously wrong with people who leave an awkward gap.
There are two points in the Surprise Entrance phase when guests could face immediate ouster: If they stop smiling for more than 45 consecutive seconds while in line, they’re out, barring a doctor’s note signaling some sort of nervous ailment or loss of muscle movement in the mouth area.
Then the second test: Universally respected San Juan Oaks General Manager Scott Fuller comes out with a megaphone, calmly announces the city pulled back on its $100,000 nonprofit giveaway, and points out guests are welcome to stay because they already paid for their dinners. Fuller isn’t in on the gag—there was no such city reversal—so his acting is impeccable.
If frustrated guests leave, they’re done and they walk out on thousands in free money. If they stay, they advance to Phase 2.
Phase 2: Mingling for the Money
Once past the nametag table, contestants can rest easy because they advance to a round with relief in one of two ways: Get a drink from the bar or use one of those spotless San Juan Oaks bathrooms. Their initial Phase 2 test is at the bar, though.
Order a Long Island or Jack and Coke, and it might look bush league for an elegant occasion like this. Ask every bartender’s favorite question—“What’s good?”—and risk looking like an Amish guy in the Apple store. Walk past the bar toward mostly empty dinner tables? Good luck. A large New Zealander in sunglasses and a black suit will lead those guests to the nearby Fred Couples Room, where a bad Fred Couples look-alike in a chef’s hat will serve Salisbury steak sandwiches in carryout boxes before escorting violators out a back door.
It’s the mingling itself, though, which will define each nonprofit applicant’s success in this phase. A team of “Mingle Buddies” will roam the floor, taking note of the most settled or unsettled visitors and observing traits such as their ability to pretend like they remember people they’ve clearly forgotten; whether guests wander as if looking for someone who doesn’t really exist; Double Chats (doing a circle and returning to talk to the one person in the comfort zone); Peeping Toms (that first Peeping Tom has one of the worst legacies ever, for good reason); and Sloppy Joes (not the sandwiches).
Everyone else, the masquerade survivors, move on to the final phase of the night.
Phase 3: Dinner and Dance-Off
During the dinner portion, our team will grade remaining candidates on:
1: Their enthusiasm for the guest musician, Kyle Eastwood, the light jazz musician and son of Clint Eastwood whose band played a San Juan Oaks fundraiser in 2007. Let’s assume Kyle agrees to play a few songs for, say, a waterbed discount and some chicken marsala. If onlookers aren’t nodding their heads and tapping feet, they meet the exit door.
2: Their reactions when they inevitably find a small, generic GoPro camera head hidden poorly in a pudding bowl brought to the dinner table. If they get angry about privacy or whatever, they’re done. If they react positively, they can stay and eat some of that pudding.
3: Their response to the night’s biggest surprise yet: We hire a stranger who walks into the dining room wearing a white chef’s shirt. He’ll walk from table to table acting as if he’s judging guests’ reactions to his food. At times, he’ll eat from their same plates to intensify discomfort and find out whether they’ll break under pressure.
Once they finish the pudding, remaining candidates can head over to the dance floor for the last challenge, the dance-off. In this final section, we inform our overly stuffed guests about a “dancing game” in which they have to keep moving until the music stops. What they don’t realize is our library of Gloria Estefan’s up-tempo hits will continue on repeat until the last 10 groups have someone who remains standing on the floor.
Those well-deserving, possibly ill philanthropists will get the city’s money and prove they are committed to giving back.

Leave your comments