Okay, so I’m going to take a quick break from the whole political thing to say that I really, really love my job. Except for when I hate it. But I generally love it, because it sends me to Events, and I get to go for free, and I get to eat for free (when I get the chance to eat), and I am on the receiving end of quite a bit more up-sucking than many other journalists in similar positions. So it was at last night’s rainforest benefit at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, where dozens of people (some important, most not; some well-dressed, most not; some sober, most not) flocked to my camera for a two-inch-square space on a far-back page in a magazine that not a one of them has ever actually read.
My photographer and I got there sevenish, just in time for complimentary cocktails and pictures of people who were still reasonably sober. My first impression as our little pack of media persons was led through the Gardens was that the huge greenhouse looked like the setting for some James Bond movie, that at the end of the evening, Sting would appear dressed in a futuristic black suit, stroking a Persian cat and outlining our role in his plot to take over the world. That, just so you know, didn’t happen.
Quasi-known country musician Colt Prather was rocking out onstage and doing a pretty good job of it, if you like country music, which I really don’t. I felt bad for him, though, because for all of his hard work, he was getting absolutely no attention; his “how’s everybody doing tonight?” was met with your average disinterested crowd-hum because The Man Himself had arrived and when Sting is in the same zip code, no other man exists. Sting wasn’t around for long, though; he stood, surrounded by people, just long enough for my photographer to not get an awkward half-shot of him over someone’s shoulder, and then was ushered off by a handler for, she said, “a shirt change before the event.”
Heaven forefend that he should appear twice in the same shirt.
‘Sokay, though, because he’s Sting and I’ll love him always.
Anyway, we were ushered into a banquet hall where a brief video was shown and hors d’oeuvres were distributed. The video was your average save-the-rainforests appeal, all in black and white with solemn narration, subtitled South American native types, and inspiring soundtrack courtesy of (you guessed it) Sting. No one really paid any more attention to it than they had that poor country musician, What’s-His-Name.
India.Arie, she of the curious punctuation, was a pleasant if curious chaser to the video. Pleasant because I like her music; curious because, well, let’s face it, this wasn’t exactly the most ethnic crowd in the world. The crowd loved her take on “True Colors” (“It’s the song from the Kodak commercial!” you could hear them whisper), but her midsong pause to explain the hip-hop usage of the word “fly” only underscored the fact that not a face in the (moneyed) audience was any darker than the deep, leathery tan of a Buckhead socialite just back from a Cancun vacation. The opening chords of “Video” prompted cheers from the crowd; as Atlantans, they’re proud of this song, although they’re not quite sure why. A roomful of faux-soulful aging white folks swaying in quasi-rhythm with the song, combined with the effects of my second V&T of the night, made me just a little bit queasy.
Ms. .Arie was followed by an actual live auction – a weekend in Tuscany, a gold watch, and a massive pair of ugly turquoise earrings went quickly at prices more than twice my monthly salary. A stylized Buddha head statue went more slowly; it was made out of recycled phone books. It finally sold for more than five thousand dollars. The crowing moment of the evening came when Sting appeared onstage himself to present what would be the biggest moneymaker of the auction: a Fender bass guitar bearing his signature, for which I would have sold my car, my brother’s car, and one or both of my kidneys had I known it was for sale. The auctioneer presented it as a “bass” guitar (pronounced like the fish), and it sold within moments for thirty-three thousand dollars, with a huge surge in the bidding when Sting took his shirt off and began stroking the guitar affectionately. My damn photographer, who had buggered off by that point, is not getting paid for last night.
Alas, nothing can top a half-naked Sting, so the evening kind of went downhill after that. Alison Krauss, blonder than I’ve ever seen her, played serviceable bluegrass, although she skipped over my favorites and included that song about being a man of constant sorrow that would annoy me far less had I not heard it for eleven hours straight on a family car trip to Virginia. My drunken tablemate knocked her vodka rocks off the table, shattering the glass, showering my linen pants, and filling my purse with Grey Goose and lime. The finale, which was rumored to include surprise performances by both Sting and Annie Lennox, was actually just a guy, some guy, any guy, standing up to thank us for, like, caring about the environment, and stuff. The goody bags were granola-crunchy and worth probably a hundred bucks each – I don’t actually own a yoga ball, strap, wedge, or block, but if I get one, I’ve got a bag to carry it in.
We now return you to your regularly-scheduled political tirade.