By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Sweat glints off Allen Artcliff’s spiky brown hair and his skin is flushed as he dims the lights on a crystal chandelier to the appropriate level of swank. The affable and handsome Director of Food and Beverage at The Crescent in Beverly Hills shakes his head in amazement as the hotel’s dining room and patio fill with well-dressed Angelenos looking for half-price appetizers and $5 cocktails. It’s only been 10 minutes since the start of The Crescent’s second monthly Pink Slip Party and the place is already packed solid. At the hotel’s first party in February, he expected 40 guests — 100 showed up. This second one is well on its way to 200. Artcliff smooths his velveteen jacket and dives into the crowd to check on the food.
Throwing a party may not seem to be the most productive use of time when everybody in the known universe is getting laid off from their jobs. As a go-to activity, weeping quietly in one’s room comes to mind. But what if you invited job recruiters to meet the fashionably unemployed? Why not enjoy mini-curry-burgers and pink martinis with several hundred of your fellow fire-ees, a.k.a. kindred souls, a.k.a. competitors, a.k.a. potential allies? These days, with unemployment surging at 8 percent, these categories are pretty much one and the same. The Pink Slip Party concept, you could say, reinvents the whole notion of getting canned. Take a tragic thing and make it hip, and glossy, and chic and upbeat.
Artcliff, chief architect of party experiences at The Crescent like “Cocktails & A Chauffeur: Party Like a Rockstar, Not a Socialite” and “Mother’s Day Work-Out, Chill-Out,” came up with the Pink Slip Party idea independent of the ones that have been popping up around Los Angeles and New York, and independent of the ones being shopped this very second by rival Pink Slip Party planners lurking in his own hotel patio. (The original, ancestral pink slip parties date to 1910, but became known to modern-day workers in the late 1990s, when downsized tech sector employees got together to dot-commiserate.)
“Done away are the days of job fairs,” Artcliff says. “Look at the way the world is. My hope is for people to say hello, get the awkwardness out of the way, then get the business card. You do have to be in job mode. People called me and asked, ‘What’s the attire today?’ This surprises me a little. You’re going to a job interview. This is your first impression — the first face to face, the ‘let’s talk for five minutes, then book an appointment.’ Then when you walk into the office, you’re not nervous because you’ve met the person before.”
Across the room, a freelance photographer in suit and tie is being interviewed by a TV camera crew. “What are you doing here?” the newscaster asks. “Were you recently laid off?”
“I am networking. It’s the only thing you can do,” the photographer answers, launching into a speech about reinventing himself.
Everybody is talking about reinventing and redefining themselves, so much that you kind of have to wonder which persona exactly will show up at the actual job interview. Sheron Rice — “as in brown,” she says — was laid off a month ago, is now seriously lip-glossed and ready for battle. Is she looking for a job? “Ooh, am I ever! I was in real-estate development for seven years. It’s scary. I saw the change coming. I made so much money. Then as the economy went on, we were unable to get banks to fund our projects.”
She is considering going back to law school. “You have a sense of failure. Even though it’s not your fault.”
The five recruiters, each representing a cross-section of industries — accounting, legal, real estate, healthcare, technology, entertainment, manufacturing — are the belles of tonight’s ball, set upon by swarms of job seekers.
One hospitality recruiter, Wendy Tuttle, sinks into a chair. “What are people asking? Helllllllp!” says Tuttle’s boss, Dave Danhi. “People have been asking for H-E-L-P. Capitalize all that and put spaces in between.”
“People here are going through the same emotions. They’re commiserating,” says Tuttle. “They’ve been saying ‘I’ll take anything.’ But I think that desperation is a horrible cycle. It leads to insecurity and that leads them to doubt their talents. It makes me sad. People don’t have support to lean on in times like these. Maybe it’s the guy who doesn’t want to scare his wife. So I cheerlead for them. Before I can help you with your job, maybe I can help with your mindset. Not to be in the doomsday frame of mind.”