The Four Seasons, security goons and
good ol' disability discrimination
Michael Moore-ing the Oscars in Boston
OUR SMALL BUT INTREPID GROUP making up Boston Not Dead Yet was prepared with a bunch of signs and press packets that included a press release, the fake Serenity Glen brochure, a Not Dead Yet bookmark with Web links on it and copies of Steve Drake's and Diane Coleman's articles. We were going to show up outside the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, where the Massachusetts Film Bureau was sponsoring a gala Oscar party for $250.00 per ticket. The local ABC affiliate was going to host it, and some personalities were going to be there.
Our plan was to be on the sidewalk as the stretch limos (and even more stretched faces) pulled up and discharged their cargo, displaying our signs and passing out literature. The press release and brochure had been sent out to major media in the area, and we were hoping that media would be out on the sidewalk.
Just before I left home, my old friend Jim, his sister and her daughter arrived out of the blue, and we recruited them to meet us down there. But we were late! The handicapped parking space right in front of the Four Seasons converts to "valet parking only" after 6:00 p.m., and then other spots were also taken. And then with the snow . . .
When we got to the front of the hotel, there was no scene at all. Jim, who had arrived on time, said that there'd been only a trickle of people coming through as they waited in the lobby. So I really just misread the situation. I had expected some sort of street scene with media, maybe red carpets, who knows?
Summoning the spirit of Michael Moore, we traipsed upstairs, hoping at least to run into some media before we got tossed out.
The elevator dumped out on a hallway of milling-about well-dressed people, but we saw no one we recognized. The banquet crowd was mostly behind some Japanese screens manned by earpiece-wearing security people.
We contemplated strategies, but nothing seemed to promise any good return. Starting to leaflet would immediately lead to our ouster, while lining the hallway with signs only sounded appealing as long as we thought the banquet was actually going to happen in the other direction.
Then we had the idea of buying tickets and pushing our brochures only at willing people who had listened to our breathless talk about how "remarkable" and "amazing" the movie was.
We called Stephen Drake at Not Dead Yet headquarters, who thought it sounded like a good idea if we were actually ready to take the risk of not being able to raise money on the Internet to replace our investment. So we went over to the ticket table, and asked whether they still had tickets available -- we all had had the same foreboding that no more tickets would be available.
Yes there were tickets still available, they assured us.
So we got out our credit cards, ready to rack up charges for hundreds of dollars, only to be informed that they could only take cash or checks. We huddled again, and one of us tremulously wrote out a check for $1,000. We were fantasizing about drinking and schmoozing and wandering from table to table, and pressing our brochures upon people who were impressed with our enthusiasm for the movie.
Then I speak to the event manager and say that I will be bringing in my helper to help me eat, and would appreciate him being allowed in without charge as a disability accommodation. She fumbles and bumbles a little bit, but I am used to that, and she says that she will go check on it, because "they really are requiring tickets for everyone."
I wander back off to the middle of the area, then spot my City Councilman Mike, shaking hands and saying farewell to a couple of people going down the staircase. So I roll over and strike up a conversation with the man and his girlfriend (the beautiful ball girl for the Boston Red Sox, who tells me later that she's not sure she likes dating politicians because she was stuck at a "Russian party" for three hours earlier that day) , and try out my facetious plug for "Million Dollar Baby", handing them the brochures. I mention the media. Mike says that I just missed two reporters from the Globe.
A few minutes later, I hear someone telling me that the manager is back and that we won't be sold any tickets after all. I turn around to hear this for myself, and there she is, lying baldly and badly about how she had checked in the back and that it was actually all sold out.
She is "very sorry," but she obviously isn't.
The very interesting and frankly somewhat intimidating aspect to this situation is that standing behind her in full-blown goon mode are two large security men, earpieces in place and hands clasped in front of them in the ready position.
I press her a little bit on why they weren't keeping a running list if they were so worried about running out of tickets, and so forth, but I finally give up.
I turn to Mike, who's seen everything. "Of course she's lying," he says.
So I ask him to go into the banquet hall with the material to see if he can find some media people that he knows to bring out to talk to me. He does this, and gives the brochure to some producer for Channel 5, our ABC affiliate, who insists "we are not here doing news."
Somewhat relieved about the $1,000 still on our side of the banquet hall, stressed out of our minds, we repair to the bar and drink heavily -- 2 drinks! -- and shower the bartender with praise and tips because he actually treats us like human beings.
At about 10 o'clock, fortified with liquid courage, we go back over to the table where I tell the manager that I would like her name and company information so that I can file a disability discrimination complaint against her.
Now I really press her: "But why were there security guys with you?"
"They have been with us all night."
"They are not with you now. Or do they only appear when you leave the back of that table? Why were they standing right behind you?"
"I didn't see them."
(Incredulity) "What!? You didn't see them standing right behind you?"
I go on for a bit in this vein, but it isn't going anywhere and we both know it.
We return to my apartment, where we watch the rest of the Oscars. I avidly root for "Million Dollar Baby" and "The Sea Inside", because that will give us more leverage (the old Marxist thing about "exacerbating the contradictions").
After we learn the winners, we decide on next moves -- handing out brochures to people as they leave showings of "Million Dollar Baby" over the next weeks; maybe trying to put an ad in the paper; mailing off the brochure in hardcopy form, maybe an op-ed or something.
We're up for suggestions.
Posted Mar. 3, 2005