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The gathering stormers

By Terry Joseph
January 21, 2005

Although fear of victimisation still makes anonymity the pragmatic option, what used to be mere murmur among Carnival-event promoters is growing into loud grumble over upscale citizens and State officials routinely gate-crashing ("storming") their shows and invariably with a posse in tow.

As recently as this past weekend, an uninvited senior Government official turned up at a big-ticket all-inclusive gathering with storm troops trailing, announced his name and was accurate in expecting they would all be admitted, fed and watered for the rest of the evening. "You see?" he was heard to say, "no problem."

This increasingly embarrassing trend among persons who enjoy social or civil rank presents huge difficulties for event promoters, who dare not rebuke offenders publicly, lest culprits pretend they are twice the victim, using office vindictively-as has been known to happen-during subsequent interaction with those who dared to turn them away.

The new "walk-in" approach merely represents a ramping up of perennial demands for Carnival time free-stuff by members of this same league, who have come to think it some kind of entitlement by dint of social or business rank, an antithesis, really, since they are most able to afford tickets.

Last year, a senior Government official, after enjoying an already hefty allocation of passes for the Panorama final, requested and received scores of additional tickets. Last week, organisers of a high-profile all-inclusive fete, inundated by requests from big shots for complimentary tickets to an already sold-out party, had to print more just to facilitate people who could hurt their business.

Not all big shots badger promoters for tickets but among those who do, there are several varieties of the highbrow storm, ranging in intensity from gentle persuasion, a little arm-twisting, to the wrecking-ball approach, which simply bashes the potential "donor" into submission.

"I hear you're the man behind this weekend's big party," is often a strong enough stand-alone statement to elicit the question: "How many tickets do you need?" In the ideal situation, just the voice on the telephone prompts the required response, even before the query comes.

For reasons that remain unclear, this attitude is most prevalent during Carnival, as if the very nature of the festival intrinsically demands that the rich play the role of beggar; all in the spirit of masquerade.

Ironically, much of it dents fund-raising fetes and shows, precisely the opposite result of what organisers expect from a charity event.

Career parasites have no such compunctions. If they think you have access to the top rung of the organising committee, their perception of friendship is that you should arrange free stuff for the boys without them even asking, if only on the fragile premise that you had requested a favour some time in the past, applying with impunity the quid pro quo.

So entrenched has the attitude become, we have developed a special Lexicon for begging. At first it was a "freeco", then a request to "run something".

Lately there has been an adoption of the Americanism "free stuff", as a way of softening the exchange, replacing "comps" which, by reduction to the level of pet-name, already made asking for complimentary admission more target-friendly, the enquirer couching it in such a way as to deliberately make the pronoun bluntly possessive: "So, what about my tickets?"

Well, they're not your tickets. In fact, they are merely strips of paper intended as accounting documents so the event producer can audit gate-receipts. Taken to the extreme, the promoter can actually be indebted to a printing firm without collecting a single cent, having paid for the tickets and under siege from "friends" left bereft of the means by which that account can be serviced; a truly awkward position if the event advertised itself as a fund-raiser.

Even if it be a purely mercenary venture, the distribution of complimentary tickets is designed to enhance-not deplete-the coffers, giving out free stuff to persons whose influence before the fact or presence at the function serves the purpose of heightening the party profile, a long-term investment geared toward increasing paid patronage on subsequent occasions.

Quite apart from those difficulties listed earlier in this column, big shot stormers are inadvertently legitimising the same behaviour among the nation's youth, who see every next event as fresh opportunity to perpetuate the "gimme-gimme" symdrome, no doubt singing the hook-line of that old calypso by the Mighty Cypher: "If the priest could play, who is me?"

Adult parasites aren't helping themselves either. I cringe each time an event promoter gives me yet another name, someone who telephoned begging for free tickets or all-access passes, the host saying he tried for days to avoid his pursuer, who managed to slip through the net purely on the basis of call-waiting or some equally clever ruse.

If the idea of browbeating someone to gain free admission to a fete is appealing from the standpoint of savings, even that should be weighed against what the beggar stands to lose. In fact, by simply missing the event, a much bigger saving will accrue-integrity.

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