Putting well-known names on invitations and tip sheets is a standard way of publicizing a charity event in New York. The promise of clinking glasses with an actor or a socialite brings out a larger crowd to bid on whatever is being auctioned off, and ultimately brings in more money for the cause. Everybody wins.
But then there is the shameful practice of advertising glittering guests who have not in fact confirmed that they’re attending.
This is what happened on Saturday, May 31, at Gallery Bar on the Lower East Side, during a fund-raiser for Artists for L.W.A.L.A. (Living with a Life-Long Ambition), a philanthropic organization that gets young people involved with Africa.
A press release for the event had promised 42 names, including habitual gala-goers Dabney Mercer, Byrdie Bell, Olivia Palermo, Ally Hilfiger, Alexandra Richards, Nigel Barker, Richie Rich and others.
But not one showed—not a one! Not even Kristian Laliberte, the event’s publicist, deigned to make an appearance.
So what went wrong?
“I think that the mix-up must have been that many of the expected attendees thought that the event was a typical summer fund-raiser in the city occurring during the work week,” said Mr. Laliberte’s partner, Timo Weiland. “Bottom line, I am thinking that the explanation is a leaky datebook combined with a few of the people not having been invited or reminded.” (Mr. Laliberte could not be reached.)
“Well, they definitely didn’t R.S.V.P. since this is the first I heard of it,” said Alan Rish, whose clients include Lydia Hearst and Ally Hilfiger, both of whom were listed as confirmed guests.“Lydia was with her boyfriend on Saturday, and maybe she would have gone, but she never even knew about it,” he said. “And Ally is out of town, so she definitely wouldn’t have been attending.”
Ms. Palermo’s publicist, Caroline Curtis, whom The Observer reached by phone, said, “Olivia had no recollection of being invited or R.S.V.P.-ing to the event.”
“Anybody who has been in New York longer than five minutes knows not to rely on tip sheets,” said Mr. Rish. “To expect Lydia or Ally to show at an event on the Lower East Side in the summertime is just unrealistic.”
“No one gets very upset about it, but it does reflect on Olivia directly because it makes her look flaky or not committed if someone uses her name as a definite and then she doesn’t show,” said Ms. Curtis. “So I wish this weren’t the case, but as a publicist I know that it absolutely happens.”
“She finds it a little frustrating, because then people think that she’s being petty and say, ‘Oh, she couldn’t show up for her own charity,’” Mr. Rish told The Observer.
Cinema Society founder Andrew Saffir, who hosts many of the city’s high-profile events—most recently organizing the Iron Man after-party with attendees like Gwyneth Paltrow, Diana Ross and Michael Kors—said, “Gosh, no, that is absolutely not O.K. No one wants their name on something that they don’t plan on attending. If you are advertised to attend, you’d certainly want to follow through.”
“Even I have found my name on tip sheets for things I either declined or hadn’t responded to,” he said.