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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Star power without the stretch limos (fourth in a series)

Last night we were well removed from the glitter. We gathered at a watering hole on West Sunset that frankly wasn’t even up to the standards of Buckhead or Virginia Highlands. But you know what? An even more potent kind of star power shone there last night.

David McClurkin 74C, Paige Parvin 96G, and I met with a group of fellow alumni at a networking reception. The style of dress was mostly jeans and wrinkled shirts for the guys, better for the women. All our guests kindly tolerated the clichés of this networking reception: the fishbowl into which they were supposed to drop their business cards and the table with Emory literature, etc.

The point is, no one was stylin’. No one acted as if they were in the middle of a screen test or a pitch. They were open, friendly, and smart. When they heard the problem we had set before them—how to begin getting product placements for Emory—they dug right in. “Thought of this?” What about that?” A moderate temblor of ideas took place at Cat ‘n’ Fiddle; the fish bowl was rattling.

David, as the business-development guy, shook every hand. I, as the reclusive writer, shook fewer, but those I did, I really enjoyed. (Really.) Brian Zager 06B (above right) was our host. He has gone on to do a master’s at USC in producing. I also met Roger Green 06C (above left) of William Morris Endeavor and Josh Small 04C of Alcon Entertainment. Alcon is an independent film company aligned with Warner Bros. We know that capable people work there. Why? Their last film was The Blind Side (2009).

Had I stared into the fishbowl, I could recite every name. Alas, I cannot. However, I can tell you this: every one of these engaging alumni was still interested in Emory and graciously willing to accept our hors d’oeuvres as payment for all their good thinking.

David passed out, as he calls it, “Emory swag” for the assembled. By that act alone, we have ratcheted up product placement tenfold over what it was the day we arrived—two sweatshirts, his and mine.

With the help of Genevieve McGillicuddy 96G, the festival organizer, we had arranged for a showing after the reception. Though Paige had lobbied for The Graduate (1967) for our graduates, instead we got permission for Singin’ in the Rain (1952). Most alumni politely begged off the screening, saying that they had seen the film. And, truth be told, I got the strong impression that this sharp group—equal parts entrepreneurial and creative—has more of a yen for active doing than passive viewing.

To everyone who attended, thanks so much for leaving with a homework assignment and for embracing our swag with something close to wild enthusiasm. David told me that Mark Goffman 90C (yes, the Mark Goffman of The West Wing, The Beast, and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit) wanted to leave wearing an Emory hat. David raced to lop off the tag. We cannot have Mark Goffman (the Mark Goffman) on the streets of West Sunset with a tag hanging in his eyes.

While our alumni dashed off to draw up a business plan for our new venture, David and I succumbed to the lure of passive viewing. Just for a couple of hours. The 10:00 p.m. showing at the festival was an un-missable chapter from our own youth: Saturday Night Fever (1977). I, who normally (as David says) sit like a statue in movies, straining to catch every word, was tapping my feet pretty boisterously to the music. As were the many other fans of the Bee Gees.

You might recall the now-legendary way the film opens: with Travolta swaggering down a Brooklyn street carrying a can of paint to his place of business. David has promised me that he will learn to walk like that.

A word to the wise: first ditch the Hush Puppies.

Read part 6; Read part 5; Read part 3; Read part 2; Read part 1

-- Susan Carini 04G, executive director, Emory Creative Group

Photo by Jon Rou

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