Skip to comments.Vendors Stuck with $100,000 Tab After (NAACP) Soiree (Milwaukee, WI)
Posted on 08/10/2005 4:36:52 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
(Fewer than 100 came to event held during NAACP convention)
A month after a lavish event to honor local African-American women during the NAACP convention in Milwaukee, several local vendors involved have been left with bills totaling more than $100,000.
The event, planned in anticipation of more than 12,000 visitors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People convention, was put together by Grace Valentine, a local party planner. The party was not part of any official NAACP convention activities.
Oprah Winfrey's mother, Venita Lee, was to be the featured guest, along with 17 other high-profile Milwaukee women, including U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Valerie Daniels Carter and Vel Phillips.
The soiree was opulence extraordinaire: a sit-down dinner for 500 at the Milwaukee Art Museum's dramatic atrium featuring shrimp papaya salad, Hoisin-glazed beef short ribs, a fashion show with New York models, a live band, an open bar and guest speaker Omarosa from "The Apprentice."
Days earlier, Lee said she couldn't come, Valentine said.
And when checks started bouncing before the July 11 event even began, local vendors feared that they would be left empty-handed.
"I should have figured when no one was there at 6 p.m. for an event that started at 6 p.m.," said Vesna Madunic, owner of Gracious Catering, which provided the food.
In the end, fewer than 100 people paid for the dinner, Madunic estimated, and her staff had to toss mounds of untouched shrimp, Ahi tuna and white chocolate mousse in the trash behind the art museum.
"There was nothing we could do to save all that food once it had been heated," Madunic said.
The damage is still being assessed. So far, unpaid bills include Gracious Catering: $70,000; Private Gardener Florist: $4,700; Hotel Metro: $4,572.59 for seven rooms, including room service and restaurant charges. Wauwatosa police are investigating, said Madunic and Valentine. Gracious Catering is in Wauwatosa.
Hotel Metro sued Valentine; she has until today to answer, or a default judgment will likely be entered against her, according to court records.
Valentine said Tuesday that she has not yet paid the art museum, the linen rental company, the business that printed the invitations, the limousine service that transported the models or the musicians. A museum spokesman wouldn't say how much, if any, rent is owed.
Both Madunic and Victoria Vonier, who owns Private Gardener, said they normally check customers' backgrounds before taking on such big orders, but they were impressed with Valentine's intentions to highlight the accomplishments of local women.
"I think she meant well," Madunic said.
Valentine, 49, said she was "only trying to do something nice" and is working on paying her bills. She blames the city for the poor turnout at her event.
"Milwaukee didn't support it," she said. "They said there would be 12,000 in town for the convention. That's false advertising."
Official attendance of delegates and guests was closer to 8,000, NAACP chairman Julian Bond reported just after the convention ended.
That explanation does not assuage the business with outstanding bills.
"She was piggybacking on the convention, trading on the name of the NAACP," Madunic said. "This is a big blow to us financially."
Vonier said she feels duped by Valentine who, Vonier said, referred to herself as a NAACP representative. The first check Valentine gave her bounced, Vonier said. Valentine told her the money would be arriving later that day.
"She told me that she had sponsorship lined up," Vonier said. "I don't like being lied to."
Valentine, a fashion designer who said she is just starting to get in to the party-planning business, said she thought she did have sponsors lined up, but "unfortunately, they fell through."
She said she started the Goddess Awareness Group two years ago to celebrate women.
"There are too many bad images of women today, especially African-American women," Valentine said. "The sexual exploitation is way over the top."
She said she began planning the dinner in February and began to advertise it on her Web site, http://www.thegoddessawarenessgroup.com Tickets ranged from $100 for a seat at the "Athena/Strength" table to $400 for the "Gaia/Abundance" table. The invitation describes it as tax deductible event. Valentine said she collected money for tickets in advance and at the door but couldn't say how much.
"I have it written down somewhere," she said. "I'm not sure where just now."
Valentine says she is upset that she's being investigated for possible criminal charges.
"This was supposed to be a very positive event," she said. "People didn't support it. Is that my fault? No. It really isn't. I put myself on the line. It's not like I stole this money."
Planning for the event began with high hopes, she said.
Valentine said she went on public television to try and generate interest but did not advertise in any newspapers or on commercial radio or television.
"I was counting on word of mouth from this big convention we were supposed to have," she said.
The "celebration" began at 6 p.m. with hors d' oeuvres. At 7 p.m., the fashion show began. Dinner was served at 8 p.m., followed by Omarosa's remarks. Music was provided by The Real Deal and Tori Green of New York.
Valentine said she has learned a valuable lesson from the whole experience: "People don't have a lot of money."
She said she hoped to recoup her losses and pay her bills by selling some clothes from her fashion line and perhaps to host another event.
"If you have any suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them," she said.
I wonder if Omarosa made it all the way through her speech or if a piece of fuzz fell from the ceiling in the middle of it forcing her to sit down and rest.
Dopes. This is the NAACP fer cryin' out loud.
And you can bet that, among all these low-life scam artists, there was not one Republican.
Actually, it wasn't the NAACP itself. It was a wanna-be 'party planner' trading on their name.
I LOVE THIS LINE....
There are too many bad images of women today, especially African-American women," Valentine said. "The sexual exploitation is way over the top.
That is why she had a fashion show.....that certainly doesnt exploit women for just their looks....
Stepping over the line there.
You only have to calculate in expenses if you plan on paying them.
Yeah, you're probably right. Besides, all that rich & fattening food...Shrimp, Ahi Tuna, White Chocolate Mousse, would have the leftist Milwaukee Food Police there in a heartbeat, LOL! You can't just feed ANY old thing to hungry people, you know. You've got to comply with the government-contrived Food Pyramid and all that rot. *Rolleyes*
I, however take whatever free bread and foodstuffs I can find around town. (For myself or to give to my chickens.) In fact, I got $28 worth of free Panera breads this week, just for the taking. :)
This country is wasteful and silly. I'm living proof that there is enough to go around for all. *Steps Down Off Soapbox*
Not upset with you, Nick. I'm just angry about the waste I see around me every day...be it some stupidity as in this article, or just everyday businesses failing to plan ahead so there's not so much waste.
That's my story and I'm stickin' with it. Hunger goes beyond politics IMHO, however the left has completely co-opted it for their own personal & political gain.
Ok. I'm done now, LOL! :)
Having helped with security in many a corporate event, I'm entirely sure that you are correct. I've taken home loads of great food myself. One can eat lunch for days on the leftovers from a large conference, provided the refridgerator at work is large enough.
I believe you and I'm glad to hear it! :)
I agree with you. I was just pointing it out because people don't realize how much food is wasted because of certain laws or liability factors.
The war on poverty is officially OVER!
So I can advertise an event with you as guest speaker, and if you don't show up, I can just send the bill to your family?
When I was in food service, it was (and probably still is) against the law to, for lack of a better word, "reuse" the food.
Employees could get fired if they took leftovers at the end of the evening, the business couldn't take a chance legally.
Which was a real shame because we threw away a lot of very good food, and a lot of employees were poor people.
Have no idea what that means.
Food service is one thing, but events outside the restaurant are entirely different. A lot of stuff gets lost on the way out the door to the dumpster.
True. In any case, the vendors take a bath. Which is why, in vendors servicing restaurants don't extend much credit.