Turn the clock back to around March, 2007. I was out to dinner with Carla, and our friend Bernadette. This was fresh on the heels of a trip to Atlantic City that Carla and I had made to Atlantic City several months prior. We had visited a dance club at Trump Taj Mahal Casino called The Casbah, which ended with us leaving and Carla crying because several girls on the dance floor were making fun of her. I flipped the girls the bird, and told them that I’d walk over every one of them to get to my wife, as I found her WAY more attractive than any of them. When we got into the car, I promised her that we’d find a place where she could dance and have fun without any repercussions from the rest of the world.
So over dinner, Bernadette and Carla and I were discussing a New Years Eve party we’d attended in Massachusetts a few months before, and we had an excellent time meeting friends that we chatted with in Dimensions, and other places online, but never got to see. Berna had messaged Heather Boyle, who runs Heavenly Bodies on several occasions, but didn’t get a response from her about running events in New Jersey. We talked about running events ourselves, and a partnership called Plush Productions was born, as was the New Jersey BBW Bash.
We had some difficulty finding a hotel that would take a chance on a new venture, that would also suit the needs of our crowd. After some assistance from Heather (who was my wife’s webmaster at the time for her paysite), we found a great location in Edison, NJ, and ran our first event in September of 2007. We only had around 48 who attended that weekend, but we were a hit, and everyone went home that weekend and told their friends what a great time we had.
We moved our second event to the Holiday Inn in Springfield NJ. Bernadette worked for the company that owned the hotel. The place was old, but comfy. The staff was fat friendly, and there were great places to eat and shop in the area. That event saw the hotel rent out almost 80 rooms to bash participants, and we had a huge crowd at the dance. We didn’t know everyone who attended, but did our best to introduce ourselves to them, in hopes that they’d become part of the “clique that everyone can belong to”. Our goal was making sure that no one ever felt left out of the crowd. We made sure that our bash fees covered costs and little more. Our goal wasn’t to make a financial killing at this, it was more about establishing a sense of community that everyone would want to be part of. We felt that even the Vegas Bash couldn’t say that!
I think the October ’08 Bash began the turning point for me, and not for the more obvious reasons that caused the breakup of my marriage. I wanted to GROW the crowd, not in size, but in numbers. I began to promote the event in a lot of places that would be considered the fringe of the community. My theory was that they were part of it, and at the very least deserved to know that we existed. Berna disagreed with my promotion, but being a friend and good partner, acquiesced and allowed me to promote my brains out. The first of the crazies began to show up. Those of you who’ve read my previous blogs know about some of the crazies. It was at this event that I began to notice guys picking up women at the dance, boozing them up, taking them back to the room (that belonged to the women, these nut sacks were too cheap to even get their own room), and then sneaking out of the hotel between 4-5 am.
One guy in particular even told his wife to stay home the first night (the pool party), that he would drive down to Virginia to pick her up on Saturday. What “SHE” didn’t know was that HE used the pool party to pick up a well known web model and bring her back to his room for an evening of feeding, belly rubs, and what not. The night of the dance, he stood next to me and proclaimed “This looks like a FAT Valhalla”, to which I reminded him that I saw him leave with the paysite girl., and that HIS Valhalla had taken place on Friday night.
Right around that time, a well known paysite webmaster contacted me about “buying in” to the NJ Bash as a partner. It didn’t take a whole lot of discussion betweend Bernadette and I to conclude that we didn’t need a partner, even if she wanted to put up cash to buy in. My theory was that we would have provided a degree of legitimacy to her business dealings, which most people who have done business with her would tell you, she didn’t conduct her business honorably. No sooner did we tell her no, and she contacted the same hotel, telling management that she was in as a partner, but wanted to run her own event, a fashion show and CD listening party there. The hotel called us, we denied she was a partner, but the hotel had already had a policy in place that prohibited CD parties, due to the element that would come to that type of event (It was a quasi hip-hop CD, with some rap, and the hotel didn’t want thugs and gang bangers there).
By April of 2009, my wife and I had begun the process of splitting up, and I ran the bash with Berna alone. Again, thinking that I could build this and bring in like minded people who would grow the event to epic proportions, I promoted everywhere………..and everyone came, much to my dismay, and to the disappointment of many people. Several people commented on the new crowd that was there, saying that it didn’t “feel” like the old days. I believed we were losing our original crowd, but didn’t know what to do about it. We had a few incidents that weekend, fewer than I thought we’d have, but I was also roaming the halls the entire night, like another security guard, just looking for trouble.
It was right around this time that I received an anonymous e-mail from someone who accused me of using the NJ Bash as my own personal dating pool. That really hurt, as I was just coming off my split with Carla, and was married for over 7 years, and wasn’t particularly interested in dating, but my mindset was that my preference was to be with one person. While I don’t scold those who do the “consenting adults” thing, it’s just not my dance, so an accusation like this really hurt bad.
So, by the time the October 2009 Bash rolled around, I was involved in what I “thought” was the beginning of a relationship. While I won’t talk about that relationship except for the fact that it didn’t work out, it definitely took some of the focus from what I do prior to, and at the event. I ran like a chicken with my head cut off, more than ever, and had a horrible time.
Right after the Bash, in November 2009, another incident took place on my Facebook page that I’ve written about in previous blogs, but the comments made to me were I feel uncalled for, and very hurtful. Even my ex couldn’t believe that the community could be so harsh……..go figure. At that point, I began to think that it was time for me to stop the insanity, and “quit” the New Jersey Bash.
Again, against my better judgment, I didnt.
April, 2010……….big crowd, same result. I noticed that the new people attending our events weren’t supporting the work we put into it. They didn’t come to the luncheon, play the afternoon games, listen to the talent we brought in, purchase products from the vendors, etc. One could say it was because the economy was beginning its decline, but I observed that there was a TON of cash generated at the bars on Friday and Saturday nights. In my opinion, people were spending time and money on what was important to THEM, and it conflicted with what was important to ME. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that I didn’t belong. Berna and I weren’t sure if we’d have a fall, 2010 event. The hotel was in financial trouble, I was bitching to Berna all the time, and she was in the middle of my ex and I after our separation, an unenviable position. By the second week of May 2010, we’d agreed that we’d do ONE MORE.
Several weeks later, Berna tired of being in between my ex and I, and took both of us off her Facebook page. So here I was, having already announced the event, and in a contractual obligation with the hotel, looking at the prospects of doing this alone. I called my friend Patty, and my girl Lissa, and asked if they would help with any part of the event that I was unable to coordinate. Fortunately, my friend AJ Confessore had a new CD release that was a musical tribute to fat girls, and he wanted to release it in conjunction with the Bash in October, and the theme “A Whole Lotta Love” was born. Entertainment (the wonderful Meghan Tonjes) was booked. Other people from the community offered to participate in a Fatty Talent Showcase. I knew that if this was going to be my last event, I wanted to make it the best one of all, and “reclaim” the event as one that would bring people together, rather than being divisive. As the summer progressed, Berna and I spoke, she added me back on Facebook, and returned in late summer to help put the finishing touches on the event.
During that time, I was hospitalized with a bi-lateral pulmonary embolism, and wondered if I’d make it to the Fall Bash at all. My health improved enough to make it, thank God. I attended what I felt was one of the best events we’d put together in all the time we’d been doing this. While Meghan Tonjes was a hit with those who attended her performance, few actually made it down to do so. Additionally, AJ’s table, despite all his marketing efforts, was a ghost town the entire weekend. I believe he sold 9 CD’s during the bash, a shame based on the financial investment that he’d made, and the “tribute” aspect of the music involved.
It wasn’t long after that my blogs started to be published. I felt like I had a successful swan song, and while disappointed in some attendees, I knew I did the best job I could.
Berna and I have had some differences since, and there was no spring bash for the first time in 3 years. I contacted Berna today about the website, to see if she wanted to take over the responsibility for it, and she said she has no interest in the old site. I’m assuming by that she wants to set up a new site, and continue to run the events.
I wish her well, her vision of the NJ Bash was more accurate than mine was. I have some regrets over my desire to be idealistic and invite everyone, but I was true to my feelings at that time, as I am now when I say that I’m finished promoting for now. Bernadette will do a good job, everyone will have a fantastic time, and after so many have read my blogs over the past few months, I will likely not be missed.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll even show up at one of those events someday. Just don’t look for me in the hallways sitting around with a pack of 4 Loko and a bottle of vodka nearby…………..