Years and years ago when I was working in New York, there was a party held every summer in Newport, Rhode Island on Bellevue in one of the old “cottages” (mansions) called Newport Night in White. I want to say it was maybe held at Belcourt Castle at the time, but it has been way too long (we are talking early 90s).
Anyway, it was not the Newport White Party held today which was held this past Saturday on August 27th in Rhode Island. Newport White Party is a different white event which started in 2011. It also benefits non-profits, which Newport Night in White back in the 90s did too. The event I attended for two or three summers was held in the summer some weekend after the Gatsby Ball (or Gatsby Society Ball, I forget what it was called precisely.). This was the first white party I ever attended and it was such an amazing event I still remember it. You dressed in all white cocktail attire to black tie. There was dinner and dancing and it was held in this amazing mansion. And it was FUN.
Then white parties sort of petered out except in certain locations where they will always have white summer event like Provincetown, the Hamptons, and so on, and have had a general renaissance due to people discovering Dîner en Blanc de Paris as it grew from a man’s white picnic in Paris in the late 1980s. Now of course, it is this huge thing, held world-wide and licensed. The irony is Dîner en Blanc de Paris was going on when Newport Night in White was, but I never heard of it back then. Who knows if the event organizers did back then, I didn’t know them personally, they just threw a heck of a summer party.
When I first heard about Dîner en Blanc in Philadelphia (also known as DEBPhl or DEB) I was delighted. I do like white parties and the idea of white parties even if dressing head to toe in white is hard to wear and hard to pull off. But white makes you think of summer, right? The first Dîner en Blanc in Philadelphia had well over 1000 people. A lot of my friends went.
I did not want to go. Why? Because August in Philadelphia outside is gross in my opinion a lot of the time because it is a major metropolitan city with lots of concrete and density. Heat and humidity are bad enough without adding a city to it. I also did not want to go because while I loved the idea of white and a theoretical “white picnic”, already at over 1000 the event was too large for me. And you had to schlep furniture. I also do not like being in huge crowds. I do not like stadium sized events, even sports or rock concerts. It’s just not me and never has been. I find crowds of a couple of hundred too much at times. If you know me, you know I have always been this way.
Ok so those are my opinions, right? Nothing earth shattering. They are not a damnation of Dîner en Blanc, it’s how I feel about events that are HUGE. And since its debut in Philadelphia, that event has grown to over 5000 people. I am not so sorry, but no, getting crammed in with 5000 other people in white like lemmings at an outdoor event in August in a big city is not for me. My opinion. Personal choice. Should be no big deal to express said opinion.
But no. That is criticism of Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia. And critics are not welcome. My goodness the hubbub over Brian Hickey’s article after the most recent event was not to be believed.
Philly Voice AUGUST 19, 2016
Dîner en Blanc Philly is the worst and I hope it never goes away
BY BRIAN HICKEY PhillyVoice Staff
This is America, and in America, you can spend $45 (or $93 a couple) on anything you want without fear of repercussions, provided it’s legal and all that.
This is America, and in America, you can damn well judge anybody who spends that kind of money for the right to prepare their own dinner, carry their own tables and utensils, don white clothing from head to toe and wave sparklers in the air after usurping a public space in the name of pretentious exclusivity.
Welcome to the morning after the fifth annual Dîner en Blanc Philly, the pop-up dinner picnic in a secret location.
Read the whole article. It is wonderfully written. And captures precisely right or wrong how a lot of people feel about the event.
But no, drama ensued, serious drama. There was even a rebuttal from a writer attending the event as a journalist:
Philly Voice AUGUST 22, 2016
Dîner en Blanc: Philadelphians coming together, in a sea of positivity
BY SARAH MAIELLANO
In response to critics of his unfair, and sometimes silly, takedown-attempt of Thursday’s Dîner en Blanc, Brian Hickey suggested that, instead of tweeting at him, the pro-DEB crowd could submit their own commentary to Philly Voice.
It was a taunt: as if none of the event’s 5,000 attendees would be capable of writing 600 coherent words defending it. Well, I had an extra 45 minutes this weekend.
I attended DEB as a journalist (I cover Philadelphia and the rest of the country for a number of publications, including Washington Post, USA TODAY and Travel + Leisure).
Read the whole piece. “Takedown”? Seriously? What is this a mob hit? Seems to me Brian Hickey wrote an opinion piece.
And then there is this, anointed a “must read” by
It’s cool to hate on Diner en Blanc, but is it necessary?
…Part of the criticism is that this is elitist, pretentious and obnoxious. Yet, at $45 a seat, it’s a far cheaper night out than most black tie galas that run every other weekend. And, if you look at the crowd, you’ll see these are far from just society regulars that populate those old-money events. This DEB crowd isn’t bringing out the antique jewelry, it’s shopping on Etsy.
And among the big social events of the city, DEB happens to be the most diverse. Far from being the whitewash that many of the pop-up beer gardens and Fishtown festivals tend to be, DEB appears widely popular among black attendees and other minorities. And where else do you see people from various races and economic backgrounds dining elbow to elbow, fine china next to dixie cups and Tupperware?
Ok that is the author’s opinion. I do not quite see the event as a great equalizer, but she loves it and it’s her opinion.
But, you are not allowed apparently to have a negative or even a different opinion even if it is not particularly negative, just honest.
And yo’ Philly, birthplace of America and our freedom, do you remember the First Amendment regarding opinions?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Land sakes do you people think this is the first person to write about these events in less than glowing terms??? Or to mock any social event?
(Queue Washington Post)
The Washington Post: Why do people hate Diner en Blanc? The word ‘pretentious’ keeps coming up.
By Maura Judkis August 26 , 2016
It is very, very easy to hate Diner en Blanc. The annual event, which returns to Washington on Saturday night, brings thousands of people to a surprise location, where they arrive dressed in head-to-toe white, eat gourmet picnics and drink champagne in full view of the uninvited masses. Those who are out and about this weekend may see a parade of them on the Metro, toting tables and chairs and china. And depending on your outlook, you’ll either wish you were one of those lucky 3,500 or loathe them with every fiber of your being.
“No event has ever made me want to plan a paintball rampage like this one,” said Tom Bridge, editor emeritus of We Love DC. He’s kidding, kidding, he promises! But he is not alone…..But no foodie trend seems to raise hackles quite like a very public, invitation-only party with a dress code and a $45 admission fee.
“The whole process is so unbelievably pretentious it seems to me to be a complete waste of effort,” Bridge said. “Pretentious” is a word that comes up a lot around Diner en Blanc. Is it the French name? Peut-être!
Again, read the whole article. They event mention the Philadelphia tempest in an en blanc pot.
Now here is another article on the Philadelphia event:
AUGUST 19, 2016
Diner en Blanc diner says event is a wasted opportunity
BY BERNIE CARLIN Philly Voice
For better or for worse, I’ve been a participant of Diner en Blanc for the past two years. My special lady friend’s mother enjoys it, therefore my special lady friend enjoys it, so I must enjoy it. Such is the law; I didn’t write it.
Before I ever attended, I found the amount of hatred the general public held for this gala to be entertaining, but didn’t think much about it. As an outsider, it struck me as just another us vs. them debate, in a city that is literally defined by us vs. them debates. Like all such debates, I figured there was some merit to the criticism, but felt pretty sure that it couldn’t be as bad as it was made out to be.
Now that I have two of these events under my belt, I can confidently say that it is…Its indulgence defined, and the true cost isn’t simply $93 per couple (plus the requisite two bottles of Cab Franc per person). It’s the wasted opportunity that comes and goes when 5,000 Philadelphians who have the time and money to do better with both, get together and waste it on taking drunk selfies on a Thursday….An estimated 5,000 people got together, and spent almost a quarter of a million dollars to do it. And no one – not one of us, not one citizen in the city that hosted it, is any better for it.
Let’s do this differently next year. Please. I’d like to be hungover because I helped someone, not (just) because I’m an entitled prick.
Again read the whole article. Of course the response of one of the originators of Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia, was a little Marie-Antoinette-let-them-eat-cake because they said “all” of “Philly” benefits.
There has been so much breast beating back and forth over this event on social media that it is somewhat crazy. People saying they will “unfriend” other people for criticizing the event. Seriously?
OK I get the picture, people love the event. But others don’t . And then there are others like myself that love to look at the event photos but have absolutely no desire to go to the event. My reasons for not wanting to go, my personal choice for choosing not to go also by the standards set by these people makes me a Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia hater. Alrighty then, pretzel logic.
I do like events that benefit charities. I especially like events that benefit charities that do not take themselves so seriously and don’t (for example) call themselves “balls” when by definition they are not.
I grew up in Society Hill and on the Main Line. I went to a private school. I did the cotillion for the Charity Ball all in white. I did years and years of traditional non-profit events and traditional volunteering like my mother.
I stopped doing most of it after 9/11 by personal choice. I felt that most of those people on those committees and who attended those events would always need people like me more than I would ever need them. I also felt bigger picture, there was more to life that was more important. Also, let’s get real: these parties are expensive and a new dress for every event adds up.
But I do like white parties and I do appreciate non-profit events that do good for legitimate local charities. So when a friend suggested Brandywine in White and described it to me, I thought “why not”?
It is an absolutely lovely event. It has a charming host and slew of people who put it together. While not a non-profit per se, part of the proceeds benefit a local charity. In 2015 it benefitted the Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington, DE. This year they were donating to the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County to help save Barnard’s Orchard.
Also this year held on the same evening of August 27th was the inaugural WC Summer Soirée . This event had a non- profit formed first and benefitted three local Chester County Charities: St. Agnes Day Room, Chester County Food Bank, and Chester County Family Academy.
We went to WC Summer Soirée this year. Not because we didn’t love Brandywine in White, but because we thought we would be able to do both and both events ended up being on the same evening, and by the time we figured it out, the tickets for WC Summer Soirée were already purchased. (But a small donation did go to Brandywine in White as well.)
Both of these Chester County / Brandywine Valley events are summer white or en blanc parties. But they do not try to be Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia. They are white parties yes, but the feel is different.
These are lovely events that are more laid back. You have fun and it is a few hundred people versus a few thousand. You don’t schlep your furniture you buy tables and service tables or eat at communal tables. You do set up your tablescapes in white and dress in white, but your back drops, the settings are completely different. And yes they choose non-profits as event partners. To me that is more appealing.
And the people whiles mostly strangers to me at these events are so nice. People mingle and table hop and enjoy checking everyone’s tablescapes out. I love to entertains, cook, and everyone knows I love vintage dishes and linens, so I totally have fun at these Brandywine Valley/ Chester County events.
We had a blast at WC Summer Soirée ! It was held at the American Helicopter Museum and there were even helicopter rides. People had fun! Dress code wise it was slightly more casual than Brandywine in White, but that’s fine as it was never intended to be a clone of Brandywine in White or a Dîner en Blanc.
While at WC Summer Soirée I noticed people whose business promotes Philadelphia and the Brandywine Valley were at Brandywine in White and they would be tweeting live. How nice I thought for Brandywine in White. Next thing you know they post a selfie with the following “Nice event here at #brandywinwhite but it’s no @DEBphl.”
I thought the damnation by faint praise to be shall we say, ignorant and totally unnecessary. If they thought it was a nice party, why couldn’t they just say that? It is not supposed to be Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia so why toss that in? White party yes, but DEB, no. And sorry not sorry, but DEB did not originate the concept of white parties or place a patent on them, they have revived an entertaining trend.
I responded to those people that I would rather support good causes in Chester County then to be among the 5000 lemmings dressed in white, in Philadelphia. You know what this is boys and girls ? Opinion and personal choice. I was never kept off a guest list for this thing, I chose not to go for valid reasons already discussed.
So then these people decided to follow me on Twitter . I decided to back them because if you know social media and you know Twitter you know the next thing is a flat out Twitter war over whose opinion matters more. I didn’t want that, so I chose not to engage.
Next thing you know, the person I am told is the paid publicist for DEB Philadelphia pops up in 140 characters or less. How I am attending an event that almost “entirely copies DEB AND are rude about it. #goodbye #copycat”
Oh snap! I guess he schooled me, right? I also think that technically DEB Philadelphia (license or not) can be considered a copycat of other larger established DEBs around the world and other white parties, yes? After all DEB Philadelphia did not originate the idea of a white party in general, did they?
I admit I told him to have a hissy fit other than at me and it was bourgeois that he did not realize not everything is trying to be DEB. Sorry not sorry, my opinion. Knowing a Twitter feud would definitely spring from this one, I blocked him. I shouldn’t have engaged in the first place, and chose not to engage further.
So his response to blocking was twofold. First was on Twitter – if I am going to criticize I am supposed to “stand behind my comments. Not block everyone. #coward”
Then he rolls up on my blog’s Facebook page and continues about how I blocked him. (wahhhhhh!) and how his comment was directed at me for being “rude”. And because he wasn’t limited to 140 characters, he goes on to say that I couldn’t stand up for my comments and hid them from everyone and continues “…it is clear you lack facts and just want to be hostile. First, that event was started and called Brandywine in White after DEB. And if you had half an education of course our event is based on Paris- who do you think started the idea and licensed it.”
He goes on to call me a troll. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre. He neglects to say he blocked me back which I find hysterical, so what is his very important point about blocking people again, I forget? And I guess he “encouraged” the “official” Twitter handle to block me too? ( Totally mature, totally amusing, totally cracks me up and do they think that means I can’t see what they post anyway? All you have to do is not be signed into Twitter to view it if you want to- so not difficult if it is a public versus private Twitter-feed. )
I mean seriously he is a publicist being paid to promote this event? And part of the job description is being the DEB Philadelphia ankle biter? And my goodness, do the people who run Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia think this is acceptable behavior out of what amounts to someone they employ to positively promote their event? And as a professional publicist this person thinks their version of playing well with others is acceptable behavior?
Right or wrong, if I were hiring a publicist and saw this out of a publicist they would be the last publicist I ever hired. And seeing a publicist doing this even if not directed at me personally would mean if I didn’t want to go to something in the first place, I would never even ever reconsider the event or recommend it to others. And if I did want to go, I would choose another party because who wants to go to something represented by someone like that anyway? I guess this guy thinks that the White Party in Provincetown the past 30 years is also a “copycat” of DEB Philadelphia?
People were criticizing DEB events in 2013 too :
Le Diner en Blanc: The Great Doucheby
POSTED BY KEVIN ALLMAN ON THU, APR 4, 2013 AT 3:26 PM
Hey New Orleans — here’s a dinner deal for you!
First you pay $35, then you bring your own food, utensils and your own goddam table.
You don’t know where you’re going, but you must wear white from head to toe. Oh, and there’s a three-step process for application and a waiting list (“Best of luck in your registration!”), because, you know, the experience of paying a stranger for the privilege of staging your own dinner party is not just for everyone, darling.
And you can’t cancel. Period…
We don’t need to pay to attend a dinner party and be told to bring “a picnic basket comprised of quality menu items and a china dinner service including proper stemware and flatware.”
Are we really turning into this, New Orleans? I hope not. Because this whole thing makes me feel like putting on an old Saints jersey and licking roast beef po-boy gravy off my forearm while doing the Cupid Shuffle.
And then there is this from Vancouver, Canada:
Side Dishes: The little black event