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16 Feb 2011
My MacGyver Moments
we even look a bit alike|sophie-world./com

In the party biz, I have a great many of what I like to call "MacGyver Moments." For those of you who miss the reference, MacGyver was a TV show in the mid-Eighties to early Nineties. The main character was a troubleshooter who would solve problems in non-violent ways, often using only what he had on hand (most readily duct tape and a Swiss Army knife). And from the looks of it, he and I could have shared the same hair stylist!

Basically, MacGyver Moments (or MMs, for short) are those "Oh dang, we left table coverings back at the warehouse and there's no time to go back for them" moments. They're when I've got to use my head to get myself out of what could be a sticky situation with a client. Remember, the job of a party planner is to make everything look effortless, so if you've forgotten something or discover something at the last moment (like the client who brought her own pinata but didn't realize she needed to fill it too - more on her in a sec), you've got to find a way to cover. Never, never, never let the client see you get tense! It's okay to get in your truck and scream at the top of your lungs, or have a panic attack in front of your diehard employees behind closed doors, but when the client sees you, you need to be calm, cool, collected, and alllll smiles.

Here are a few fabulous MMs from my past...

Remember the mom with the empty pinata? That was truly a shocker. It was the very end of a party, and I had arranged a treasure hunt that would lead to a pinata that the mom had purchased. Now of course the pinata could not be hung until right before the treasure hunt began or else the kids would see it, so I had one of my assistants do it for me while I was singing a rousing rendition of "Down By The Bay." I was belting out "Did you ever see a mosquito eating a burrito?" when my assistant whispered in my ear: "I think the pinata is empty" It's really, really light... I nearly choked on the chorus. Out of the corner of my mouth I whispered to my assistant to go check with the mom about whether or not she had filled it, while I continued to take requests from the kids for animals to rhyme in the song.

I could tell by the horrified look and the shaking of heads across the room that there was no filler. We were in trouble. It was too late to fill the pinata as it was already hung in its special hiding place.

Now, thankfully, I usually have treats in my games box for various games, so I instructed my assistant to gather as much candy as they could and meet me at the final treasure hunt destination. When the kids got there, we set about opening the pinata in the usual way, each kid taking a turn at bat. My assistant, whom I had hide in the tree (thank goodness it was an easy tree to climb!), waited patiently, bag in hand. When the pinata finally cracked open we made a big show of the breakage as my assistant dumped the candy out of the baggie from above. None of the kids were the wiser (mostly because small kids don't tend to look up a lot!)

Another time we were decorating for a disco party; we were hanging these really fun sparkle curtains, but someone had forgotten to pack the hooks. So we just used opened-up paperclips. Simple and effective.

More than once we've forgotten table coverings (or were mislead by the client into thinking that they would bring them). We've used everything from cutely duct-taped garbage bags to fabric from the decor, even stapled reams of paper!

I gotta admit that sometimes the MacGyver Moments are better than the original products. Take for example this big corporate event we did. We had ordered this very special (and expensive) plastic wrap with which we were to cover the client's very fancy boardroom chairs. The kids were making candy houses, and we needed to protect the chairs from the icing. Well, somehow (and I'll never know how, other than maybe fairies stealing it) the roll disappeared. Just evaporated into thin air! After searching for it for fifteen minutes, I was in sheer panic. Here were these very expensive chairs, and I had nothing to cover them. I knew the client would be livid, as we'd already had a long discussion about how to protect them. I was about to start hyperventilating when an MM hit like a bolt of lightning. I grabbed a big Glad garbage bag and slipped it over the top of the chair, then secured it into place by tying back the closer ends. The result was quick, easy, and looked better than the original plastic wrap would have because it was black and perfectly matched the chairs. I sent an assistant to Walgreen's, and 25 minutes later the job was done - and the client was none the wiser.

I'll definitely be sharing more of these moments with you in future postings. I can already tell you, I've learned that duct tape, paper clips, and pipe cleaners can fix anything!