The Mental Health Association of Central Florida works to identify and obtain proper treatment for at-risk individuals, many of whom are homeless or incarcerated in prisons. It’s a good cause, run by caring people, but they need money.
Like many such organizations, they have fund-raising events during the year, and present awards and honors to members of the community who help them further their noble goals. This year, the Mental Health Association of Central Florida held their major fund-raiser at the Hard Rock Hotel. Norberto bought a table at the event, and generously invited us to join him and his family. Then he gave us the bad news: The theme was “Friday Night Fever,” and guests were asked to dress in 70’s outfits. However, they said that “semi-formal” attire was also acceptable, thank God.
We drove down to Universal and parked in their enormous parking garage. An elevated walkway leads to the CityWalk area, where the hotel is located. We were surrounded by thousands of teens and 20-somethings, dressed very casually, all on their way to experience Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. I envied them, because I was stuffed into a suit, and was on my way to experience the horror of the 70’s.
The Hard Rock Hotel is crammed full of quasi-significant rock and roll memorabilia. Here I am with one of Elvis Presley’s jumpsuits:
Some people took the whole 70’s theme quite seriously, dressing in costumes that were not only hideous, but highly flammable. Here’s a photo of a very high-ranking member of the Orange County Judiciary, with his dinner companion. I’ve blurred their faces, because I don’t want their ridiculous outfits to jeopardize his chances for reelection:
The event was preceded by speeches, introductions and presentations, conducted from a temporary rolling lectern set up on the dance floor in front of the stage. Some marks had been taped on the floor to indicate where the lectern should be placed, so that the speakers would be illuminated by a spotlight that had been attached to a gantry for the occasion. However, as people gave their prepared remarks, they kept pushing the lectern forward a few inches at a time, until the spotlight only illuminated their foreheads. In this photo, you can see the marks on the floor where the lectern is supposed to be:
The hall had been decorated with a giant disco ball, which was kind of mesmerizing, like staring into a bonfire. When it was time to eat, we lined up for the buffet, which was quite good. “Eat a lot of it,” Norberto urged us. “It cost a fortune.”
During dinner, a Bee Gees “tribute” band performed, outfitted in disco-era suits and platform shoes. They weren’t particularly good. My daughter and Norberto’s boys cringed when the music started, then ducked out onto balcony where they could hide out till it was over. I wondered if the band was a generic “tribute” band, with lots of costumes in their closet to suit any occasion. One week they’re the Bee Gees, next week, they’re the Doors, the week after, they’re Dion and the Belmonts.
My favorite part of the evening came during the honors presentations. Everyone who received an award gave a little speech. Some people are better at this than others, but some people just shouldn’t speak in public at all. For years, my company required every employee to take a drug awareness training program which was always presented by the head of Human Resources. He was a terrible public speaker, and he kept making one hilarious mistake. Year after year, he would consistently refer to the “Drug-Free Workplace Policy” as the “Work-Free Drug Policy.” Eventually, he retired, and the training presentation is now delivered online, which is much less entertaining.
One deserving individual who received an honor at this affair kept confusing the term “mental health” with “mental illness.” So he would make statements like, “This organization works hard all year helping people who suffer from mental health.”
The fake Bee Gees band completed an ill-advised costume change and finished the evening with a medley of disco-era “classics.” I fear that like Barry Bonds, popular songs of that era will always be marked with an asterisk, calling attention to the fact that despite their popularity and record sales, musicians the world over consider them to be suspicious artifacts of a time when we all questioned our mental health.