Last night, the McDonald's corporation threw a celebrity-studded bash to celebrate the much anticipated World Cup-themed McDonald's fry boxes. Who—besides us—would voluntarily go to such an event? It's a mystery that may never be solved.
The party, attended primarily by impoverished young Brazilians hoping for a way out of the slums, was held in a hillside Rio de Janeiro favela. A little joke there. The party, attended by a bunch of professional celebrity hangers-on and bizarrely out of place club kids, was held in a glass-fronted Manhattan event space on Tenth Avenue. Outside, there was a red carpet (actually green astroturf), down which strode a modest parade of celebrities, the most famous of whom was model Tyson Beckford, who was later seen inside conspicuously carrying around—though not consuming—a box of McDonald's fries. At the media check-in table, the pressure on the harried PR women was high. "We're missing the carpet!" one faux journalist kept repeating, over and over.
Some guy from Dawson's Creek was there.
Parked at the curb was a huge trailer that had been turned into a fully mobile McDonald's restaurant. Its employees were busily cranking out food for the party, which was relayed inside by a team of cater waiters dressed in soccer outfits. The party, as I had feared, was catered with McDonald's food. On each table, next to a plant and a mini soccer ball, stood a card announcing the night's menu: "Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets, McDonald's World Famous French Fries, McCafe Strawberry Banana Smoothie." It makes sense, yet it was still a disappointment. To be fair to McDonald's, you just can't win when it comes to these picky and entitled members of the media. If it's catered with McDonald's food, it's "Ew, gross, crappy McDonald's food." If it's not catered with McDonald's food, it's "What, a restaurant isn't even proud enough of its own food to serve it at its own party?" Sometimes it is tough being the world's leading purveyor of styrofoam food.
Just inside the door, a man and a woman stood, each juggling a soccer ball with their feet. Kick, kick, kick, up, down, up. A demonstration of a new circle of hell, I imagine. "Tenth Circle: Gluttony—forever juggling a soccer ball, unable to stop no matter how weary you become, while dressed-up party guests mill about you on all sides consuming french fries." Enormous, six-foot-tall fry boxes were positioned around the room, along with the various paintings that now adorned their sides—paintings by "real" "street artists," commissioned by McDonald's, with a World Cup theme. Truly a dream come true for any street artist. I detected a hint of subversion in their work. Almost every painting appeared to have been done under the influence of acid and ecstasy. One showed creatures with huge exaggerated smiles and grotesquely bending limbs, surrounded by soccer balls and puffs of smoke; another showed an abstractly rendered woman with a murderous look on her face rushing forward with an upraised finger and what appeared to be blood dripping from her canine tooth. Cool french fry boxes for candyflipping, is what McDonald's now offers.
And all around the party, from front to back, were glamorous-looking people. Celebrity-looking dudes with well-groomed stubble and tight suits. Small packs of twentysomething women in heavy makeup and short dresses who looked ready to slip past a velvet rope. And other packs of faux-artsy club kids with dyed hair and gender-reversed outfits and absurd hats, glancing out of the corners of their eyes for any passing photographers who might capture their inherent fabulousness. Also TV celebrity gossip reporters and Tyson Beckford and the boyfriend of one of the lesser Kardashians.
Who were these people?
Why were they there? Why were any of us there?
This was a McDonald's party.
[Photos by Bucky Turco]