Every party has a party pooper, right? And Diner en Blanc has many — some who have actually attended the event and others who prefer to “judge from afar.”
Bernie Carlin of PhillyVoice, who has attended the event two years in a row out of obligation to his “special lady friend,” makes the point that it’s “indulgence defined” and a “wasted opportunity to help those in need.”
I’m not going to argue that Diner en Blanc organizers shouldn’t consider adding a charitable component to the event. Bringing 5,000 people together is a powerful thing.
Being curious about where all the money was going, I chatted with co-hosts Natanya DiBona and Kayli Moran. They explained that a large chunk of the expenses goes to securing the space. While the event is outdoors, public space is not free, and this year's location included the rental of three separate spaces: the East Terrace rented out from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the steps and the surrounding area which fall under the domain of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the street closures which are managed by the city of Philadelphia Streets Department.
Then there's the costs of production — the DJ, two bands, sound & lighting, circus performers, security and, not to mention, the trash collection and police officers did not come from tax payer dollars — Diner en Blanc paid for all of that.
Lastly, a lot of tickets to Diner en Blanc are given to local charities every year to be auctioned off, adding that charitable element to the event some people seem so up in arms about.
So why the big fuss? If we are going to ask Diner En Blanc to use their platform for social justice, shouldn't that request extend to other forms of entertainment in the city as well?
I know I’m going to get a lot of pushback from Eagles fans for this next example, but I don’t care.
Remember a few years back when the city spent $256 million to help build Lincoln Financial Field? Those taxpayer dollars could have gone to support education and fight homelessness.
To me, that’s indulgence and the money trail doesn’t stop with the construction of the sporting arena. According to Forbes, the average ticket price for one Eagles game is $95. Wow! That’s more than double of the cost for a Diner en Blanc ticket at $45.
I even learned that there’s a waiting list to purchase season tickets (sound familiar?) and, of course, going to an Eagles game wouldn’t be complete without decking yourself out in green. Looking at the fall selection of team merchandise, a hoodie is actually more expensive than my Diner en Blanc dress at $74.99. If I decided to splurge and get a hat too, that would set me back another $24.99. The total cost is already more expensive than my entire DEB ensemble for this year!
But wait — I mean, I’m paying all this money to go to this event, they’re at least going to provide me with food right?
Nope. You can bring your own food or purchase it at the stadium. And alcohol? You have to buy that from the vendors inside and I’m sure whatever you and your buddies are drinking is going to cost more than the bottle of wine I brought to Diner en Blanc.
Last year, the Eagles made $370 million in revenue. Sure, they give back to the community through initiatives like the Eagles Charitable Foundation, but what is the actual ratio of profit to charitable giving? With player costs averaging $167 million alone, that’s “indulgence defined.” What’s more, Lincoln Financial Field has a seating capacity of 67,594. Why aren’t we talking more about issues like homelessness and education at the games? If we are going to ask Diner En Blanc to be a platform for social justice, sporting events should be platforms as well.
But I’m not going to knock Eagles fans for wanting to get together and have a good time. Whatever floats your boat is fine with me. Life is short and anything that brings people together is a beautiful thing. However, whether you’re paying the big bucks to see the game in person or you’re sitting at the corner bar with your buddies knocking back PBRs — you’re spending money on entertainment and it’s not always for charitable reasons.
Walking by the homeless person on Market Street on your way to indulge in bar food and rounds of beers for Sunday night football is no different than getting dressed up to go dancing with friends at Diner en Blanc.
Merriam Webster defines snobbery as “the behavior or attitude of people who think they are better than other people.”
Wearing white and drinking wine on the art museum steps doesn’t make you a snob just as wearing green and going to an Eagles game doesn’t make you one, either. However, being a Twitter troll like another PhillyVoice writer, Brian Hickey, does make you a snob. He admits to taking pleasure in attacking DEB and its attendees every year on social media and even exhibits a strange sort of pride in his cruel commentary — displaying his hateful tweets proudly in a recent article.
Aside from being just plain sad, his behavior wastes the most precious commodity of all — time. Attendees of Diner en Blanc spend four hours a year letting loose and living in the moment and folks like this guy think tweeting away in solitude, spewing hatred online, is a better use of time? It doesn’t make sense.
Perhaps instead of standing on the sidelines he should join the party. This might inspire him to be more active in other ways, like volunteering. Having an opinion is easy but taking action and leading by example is how real change happens. The people I know that have been DEB participants over the past five years are also the most active in terms of charitable outreach. I don’t think this is a coincidence.
As the saying goes, how you do one thing is how you do everything. When someone chooses hate and judgement over love and understanding, that small choice becomes a recurring theme in their life. To all the Diner En Blanc critics out there, I hope one day you step outside your comfort zone, dress in all white just because and dance like nobody’s watching. The world needs more love and less hate.