Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

PR Watch: A pontification of priests...let’s bring back the concept of the salon

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 4, 2004

Sunday evening was a lot of fun because I had dinner with Susan MacTavish Best and a couple of dozen of her friends. And I also bumped into a few people I hadn’t seen in a while.

The food was delightful, but it was the people and the conversations that made the evening. Yes, Susan is a PR professional, but this was not a public relations event. It felt more like a family and friends Thanksgiving dinner, as we sat on chairs borrowed and begged from neighbors, and sat scrunched together in her modest apartment.

The mix of people was wonderful, and I realized how much I missed this kind of salon-like event that is more common in larger cities, especially on the East coast, and in Europe. Here, most of the natives go to bed early and they rise early, which is probably why many of the people left at Susan’s dinner party after 10pm, were East coasters, or those of European backgrounds.

I’ve tried to introduce more of this type of event myself, with occasional dinner parties, and the Friday Blackout Salon. There are so few social events that aren’t industry related, that it’s always a pleasure to be among people that have many different backgrounds and jobs. It’s very much in the tradition of the salon concept of the late 1800s and early 1900s, in which a host invited a broad mix of people, artists, industrialists, writers —- a format designed for mixing ideas and people.

Susan’s dinner/salon was the first time I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Craig Newmark, yes, Mr. List himself (BTW, Susan’s partner is Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craig’s List, our co-host that evening.) And let me tell you, Craig is a true geek. He loves to talk about his Linux box, and is also an avid reader of science fiction. Craig’s companion Eileen, entertained our table with a list she found that described the name of groups of things. For example, most are familiar with “a gaggle of geese,” but probably not with the term, “a barren of mules” or “a pontification of priests” (my personal favorite.)

I also had the pleasure of meeting again, Gil Gershoni and his partner Amy, of Gershoni design studio and who regularly host one of the best salon-type events around. Chris MacAskill is another interesting person, co-founder of SmugMug (a very interesting photo sharing web site that is growing like wildfire, mostly by word of mouth.) Chris was also co-founder of Fatbrain.com, which Barnes & Noble picked in a stock and cash deal valued at about $64m, four years ago.

And I ran into Alex Gove, of WaldenVC. I hadn’t seen Alex in years, probably the last time was at one of the many dotcom networking parties of yesteryear. Oh, and let me thank Vlad for that excellent tip, my readers will be very grateful when that one comes out.

Then there was some guy called Gary Rivlin (http://www.garyrivlin.com/aboutme.html. Anybody know him? Claims he works as a reporter for some sort of Manhattan based newspaper? I had to break it to him gently -- that on the West Coast, few people read newspapers. Not because we don’t have the literacy skills, but because we don’t have a large community of commuters using public transport, as on the East coast. (Also, being caught reading a newspaper at work can lead to disciplinary action.)

Gary has been in town just 4 months, and although he likes San Francisco, he is a touch homesick, pining for the Norwegian fiords, or rather, the deep, majestic canyons of Manhattan.

So, if you run into Gary, give him a big California-style hug, it might help to help him feel better.

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