Ex-Chicagoan expresses his chagrin over the lack of “all things Chicago” promised at L.A. party

Former Chicagoan Eric Boardman was a disgruntled guest at the Sept. 24 Chicago Party Alliance event in L.A. He called it a “a ripoff,” a sentiment privately expressed by others who attended. He gives us his take.

“A celebration of all things Chicago,” the invitation read.

“Windy City food, music, and spirits,” was the promise.

“In the tradition of Windy City West,” was the selling point. (Windy City West was the original party tradition begun 20 years ago.)

As the affair nears I talk about it with friends. “Oh, yeah, I’ll be there! Save me a slice or seven!” On Game Day I avoid anything hearty and subsist on raw veggies.

On the way to the affair my heart beats faster and my smile broadens. THEN, when I cross the threshold and see a room full of friends eating and laughing and celebrating our hometown, I am complete.

But this year was wrong. My heart was broken.

What we got for $50 was one food station with just two items: hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. No pizza! No ribs! No cheesecake! The waiting time for a plate was 35 minutes. You could feel the disappointment in the crowd.

In all our past events there was a happy, boisterous vibe. Now the usual hugs were replaced with looks of disbelief and mournful sighs.

It’s not just about the food; it’s about the feel of the party. What I got at the party was profit motive and a complete misunderstanding of what we are about.

I don’t know where Jonathan Scott, organizer of the event, grew up, but he missed the lesson of what makes a good Chicago host.

There was nothing about that party that said, “Welcome. You’re home.” I’m all for making money, but I’m more for having a helluva Chicago homecoming.

The first tip to trouble was the “VIP Section” for $100. Excuse me? Check the history. Chicago is a “small d” democratic town. We don’t go for velvet ropes and lines of demarcation. We’ve all got the same grit in our teeth and sweat on our brow.

Furious as Howard Beale I had to say something, so I tracked down Jonathan Scott, who was downstairs posing for pictures with arriving “celebs.”

“Sir, you have misrepresented yourself and destroyed a 20-year tradition,” I said, handing him my two unused drink tickets.

“I, make that we, come for what we cannot get here in Los Angeles and that includes Midwestern hospitality. Five blocks away I can get a Chicago hot dog for $2.75. I am leaving and expect to have my money refunded.”

Scott’s response was, “Can’t you just relax and enjoy the party?”

“Not on your life,” I exclaimed. “I starved myself all day in anticipation of this feast, skipping lunch to make room for Lou Malnati’s, nibbling on carrot sticks so I can eat Carson’s Ribs. I’ll survive, but the legendary generous spirit of Chicago might not.”

He took my business card and said the charges would be reversed.

I went to Vito’s on La Cienega and had two slices of East Coast?style thin crust, a big salad, and Chianti for a total of 15 bucks.

Midway through the meal Vito appeared with a platter of yeasty chewy bread sticks drenched in olive oil. “Here. You need something special. You’ve had a rough night.”

How come a guy from New Jersey is more Chicago than anybody in the supposed Party Alliance?

Greed, bottom lines, and the ugliest of all mantra?”Hey, it’s just business”?may serve the accountants of Los Angeles. But I come from Chicago. Serve the beans, don’t count them!

The good news is that there’s a movement a’foot to restore the luster of the previous “Sweet Home, Illinois” set by former IFO director Brenda Sexton with a party in L.A. next year.