Part XXVIII – Banking on It
When everything seems to be going against you,
remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.
~ Henry Ford
This story would not be complete without telling you about Jean and a special client relationship that lasted many years…
That’s Jean…pronounced “zhahn” – the French variety :-)
The story began in 1994 when I received a call from the Los Angeles offices of the Citibank Private Bank – the arm of Citibank that serviced high net worth legal clients.
They wanted to entertain these legal clients with an invitation to dinner and a theatre performance when Miss Saigon opened at the Los Angeles Music Center. I was hired to plan the dinner and arrange for the purchase of the theatre tickets. It was a smaller exclusive event and I handled everything easily, working out the details with the in-house caterer exclusive to the Music Center.
Sometime later the client called again and asked me to coordinate a large scale event. I discovered that Citibank Private Bank held annual lawyers’ dinners – very upscale affairs for their top legal clients - in several major cities. I would be responsible to put together the Los Angeles dinner that year. The event included a formal reception and sit-down dinner to be held in a unique location with a famous guest speaker from the area of business, local government or politics. The location we decided upon was the Natural History Museum near downtown – the rotunda was a strikingly beautiful setting for the event.
The museum did not have a resident caterer and the client asked me if I would accommodate them and work with the catering company that they had used in the past for their off-premise events. I wasn’t thrilled about this, as I was used to my own off-premise caterers and could be responsible for them, but I told the client I would agree to this if it was that important to them. I knew the reputation of their caterer – she was considered one of the city’s best upscale social caterers, but I also had a feeling that she would not be easy to work with. Let’s just say that on an intuitive level, I didn’t feel comfortable. As it turned out, her staff and the quality of service did not live up to the standard I was used to and there were flaws with timing and delays. Normally this would reflect on the event coordinator, but since the client was insistent on using her, I could not be held responsible for the caterer’s errors. I was not happy, however, that at one point, there was almost a 45-minute delay between courses for the guests. Not acceptable in my book. But my feeling was to let it go – she was the client’s caterer so I felt it best not to make waves. The matter was too “political.”
Sometime during the following year I began wondering about that year’s Annual Lawyers’ Dinner for Citibank. I put in a call to Citibank and was not given any information. I then called the caterer and asked if she had heard anything about the upcoming dinner. She assured me that she was already in charge of the situation with the client and was handling the event herself this time and that my services would not be needed. Yes, that’s exactly how she put it. I understood then about my earlier intuitive feelings and realized that this woman wanted complete control of her client with no interference. Okay, if the client didn’t mind having their multimillion dollar law firm guests wait 45 minutes for a dinner course, then more power to them. And that was some attitude she had, considering that I had agreed to work with her for the client’s sake and didn’t try to talk them out of it. Some attitude.
I released the matter entirely and actually felt a sense of relief that I didn’t have to work with that caterer again.
The Thick Plottens
I don’t know how much time had elapsed since that call, but at some point following it, I received a call from a secretary at Citibank Private Bank. She informed me that a Mr. Jean Tardy had requested a meeting with me. It was regarding the upcoming Lawyers’ Dinner. Hmmm…things were getting interesting now…as a well-known talk show host used to say, “The thick plottens.” :-)
I was told that Jean Tardy’s full name was Jean Tardy-Vallernaud, but for short they called him Jean Tardy. I was intrigued to say the least about this ‘out of the blue’ meeting.
We set the appointment and I met with Jean Tardy, a very refined Frenchman with an artistic soul, very creative with exquisite taste, certainly not the typical description of a financial professional.
Jean and I hit it off immediately and early in the conversation he told me that he wanted me to coordinate the Lawyers’ Dinner. He was obviously newly in charge of everything. I remember asking him how he would feel if I used one of my own caterers if we chose a location that didn’t have their own. He not only agreed, he insisted that I use my own caterer – he told me he did not want the former caterer involved. He told me that he had met with her and knew this. He was also aware of the timing flaws at the previous year’s dinner and said that it was not acceptable for the Citibank Private Bank image.
If anyone wanted a prime example of instant karma…I don’t think you can get much clearer than that. In other words, her services would not be needed. :-)
Did I gloat over this? Of course. But as you will see shortly, our paths were destined to cross once again in the next act to test my understanding of still another spiritual lesson…
To be continued…
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