Naked people are supposed to be fun, and last Saturday night's Exotic Erotic Ball was full of them. Women wearing only pasties for tops, men in thongs, even Santa Claus with no pants: The annual pre-Halloween masquerade, now in its 29th year, had it all. Add a smattering of go-go dancers, booths selling glass dildos, and a guy painting portraits with his penis, and the event — which had an estimated 7,000 attendees, some of whom paid more than $100 for tickets — should have been a blast. So why, according to partygoers, did it suck so hard?
The biggest problem with this year's ball, according to the 30-plus readers who vented their frustration in the comments section of our blog All Shook Down, was the shuttle service. Previously held at Cow Palace, the event moved this year to Treasure Island, where parking and traffic concerns led organizers to set up shuttles that would run from AT&T Park. For $12 roundtrip, the ball's Web site promised giant limos with high-def TVs and "absolutely no waiting."
Trouble was, those limos never showed up. Instead, partygoers were stuck in hour-long lines waiting for spots on grimy sightseeing buses, the limos' replacements. Throughout the night, the transportation situation only got worse. One unlucky reader tells how she crammed onto the upper deck of a bus on the way over, only to be forced to catch a cab home or wait 80 minutes for a shuttle. Another got turned away from AT&T park, was told to drive to Treasure Island, and then had his car broken into.
Howard Mauskopf, the executive producer of the event, admits that the shuttle fiasco was "without doubt the biggest fuck-up in the 29-year history of the ball. It was atrocious, and we're sorry."
Bauer's, the limo company he'd hired, pulled out days before the event, Mauskopf says. Instead of collecting cash from shuttle riders as agreed, the company wanted all the money upfront. "We couldn't possibly comply," Mauskopf insists.
So at the 11th hour he called every bus company in the city, even getting Muni to pitch in. For now, he's personally responding to every complaint he receives, and is considering refunds on a case-by-case basis. He hints that he may take legal action against Bauer's: "In time, a judge may rule it wasn't our fault."
According to Gary Bauer, the president of the limo company in question, that's not how things went at all, though. "I have a written contract that states very, very clearly they were always supposed to pay the money upfront," he says. As of the Friday before the event, however, the ball had only paid $5,000, about 7 percent of the total bill. "We tried to work with them," Bauer stresses, "but we're not in the business of collecting money from passengers, and we can't work for free."
Shuttle fiasco aside, Mauskopf maintains that the party itself went fine, that the transportation issue just put attendees in a bad mood — and that people commenting on a blog are sure to form a lynch mob. "Look at the world we're in. Everyone's disposition is a couple of notches less than it's supposed to be. When you have a party that's supposed to be an escapist thing, and something goes wrong, it's almost like a betrayal."
Mauskopf's plan for next year: no more shuttles.