More on Entertaining, Vol. 4, Issue 45

Etiquetteer has not failed to notice a disconnect between organizers of huge black-tie fund-raisers and those to attend them. Organizers are intent on raising money for the their organizations in as many different ways as possible (no kidding), communicating their message effectively, and adding little touches to make the evening special. Almost invariably attendees merely want to get a tax deduction for the chance to put on a tuxedo or a fabulous dinner gown (since almost no one they know can afford to throw that sort of party privately) and have a good time with their friends.This brings us to the recent Human Rights Campaign Dinner. May the Deity of Your Choice bless keynote speaker Rev. Peter Gomes, who really nailed it on the head when he said something like "You’ve all paid a lot of money for a mediocre dinner which will include speeches you proceed to talk through." Sorry to say, that’s almost exactly what happened since the gabble of the glitterati could not be escaped without refugeeing to the silent auction. Etiquetteer was particularly disappointed with the disrespect shown to the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, whose serenades during the salad course were loudly ignored by about 80% of the room. But Etiquetteer cannot lay the blame solely on the dinner guests. The organizers must be faulted for scheduling anything to which anyone has to pay attention during the first course. Everyone is still getting settled at their tables, meeting their tablemates, flagging waiters to request more wine, salad dressing, rolls, etc. They emphatically do not want to sit silently through a speech or a performance until at least halfway through the entrée, and that’s just all there is to it. At the public dinners of yore all the speeches came at the end with the dessert course; perhaps Etiquetteer is just naïve, but it seemed like a sound system then and would bear repeating now. Until that happy day is restored to us, however, for the Deity of Your Choice’s sake above, shut up during the singing!

Dear Etiquetteer:What an interesting answer you gave a week or so ago about the ticket bar and tipping. Down here we have those same problems, so here goes: If you are the guest of honor at an affair given at the home of the host, does one offer a tip to be shared by the temp help? Secondly, as hosts, we must often use valets for parking. As guests, do we tip?Dear Tippi:Egad, Etiquetteer’ favorite issue: tipping. So un-American, and yet so part of American life. The only time a houseguest tips one’s host’s staff is when one is staying overnight. Tipping staff at a dinner party in a private home is Absolutely Improper, and Etiquetteer includes valets in that as well. A gratuity, frequently disguised as a "service charge," will already be in the contract negotiated by the hosts and the caterers and the parking company. Aside from that, hosts should not be passing to their guests the opportunity to pay for the entertainment which they’ve been invited to enjoy.

Dear Etiquetteer:OK, Etiquetteer, what about this: polemical, provocative bumper stickers: rude or a citizen's right and obligation to speak out?Dear In Your Face:Etiquetteer would say both. Etiquetteer adores free speech and deplores attempts to stifle it (for instance, branding anyone who speaks out against the war in Iraq as traitors). On the other hand, Etiquetteer frequently wishes that those exercising free speech a) had something to say and b) could say it with more wit and much less anger.

Etiquetteer cordially invites you to join the notify list if you would like to know as soon as new columns are posted. Join by sending e-mail to