Who: The city's dashing young investment bankers and the ladies who love them
What: The LEAD Project's Passport to Progress, a benefit for Twin Cities RISE!
When: Saturday, September 27th
Where: The W Minneapolis-The Foshay
Why: Raise $14,000 for a nonprofit in a night, forget about the plummeting Dow
Sad to say I must be on my way/So buy me beer and whiskey cos I'm going far away
--"Sally MacLennane," The Pogues
My good friend Ian Conaghan is returning to his Fiona in Kilkenny after spending the last fifteen years in Minneapolis and Chicago. So after a farewell dinner at Nick and Eddie on Saturday night, I brought Ian and his brogue as my plus one to the LEAD party at the W.
After admiring a custom lime green Bentley with "Irish I" vanity plates in the rock star parking spot in front of Manny's (I cajoled Ian into posing, of course), we headed upstairs to the ballroom on the second floor. We made it to the open bar around 10:30 p.m. and ordered our first two free drinks. I motioned toward the back of Ryan Burnet's head.
Ian looked around at all the twenty- and thirty-something dudes in their perfect dark suits with their subtly brylcreemed hair. "Stephen," Ian said. "They all look like they work for the hotel."
We ran into Ian's friend Susan Wiesner, a pretty girl from Venezuela who used to wait tables at Nick and Eddie. She was there with her date, Zac Essig. Ian got straight to the point:
"Are you two an item?"
They blushed. "No, we're BFF," Zac said. I'm fairly certain Ian had no idea what Zac meant.
"So are you a private escort or something?" Ian asked.
They blushed again. I'm fairly certain Zac had no idea what Ian meant.
"No, no, not for sex," Ian clarified. "Like for reading out loud and riding black horses on the beach."
Thankfully, the four of us were distracted by a pretty blond walking by in a poufy white dress. Cassandra Brost is a student at St. Thomas attending the party on a first date. She had bought her BCBG dress at Macy's just for the party and her date--who had wandered off to the bathroom--had sprung for the tickets, ninety-five dollars apiece.
I left Ian behind with Susan and Zac and bumped into Mason Thelen. Mason is a good-looking cat with a class-president-of-Wayzata-High-via-Len-Druskin style going on. He's on one of LEAD's myriad committees--regardless, it was good to see a familiar face. He introduced me to his friend Sacha Martin. Mason explained that Sacha owns the Blue Bird Boutique at 50th and France. I asked Mason if he could introduce me to anybody else interesting.
Mason immediately brought over Johnny Whitaker and his wife, Heidi. I asked Johnny how he was doing. "Well, the whole world is blowing up!" he said, heartily slapping me on the back. Johnny works for Agency Trading, and he had just come from the Ivy, where he and Heidi entertained nervous clients from London. What did they talk about at dinner?
"We had a conversation about what kind of crime you would commit if you knew you would get away with it," Heidi said.
"I said stealing a jet would be a crime," Johnny jumped in, "but buying a jet would be a dream!"
Johnny wanted to go smoke a cigarette, so I walked to the back bar to find Ian and bumped into my gorgeous Facebook-friend-in-a-little-black-dress, Stephanie Blanda. She explained who the charity was tonight. Evidently, I had just missed the speaker, Quentin Osgood from Twin Cities Rise!, one of the counseling program's success stories. LEAD had sold almost 350 tickets, raising $14,000 for the charity.
I asked Stephanie if she could introduce me to somebody interesting. "Oooh! I have just the guy." We hustled back to the ballroom. Stephanie plays competitive volleyball, so we both were able to peer over the crowd.
"We're looking for a guy in a brown corduroy suit," Stephanie informed me.
There he was. Jason Mikunda. Right away, he informed me he was one of LEAD's "founders." I asked him how he was doing. "Well, I work for Bank of America," he joked, "So I still have money."
Jason was just about to go downstairs to smoke a cigarette. On the way down, we ran into Johnny and Ian and dragged them out with us. Outside, I asked Jason about his corduroy suit. "For thirteen years, I've taken a month-long vacation each January," (he's thirty), "and last year, I went to Thailand." How much for Thai tailoring? "We could say $2,000," he smiled, "But it was $230."
I saw a ridiculous Sean John Motorcycle Club cut-off vest out of the corner of my eye. "Oh, that's Jimmy May," Jason said. "Have you heard of his website? Socialfly.com? I've scored a couple clients from there."
Back upstairs, I ran into Matt Hemsley. Unquestionably the LEAD alpha, Matt is a consultant at McKinsey, and he was going about as caszh as I've seen Matt get outside of his Facebook pictures, where he's dressed in badminton whites. He was wearing a sort of silken banker's vest with a razor-sharp shirt-and-tie combination. I had lunch with Matt at the Minneapolis Club awhile back, a lunch where he inadvertently taught me the precise pronunciation of "Herm