It's not every day that homeless people get to dine at the exclusive Waldorf Astoria. In fact, such a gesture might be construed as a perverse display of mock compassion carelessly thrown together by an out-of-touch one-percenter. We may never know whether or not true compassion motivated the stunt, but we the disregard for planning is apparent.
The Associated Free Press has the crucial details...
It had seemed such a good idea. Recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao last week took out ads in American newspapers promising a first-rate meal at the Boathouse in Central Park and $300 each.
Guests were bused in and treated to a sit-down meal of seared tuna, filet mignon and seasonal berries, waited on by staff in suits and bow ties, but anger flared over the cash no-show.
As Chen spoke to a gaggle of Chinese journalists while dessert was being served, one guest started shouting.
"Don't lie to the people!" Ernest St Pierre told AFP. "We came here for $300 but now he's changed his tune."
Vanity Fair's Elon Green was in attendance, elaborating on the bizarre spectacle...
The (expensive!) advertisement for the lunch, which ran in the Times and The Wall Street Journal, is not ambiguous. Above a photo of Chen, who is flanked by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, is the announcement of a “charity luncheon for 1000 poor and destitute Americans,” where “Each will receive 300 dollars.” Attendees to the event, which was to benefit, and was co-hosted by, the famed New York City Rescue Mission, were encouraged to R.S.V.P. to a Hotmail address.
It was an exceedingly strange lunch. Chen regaled attendees with his own live version of “We Are the World.” He does this frequently, apparently. There was also a short film that testified to Chen’s greatness (The narrator: “He is benevolent and joyous. His name: Chen Guangbiao, the number one philanthropist in China.”). It was looped so I saw it at least a dozen times. The non-credentialed guests were fed tuna tartare and filet mignon. It looked delicious. The media, which turned out in numbers that appeared to equal the attendees they were there to cover, was (delightfully) given nothing.
According to CNN, Guangbiao is totally fine with how things played out...
Despite the criticism, Chen has not been discouraged. "I regret nothing," he says. "I am not afraid of what people say about me. I have not done anything that harms anyone. I think society needs diverse innovation. I will keep on giving positive energy through my creative solutions for problems."