Help for the Needy

As everyone else struggles, our swag-aholics live off of corporate hooch

Unless you’re in college or living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, giving a birthday dinner in a restaurant implies paying for your guests. But if you’re an influencer? That’s another story. Influencers are the new fresh-air children. They aren’t just famous people or the media, obvious targets of corporate largesse. They are the aggressive new breed of socials from new or inherited wealth that get everything for free. Like squirrels hopping from tree to tree or migratory birds descending on ponds with a mighty noise, influencers go from screenings to dinners to festivals without showing a wallet or press credential.

“Work it, work it, work it,” one male influencer was yelling last week.

For his wife’s birthday, he hosted a hundred clotheshorses and social butterflies at a dinner at a new Manhattan restaurant. Actually, it was the owners who were the real hosts because they were the ones picking up the tab. But they were happy to do so.

“This is a group we’d like to get to know better,” one told me.

I’m not sure that will happen. But that’s not the problem of the influencers. Their only focus is on what’s next in the harvesting of corporate hooch and hoopla—from hotel openings to the Oscars to Fashion Weeks and back again. Even in the depths of recessionary times, they can get it together to put on sports jackets and prevail.

“Soft openings are my new sport,” one told me at a new restaurant last year.

Some influencers even hire publicists to get them on lists for free stuff.

Once upon a time, before the E! channel, TMZ and red carpets replaced the Stars and Stripes as the national flag, land of the free meant something different than it does today. There was even a political group in San Francisco in the 1960s, the Diggers, who made it their mission to give everything away to anybody. They opened free stores and threw free parties with music by the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and the Jefferson Airplane. These days, parties and gifting suites are only for thin people with good hair.

What’s next in this perverse kind of coat drive for the needless? An airlift of Lacoste shirts to Fieldston? Send-a-Socialite-to-St. Bart’s campaigns?

Perhaps some perspective will arrive in the weeks ahead. At this, the darkest time of year, the calendar of dinners and swagfests wanes. With Art Basel Miami finished and Sundance, which The New York Times once called an “orgy of swag,” still a month away, what will the influential free riders do for the holidays? Clearly, they can draw on vast supplies of goody-bag loot to re-gift as Christmas presents. And if they’ve been identified as an influencer by Moncler, they will have a new black parka to wear on the slopes. But who will pay for the hotel room in Gstaad or Aspen? Who, for that matter, will pay for the Christmas tree? How will they manage to look like they’re enjoying themselves without a paparazzi photographer on hand to document their celebrations?

I’m sure the new decade will be ushered in with some sponsored New Year’s Eve parties in Vegas. And no doubt Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey’s husband and host of America’s Got Talent, will get things rolling soon after by soliciting corporate sponsors for his next private party in exchange for Tweets.

He recently told the New York Post that his father always said there was no Santa.

So I guess it’s not that surprising that he’s become a ho-ho-ho.

What’s the excuse for the rest of us?