Media Moves

A review of the 69th annual Financial Follies

November 20, 2011

Posted by Chris Roush


The Financial Follies, organized by the New York Financial Writers’ Association, was held for the 69th time on Friday at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel.

A Talking Biz News society correspondent filed this report of the festivities:

If the the absurdity of a given year’s news events could be measured on a scale, many in recent years would be off the charts.

Unquestionably 2008, when cratering banks caused the entire world to fall apart, in the middle of an election.

And then there’s this year. The world’s largest economy by GDP – the Eurozone – has been teetering on the brink of collapse; a fluffy economy the first half of the year welcomed risk; tech boomed akin to the early aughts; the market cratered as Congress bickered over the U.S. budget; and all this leads up to, you guessed it, the election.

There’s one group of professionals for whom all of this is — pun unintended — material. Financial journalists gather one night each year to make jolly from the rest of the world’s folly and get to toast to the cliffhangers that, for 12 months, caused many endless deadlines and sleepless nights.

It’s The Follies. The one night when corporations and public relations firms woo journalists to the Marriott Marquis with a chair, an overcooked
filet, and the promise of seeing their colleagues and competitors extremely inebriated.

The main event is satire, not awards — there are enough of those this time of year. On Friday, the New York Financial Writers’ Association prepared quite the theater of the absurd — with song and dance set to familiar tunes, most of which were luckily drowned out by clinking glasses and rising din.

In “Net Loss” (Footloose), NYFWA members lamented the fact that the market’s tanking and everyone is short.

Journalists from the House of Murdoch visibly cringed and buried their noses in their wine glasses as the program moved to Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309”, refashioned as a phone hacker’s anthem:

We got it (We got it), We got it.
You saw no crimes you can recall.
We got it (We got it), We got it
You can duck the pie but that’s not all.

Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” was the tune of choice to parody the 2012 GOP candidacy — lyrics in which Mitt Romney was called a “private equity priss” and Michele Bachmann’s “legs astound in heels.”

Moving on. Tech got the spotlight when Bye Bye Birdie’s “The Telephone Hour” became “The Internet Hour” (“Hiya, Groupon! Hiya, Stupid!”) Mark Zuckerberg and Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley were the featured protagonists, with Crowley begging for a buyer in  begs Zuckerberg and/or Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer.

The night slowed down as the performers stepped onto a yellow-brick road, singing the melancholy song “Someday after the Euro” — a melancholy closeout, after which starry-eyed guests wandered around to figure out which after-party to attend.

As they left, they were met with a small gaggle of transplants from Occupy Wall Street who had headed uptown to bash big media. (It was clear which journalists had been on the Zuccotti Park beat, because they were struck with a sort of post-traumatic stress syndrome, one only solved with a quick getaway and — yes — another drink.)

Because it’s always hard to see the Journalism Prom come and, as it always does, go. We financial journalists are an odd breed: Good phone-talkers and networkers, but financial geeks, so with a dark (or apparent) dorky side. Suffice to say we enjoy ourselves most when we’re surrounded by those with similar handicaps.

As we pine for a holiday and prepare for a break, perhaps the night could be best encapsulated by its rendition of “A Follies Thanksgiving,” set to “Over the River and  Through the Woods”:

Over the limit, misunderstood,
On Raj Rajaratnam’s jet
Thank Greece and HP
And Berlusconi
For the very best Follies yet!

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