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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A funny R.S.V.P. story

This Tupperware cartoon was recently shared on Facebook.
It can be found online here.

The Tupperware cartoon above, which popped up recently on my Facebook feed reminds me of a funny Plainfield story.

A gay couple who lived in the Questover mansion on Central Avenue, Randy Phillips and Alan Mintzer, hosted a Christmas party for Plainfield's gay and lesbian residents in 1983.

Several of us knew other gay couples who had moved to the Queen City (it was our first Christmas in Plainfield), and thought it would be a friendly affair and a way to meet a few new people.

The invitation was passed by word of mouth. Everyone was astonished when hundreds of people showed up for the event.

That party was the origins of R.S.V.P. (Residents Serving Victorian Plainfield) which became for a time THE gay group in New Jersey. The group's membership quickly swelled to nearly six hundred -- almost all of whom lived in Plainfield. This was big news for the 1980s. We were only a little more than a decade after the "Stonewall Riot" and gay and lesbian people were just beginning to stand up and openly take their places in their communities.

The group developed a two-pronged approach: it met monthly at the First Unitarian Society and had informational topics or recreational activities (a square dance I remember in particular), and it raised funds for and provided volunteers to various Plainfield charitable organizations.

In 1984, Plainfield's new mayor Rick Taylor invited the group to help light the holiday tree at the annual ceremony on the steps of City Hall.

But the cartoon reminds me of one of the funnier times we had.

During one of the social hours, an R.S.V.P, member wondered aloud, "why not have a Tupperware party?" Everyone thought that would be a hoot and the idea was given to the social committee, which eagerly took it up.

Networking with family and friends, someone came up with a "Tupperware lady" in a nearby town. For those who may be unfamiliar, Tupperware gots its huge following from an army of "Tupperware ladies", usually housewives, who hosted in-home parties put together by friends using their social networks to demonstrate and sell the colorful plastic storage containers with the snap-on lids. The "Tupperware lady" made a commission on the gross sales and the hostess received some loot in the form of free Tupperware.

Anyway, contact was made with the Tupperware representative but she was reluctant at first to do the party, fearing that if the word got out she had done a party for "that kind of people" (gays and lesbians), her reputation would be tarnished and her party business would suffer.

The group finally promised that we would guarantee an attendance figure (I think it was 30 people), which reassured the "Tupperware lady", who was used to parties of a dozen or so people.

We duly publicized the event to the membership and when the day came, the crowd could hardly squeeze into the meeting space. The "Tupperware lady" was overwhelmed. She composed herself and began her pitch. Everyone sat in rapt attention. Her patter was very good and as she relaxed, the R.S.V.P. crowd did, too.

Soon, folks were clapping at each new item that was demonstrated. At the end of the demonstrations, the poor woman was swamped with orders. She told us later that she had cleared $1,300 on the party -- meaning she had sold close to $3,000 worth of plastic containers at a single party -- making her something of a star in Tupperware circles.

She was very grateful, eager to come back again, thinking she had hit a vertiable gold mine.

And Plainfield's gay and lesbian community showed its market muscle.

The good time that was had by all.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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