So let’s say you’re the governor of a state where a city of 100,000 souls has been in the news because you poisoned the water, and where roughly 9,000 children have been exposed to lead, a neurotoxin for which there is no safe level at all. Let us say further that it’s becoming increasingly clear that your administration caused the disaster through a combination of criminal ineptitude and malignant neglect. While we’re at it, let’s say that the people who have been poisoned are for the most part poor and black, while you, the state’s governor, are rich and white. You know what professional public relations firms (which in your case you have got — two of ’em, in fact) would probably suggest you not do? Throw a lavish birthday party for your wife with a custom-made birthday cake made to look like packages from Chanel, Tiffany, and Nordstrom, draped with a jeweled necklace, with a fancy-schmancy Michael Kors handbag, also made of cake. Just an idea.
And yet that appears to be exactly how Rick Snyder, the Republican governor of Michigan, celebrated his wife Sue’s birthday at a pricey restaurant last Saturday. Michigan blogger Mark Maynard has some of the details of the alleged goings-on, which we will very responsibly note come from unnamed sources (who were dead on in describing the cake). Maynard doesn’t name the restaurant, but Mlive’s Jessica Webster confirms it was one of the Snyders’ favorite restaurants, Ann Arbor’s West End Grill; its windows were reportedly blacked out so that the commoners wouldn’t see what their betters were getting up to in there:
As is generally the case these days, it didn’t take too long for word about what had taken place inside this lavish party to leak out. Within a few days, I’d be hearing about the ostentatious decorations, the banners, and the birthday cake, which, if you can believe it, was made to look like a diamond necklace draped over a Nordstrom’s box.
And by golly, look at the photos on Instagram by Ann Arbor cake arteeste Heather Anne Leavitt. You got your diamond necklace, your Nordstrom box, and your Kors handbag, complete with stitching done in frosting:
Ms. Leavitt confirmed to MLive Life & Culture reporter Jessica Webster that the cake was for Sue Snyder’s party, and that it took roughly 30 hours to construct. It’s really a work of art, and Ms. Leavitt did some beautiful work. [Update: Leavitt didn’t know who the client was until she delivered the cake; see update at end of post] Get a load of this necklace, which is “made from fondant and royal icing attached to floral wire”:
We bet Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had cakes that looked almost as good. And we also bet that there isn’t so much as a single part per billion of lead in that frosting. Clearly, a lot of planning went into that cake, and lord only knows the rest of the party was almost certainly as beautiful. As Mark Maynard says, a birthday party and a cake are nice things. But the timing might be a little off:
Had I been in a similar situation, though, I’m relatively certain that I would have forgone a party, asking friends instead to give money to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund. “You know what,” I’d probably say, “as much as I love my wife, I just don’t think that we should be getting drunk and dancing around a big, creamy-frosting-filled Nordstrom’s box right now.” But, then again, I have a little bit of my soul left. And, perhaps more importantly, I’m not so delusional as to think that something like this wouldn’t get out.
Or maybe if you’re Rick Snyder, you know that nobody in Flint is ever going to vote for you anyway, which is why those people were disposable in the first place. Why not have a party, since you know that your pals in Congress won’t even be calling you to testify when they hold a hearing on Flint?
Who knows, maybe during the party they even had a little jar for people to leave donations to buy Flint more bottled water. We don’t know that they did, but it might have been a nice gesture. In any case, the ostentatious cake was just the least bit unseemly, what with the children in Flint at risk for life-changing damage that’s likely to result in lower IQ, a predisposition to violence, learning disabilities, stunted growth, and a whole bunch of other health problems, which are neither sweet nor particularly nice to depict in fondant and royal icing.
Maybe someone from Flint could make a cake recreating the cover of Time Magazine, with Detroit Free Press photographer Regina Boone’s haunting photo of 2-year-old Sincere Smith, who lives in Flint and has severe rashes all over his body thanks to being bathed in Flint water. You wouldn’t need to go the whole 3-D route, just one of those photo transfer cakes that they do at the supermarket bakeries. Deliver that to the governor at his office, with a note saying “Thinking Of You At Election Time.”
UPDATE: Mark Maynard has updated his blog to note that baker Heather Anne Leavitt had no idea who the cake was for when she took the order and constructed the ornate confection. According to Mlive’s full article, Leavitt only discovered that the cake was for the Snyders when she delivered it:
I had no idea, like seriously no idea,” laughed Leavitt. “We delivered it to the West End Grill and put it down and I’m taking photos of the cake. Then Claudia, who was also working on the cake with me, looks up and sees Rick Snyder on all the photos in the room, and so we put two and two together. We knew that renting out West End Grill is not a cheap thing to do on a Saturday night, but we have a lot of high end clients. We just didn’t know this one was the governor.”
(We were originally working only from a photo post with captions; links have been updated in this story.)
And a big hat tip to Mr. Maynard for linking to our story as well!