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updated: 9/21/2012 10:57 AM

Business leaders raise money working behind the bar

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  • Jeff Palombo, senior vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman, pours a beer Thursday as he competes as a celebrity bartender at Stadium Sports Club for the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce.

       Jeff Palombo, senior vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman, pours a beer Thursday as he competes as a celebrity bartender at Stadium Sports Club for the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Andrew Urda, general manager of Methode Electronics, competes as a celebrity bartender Thursday at Stadium Sports Club during a Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce fundraiser.

       Andrew Urda, general manager of Methode Electronics, competes as a celebrity bartender Thursday at Stadium Sports Club during a Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce fundraiser.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Jeff Palombo, senior vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman, serves drinks Thursday while competing as celebrity bartenders in a Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce event at Stadium Sports Club.

       Jeff Palombo, senior vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman, serves drinks Thursday while competing as celebrity bartenders in a Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce event at Stadium Sports Club.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Carl LaMell, president of Clearbrook, competes as a celebrity bartender Thursday in a Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce event at Stadium Sports Club.

       Carl LaMell, president of Clearbrook, competes as a celebrity bartender Thursday in a Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce event at Stadium Sports Club.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

It wasn't exactly "Undercover Boss," but four Rolling Meadows-area business leaders came out from behind their desks on Thursday to serve their employees.

They worked as celebrity bartenders and servers at a Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce's after-hours event, held at the Stadium Sports Club.

Carl LaMell, president of Clearbrook; Doug Ray, the Daily Herald's chairman, publisher and CEO; Jeff Palombo, a senior vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman; and Andrew Urda, general manager of Methode Electronics, all waited on their employees and other business guests as they raised money for chamber programming.

At stake was to see which executive could draw the most employees to attend and earn the most tips.

Pat Schmidt of Lake Zurich, who manages the Infrared Counter Measures division of Northrop Grumman, rang a bell vigorously after leaving Palombo a generous tip.

Each time the bell rang, it signaled another large tip and served to ramp up the competition.

Palumbo is the reigning champion of the event, having earned the most tips for the last three years, but he conceded he had an edge. Northrop Grumman is one of Rolling Meadows' largest employers, with 2,100 employees at its facility on Hicks Road.

"He's a good boss," Schmidt said. "I love the fact that he has a sense of humor, is a family man and yet he's dedicated to his job and the community."

Ray drew several Daily Herald editors and advertising managers to the event, but he didn't stop there. He mingled with other customers in trying to earn more money for the chamber's educational seminars and small business conferences.

"I'm working the room," Ray quipped.

Clearbrook employees enjoyed seeing LaMell let his hair down a little. He sported a red Caribbean shirt for the celebrity role.

"It's fun to see him out of a shirt and tie," said Susan Kaufman, vice president of clinical services for Clearbrook, which employs more than 900 full- and part-time employees at its facilities throughout the Northwest suburbs.

Linda Ballantine, executive director of the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce, said the celebrities were a big draw and helped to boost attendance more than three times what a normal after-hours event would attract.

"It's huge," Ballantine said. "When you have the presidents of the top employers serving their own employers, it brings people out."

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