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updated: 5/18/2014 8:35 AM

Champagne and caviar, heels and late nights: It's this Mount Prospect mom's job

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  • As a planner for events in the city and suburbs, Mount Prospect native Shari Duffy always brings a great smile and an outfit to match.

      As a planner for events in the city and suburbs, Mount Prospect native Shari Duffy always brings a great smile and an outfit to match.
    Courtesy of Shari Duffy

  • Her life as an event planner is filled with glamorous furs, champagne and beautiful people, but Mount Prospect native Shari Duffy, second from right, says she has to balance the nights of parties with her more important job of being a mother.

      Her life as an event planner is filled with glamorous furs, champagne and beautiful people, but Mount Prospect native Shari Duffy, second from right, says she has to balance the nights of parties with her more important job of being a mother.
    Courtesy of Shari Duffy

  • The weekends generally are family time for Shari Duffy and daughters, Lara and Deirdre. The Mount Prospect native says she generally is at fancy parties at least three nights a week for her job as an event planner.

      The weekends generally are family time for Shari Duffy and daughters, Lara and Deirdre. The Mount Prospect native says she generally is at fancy parties at least three nights a week for her job as an event planner.
    Courtesy of Paul Duffy

  • Most people know Shari Duffy as a partygoer who always dons  a formal dress and a bright smile while she works the room. But putting together those events takes a lot of work, says Duffy, who grew up in Mount Prospect but now lives in the city.

       Most people know Shari Duffy as a partygoer who always dons a formal dress and a bright smile while she works the room. But putting together those events takes a lot of work, says Duffy, who grew up in Mount Prospect but now lives in the city.
    Burt Constable | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Balancing party and motherhood

 
 

When May is rainy and cold, even Facebook can be a dreary place. Photos of snow blocking the street gave way to photos of backyard flooding before being replaced by new photos of snow on the windshield. Sigh.

Then you happen upon Mount Prospect native Shari Duffy's postings.

"Dennis Rodman ... Gibsons ... martinis ... normal Thursday," reads one post on Duffy's Facebook page, which boasts dozens of photos of her smiling, dressed to the nines, wearing a fur, donning a captain's hat on a yacht, holding a champagne flute or standing next to her friend, the Maxim cover model.

"If the coconuts fit, I guess I'll have to wear them … to our luau!!!!" reads Duffy's posting next to a close-up photo of a coconut bra in action.

"Billy Zane + Wansas Tequila + Sound of Music = Perfect Evening," reads another Duffy posting.

"I guess if you look at them," Duffy, 39, says of her photos, "it does seem like I am in a constant state of a good party."

It's what she does. Duffy took her passion for a good time and turned it into a career as an event planner with shariduffyevents.com. The only child of only child parents Roger and Judy Matelski, Duffy always was a social girl. A 1993 graduate of St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, she wasn't the prom queen, but her date was the prom king.

"I wasn't the coolest person, but I was kind of friends with everybody," Duffy says.

She played soccer, tennis and ran track at St. Mary's College in Indiana, where she graduated in 1997 with a degree in communication and advertising. After growing up with horses to ride and a new car on her 16th birthday, Duffy found a job as a law clerk in Chicago. She supplemented her $17,000 annual income by rollerblading to a night job at a pizza place.

"I couldn't stand not making money," says Duffy. At a business seminar, she met an executive who later got her a job as a "Grolsch Girl," where she went from bar to bar, persuading owners to stock that beer. She worked in medical sales in Atlanta, and as the Wisconsin-Illinois sales rep for a mattress company in Chicago.

Married to attorney Paul Duffy, she soon became the stay-at-home mother of two daughters and missed her old life.

"It was the same thing day after day, like 'Groundhog Day,'" Duffy says. "I need to be around people."

Nights out with the girls proved difficult and costly, so Duffy started organizing "girls' night out" events for money. "My objective was to get out of the house and make enough money to pay my sitter," she says.

She drew nearly 100 women to an event at an Asian bar and started organizing more events. In the fall of 2011, she publicized an event that attracted almost 600 people to a popular Chicago restaurant.

"That's how I knew I was on to something," Duffy says.

Now, Duffy typically is out on the town three days a week, and generally gets home for bedtime with Lara, who turned 8 on Mother's Day, and Deirdre, who turned 7 on Easter. Sometimes she can take the girls to events.

"It's a lot of fun and games, but it's a lot of hard work," says Jeff Conway, a graduate of Hoffman Estates High School who co-hosts the "Social Chicago TV" show on Comcast and has seen Duffy in action at plenty of charity events. "She's never redundant. She always makes it creative."

Duffy might look like just another party guest, "but she is so smart," and "her events fill up," says Whitney Reynolds, who hosts "The Whitney Reynolds Show" on PBS and has been to several events organized by Duffy.

"At her last event, I won a really nice necklace," Reynolds says. "She brought her girls, and it was nice to get to see her be a mom."

Duffy's business schedule causes problems most people don't have.

"My biggest problem is wearing the same outfit," says Duffy, who finds bargains at secondhand stores. After recently buying a $400 formal dress for $7.99, Duffy told a stunned clerk, "Yeah, I have a gala at The Drake."

As she grows older, she says she's hoping to plan more events for the 40-to-70 crowd. In the meantime, she's trying to organize a bikini and bull-riding event.

Lounging on her couch in comfy clothes, Duffy uses her laptop to tap into her 22,000 contacts on social media. Her worlds collide on the stairs of her Chicago home. Tucked in amid the roller blades and bike helmets are new deliveries of vodka and margaritas.

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