Back in the day, i was often very impressed by the workhorse Vivitar 285 (the 283's have a much higher synch voltage - and the brand-new 285's are 285's in name only...).
There's some computing and wheel-turning (it's not TTL) but is a pretty effective auto flash once you get second-nature with it. I did some really cool industrial work with that unit and slow shutter speeds.
I've done the "event" thing maybe 5 times in 15 years, usually for existing clients and last-minute. if I were doing that full time, I'm sure by now I'd have rigged up a "softbox hat" or some kind of china ball hanging over my head on a stick!
But seriously, I've once or twice seen guys with an assistant off to the side, holding and aiming a flash & following them around.