Locales range from faves to upstarts
You’ve got the who, what, when and why of the event sorted out, but the where can often prove a bit more challenging. Venues open and close about as often as the red eye flies from L.A. to New York, and last year’s hot spot can make for this year’s passe soiree. Variety checked in with some of the most inventive and respected event producers in the biz to get an inside line on their preferred party locales.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Opening in December, this Leadership in Energy and Environment Design-certified property occupying a full city block in Hollywood is already booking high-profile awards season events. Its variety of spaces include the rooftop nightclub Drai’s Hollywood, which is connected to the pool deck; a courtyard dubbed Station Hollywood, with a large pulldown movie screen; and two dedicated press junket floors with shooting suites and greenrooms. And, as if the design weren’t already eco-friendly enough, the W is located directly above the Hollywood and Vine Metro station so guests have the option of taking the Red Line.
Contact: Vivian Campbell, director of special events
Phone: (323) 798-1301
Annenberg Community Beach House
All summer long, this five-acre Santa Monica beachfront facility was open to the public during its inaugural year as a repurposed venue, but from now through May, Marion Davies’ revamped playground will primarily be available to rent for private functions. “The facility is a huge open space with sweeping views of the beach and a number of well-done multiuse rooms,” says event planner Ben Bourgeois, who produced the opening day kickoff party in April. The restored guest house and pool “adds the Hollywood touch,” he adds.
Contact: Event Services
Phone: (310) 458-4934
The Clocktower at One Hansen
The 15,000-square-foot lobby of Brooklyn’s tallest building, a former bank, boasts 65-foot ceilings painted with blue-and-gold constellations and an original mural of New York as a Dutch colony; the underground vault adds another 15,000 square feet. VH1 inaugurated the spectacular Magic Johnson-owned space for the Divas Awards after-party in September.
Contact: Jennifer Blumin, CEO, Skyline Group
Email: jennifer@skylinestudiosNew York.com
Web: skylinestudiosNew York.com
Phone: (917) 363-2705
It was IAC chairman and CEO Barry Diller who came up with the idea to use the company’s Frank Gehry-designed corporate headquarters for events, and the 120-foot-by-11-foot video wall in the lobby seems like a dream backdrop for fund-raising galas and award shows. But despite the demand (generated only by word of mouth), the IAC team is very selective about who comes in; each event must be approved by an executive committee, and so far the shortlist includes BlackBerry, Virgin Atlantic, Sports Illustrated and fashion designer Rachel Roy.
Contact: Sabrina Kieffer, senior director of events
Phone: (212) 314-7294
The Beverly Hilton
The site of the first Governors Ball, this renovated 1955 landmark has hosted the Golden Globes award show for the last 35 years as well as the annual Oscar nominees luncheon and Clive Davis’ famed pre-Grammy party. “The International Ballroom is historic at this point,” says Honeysweet Prods.’ Erick Weiss of the space that can seat 1,200.”And it’s quite versatile in terms of what you can do sizewise,” he adds. For smaller events, the eighth-floor Stardust ballroom offers views of the city and the ocean.
Contact: Robert Schwab, director of catering
Phone: (310) 285-1374
Event producer Joe Moller has staged the Hollywood Film Festival award show at the Beverly Hilton for the last three years, but for more intimate affairs, the decadent 1920s-era getaway in the Hollywood Hills is at the top of his list. “There’s something about the Chateau that says to me I don’t need anything — no fancy lighting, no gimmicky cocktails … it offers tradition and celebrity in a way that no amount of money can re-create.” The hotel regularly hosts exclusive private soirees like the Max Mara/Women in Film dinner for 60 VIPs in June, while the Penthouse, with its patio deck and breathtaking city views, is a popular party spot.
Contact: Amanda Grandinetti, food and beverage director
Phone: (323) 656-1010
“If you’re looking for a very elegant venue,” says J.B. Miller, president of events company Empire Entertainment, “the Cipriani venues have these grand facades, and the architectural details inside are spectacular. At 42nd Street there’s original brasswork, and you still have the teller windows.” Plus, the catering is handled inhouse. “If a client is looking for world-class service, where you can pretty much guarantee the quality of the food, it’s always good.” When Empire helped produce one of the “Harry Potter” premieres there, he says, “It really felt like Hogwarts Hall.”
Contact: Events Dept.
Phone: (646) 723-0826
Four Seasons Restaurant
“First of all, the Philip Johnson building is just incredible; it’s an icon,” says star event planner David Stark of the “super chic” locale that celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. The restaurant’s pool room (where scandalous diners have been known to skinny dip) can accommodate up to 300 for a seated dinner or 500 for cocktail receptions like one recently held for the David Lynch Foundation. Stark adds: “It’s really about the whole history of the space at this point … It doesn’t have that feel of a hotel where it’s almost like an event factory.”
Contact: Sabria Lauren Farhat, banquet manager
The buzz was built right into this luxe West Hollywood boite on the site that formerly housed Morton’s, i.e., home to the most coveted invite in town: Vanity Fair’s Oscar party. Serving Italian fare by way of West London, Cecconi’s opened in February with a week of Oscar fetes, and since then Will Smith, Demi Moore, the cast of “Gossip Girl” and others have gotten cozy in the so-called Butterfly Room, a private dining room presided over by a large, heart-shaped painting by Damien Hirst.
Contact: Bria Wentzel, events manager
Phone: (310) 432-2000
For Bolthouse Prods. prez Brent Bolthouse, this renovated Hollywood theater on a wide stretch of Vine is a regular choice for red-carpet events. “It’s pretty turnkey,” says Bolthouse, who produced the “Family Guy” Emmy pre-party there in September. “You can do an event downstairs and an after-party upstairs at Bardot, and people can go into a completely different environment. It keeps it really easy.” And on top of it all, he adds, “They have one of the best sound systems in the city.”
Contact: Copper Dallas, VP of marketing & special events
Phone: (323) 466-0270
When J.B. Miller needed a space for “22-year-old Web designer geniuses to cut loose” at the after-party for last year’s Webby Awards, the 400-capacity, Japanese-themed Hiro Ballroom in the Maritime Hotel was the perfect fit. “It’s like an underground venue that everybody knows about,” he says. And when it comes to decor, “We did almost nothing; the venue is the decor.”
Contact: Tamara Paschall, special events coordinator
Phone: (646) 277-3332
“I like places that aren’t going to drive me to drink trying to organize,” jokes event planner Karen Dalzell, who works regularly with the Tribeca Film Festival. “The Bowery Hotel looks really good and feels really fun … and they’re flexible; you don’t have to load every single piece of equipment. It’s easy: plug and play. Usually I’m trying to make a place feel hip.” The airy, 10,000-square-foot event space includes a chic, long bar; a terrace; and a gorgeous red-felt pool table where Anne Hathaway enjoys racking ‘em up. Marc Anthony held his 40th birthday party there, and it’s the regular site of premiere after-parties.
Contact: Special Events Dept.
Phone: (212) 505-9100
Email: events@bohoNew York.com
WHEN BIGGER IS BETTER
Hollywood & Highland Grand Ballroom
At 27,000 square feet, the Grand Ballroom is one of the biggest event rooms in Los Angeles<, boasting floor-to-ceiling windows and glam old Hollywood touches like backlit alabaster-and-crystal chandeliers. But for Cheryl Cecchetto, who's been producing the Academy Awards Governors Ball here for the last seven years, the fifth-floor space is a clean slate waiting to be transformed into a new fantasy every year. "I know it inside and out," she says. "I feel like I'm talking to my family members. You can have a great venue with all the bells and whistles that you could possibly want, but it's great to pick people that you love to be around."
Contact: Barbara Brass, VP catering service
Phone: (323) 491-1258
Universal Studios Backlot
Ben Bourgeois commissioned a soundstage that appeared to be floating in the middle of Falls Lake (best known as the “Jaws” lake) for Versace’s “Fire & Ice” fete, and Erick Weiss recalls how Along Came Mary once decorated nine acres (including “New York”) with snow, elves and “multiple Santas” for Universal’s holiday party. In other words, the Universal backlot is big — and versatile. The stone piazza of Spartacus Square is the largest area, able to hold 1,500 people (1,000 for a sit-down dinner), while the adjacent European Street can extend the party to 2,500.
Contact: Morgen Hoffman
Phone: (818) 777-9466
The World Financial Center/Winter Garden
“There are not that many great spots for 850 that are not ballrooms,” says Karen Dalzell. “(The Winter Garden) is rarely used for large-scale events, and it’s totally gorgeous. The interior has these giant palm trees; it’s so European, you feel literally like you’ve been transported somewhere else.” During warmer months (for events like the Tribeca Film Festival Drive-In), “if you want to have 3,000 people see your movie, it’s possible at the North Cove.”
Contact: Karen Kitchen, special events
Phone: (212) 417-7143
THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT
Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club
Right next door to the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara, the members-only Coral Casino Club is open to guests of the hotel and is now available for private functions after a three-year renovation. Later this week, the Santa Barbara Intl. Film Festival will hold its annual black-tie gala, this year honoring Quentin Tarantino, in the Coral Casino’s La Pacifica ballroom. “It’s a beautiful room, and it’s right on the water,” Carol Marshall, the festival’s director of publicity, says of the art deco gem.
Contact: Catering Dept.
Phone: (805) 565-8246
Harriet Baron, director of development for the Palm Springs Film Festival, chose the Ace Hotel’s event space, the Commune, as the site of the closing-night party for the short-film festival in June. The Commune’s industrial modern design is “very cool,” Baron says. “The space is defined by what looks like garage doors, and when they’re open the walls just disappear and there’s a beautiful view of the mountains. It really brings everything right into the site.”
Contact: Jared Lovejoy, events coordinator
Phone: (760) 325-9900
May Fair Hotel
Fabulous enough to host Elton John’s 60th birthday bash, this London five-star is also industry savvy, housing the largest private screening room in the U.K., with both 2D and 3D capabilities. During the London Film Festival, which runs through Oct. 29, the May Fair will be a hub of screenings, press conferences and parties. Look for Clive Owen in the May Fair bar following a special screening of the family drama “The Boys Are Back.”
Contact: Valerie Lerner, executive VP, U.S. Sales
Phone: (760) 599-3900
FUN AND GAMES
“The charm will never go away” at Pacific Park, says Erick Weiss, who produced a number of premieres (“Men in Black,” “Spider-Man”) at the famed Santa Monica Pier amusement park. “It’s a great place for the right kind of party.” Typically, for premieres, the whole pier is rented, which means rides and games are included, but the new 3,400-square-foot Seaside Pavilion allows smaller parties (up to 300 seated) to partake of the fun while gazing out toward Catalina Island and the Santa Monica Coastline and noshing on BBQ burgers and hot dogs.
Contact: Kristin Wasiluk
Phone: (310) 260-8744, ext. 258
Staples Center Suites
The Staples Center’s private-event suites are on the same level as the new uber-exclusive Hyde Lounge, which opens next week to kick off the Lakers’ season, and invited guests have many of the same privileges as Jack or Leo, including use of two VIP entrances. All suites overlook the court and/or ice, and guests (up to 132) also have access to the recently renovated San Marino Club. Inhouse caterers offer everything from buffalo wings to sushi.
Contact: Staples Center Event Suite Dept.
Phone: (877) 522-8669
SPiN New York
“Pingpong is the new bowling,” declares J.B. Miller, and if the chic new Park Avenue South pingpong club SPiN is any indication, the outfits are a lot better. Co-owner Susan Sarandon can often be found practicing on one of the main room’s 10 tables, while the private Fred Perry Room — with its gentleman’s-lounge feel and $50,000 mirrored glass table — is more about being seen than playing the game. One can only guess where the action was at Vanity Fair’s Hermes-sponsored Fashion Week party there last month.
Contact: Brandon Hirsch, general manager
Phone: (212) 982-8802
Web: spiNew York.com