Event producers put final touches on soirees
FOOD & DRINK
Wolfgang Puck Catering
Says event producer Ben Bourgeois, “When the menu calls for California cuisine, Wolfgang Puck is definitely our go-to source for a celebrity chef. Any time he’s personally involved, it brings a certain panache.” Plus, not every caterer can be relied on to deliver perfect Wagyu beef short ribs for 1,100, as Puck did for the Broad Contemporary Art Museum opening-night gala.
“There’s a certain beast that can take on a 3,600-person, cooked-to-serve, sit-down dinner,” says special events producer Cheryl Cecchetto. “It’s like conducting an orchestra.” However, when it comes to “absolute intimacy and texture of food that you feel,” Cecchetto cites Richard Mooney of Kensington Caterers, who brings “phenomenal” food and “a great personal touch. Truly there has not been a client that doesn’t want to be his best friend.”
“I’m the least foodie event producer you’re gonna meet,” Karen Dalzell confesses. “I’m totally over sitting at a table.” Dalzell has been working with Liz Neumark of Great Performances to create “a new way to get people fed where they’re not really trapped.” For large-scale fund-raisers, Dalzell likes to set up lounge areas that can be bought just like a table and serve flights of small plates instead of a full three-courses.
Creative Edge Parties
Events designer David Stark feels that the way food is presented can really elevate an experience. Creative Edge Parties “do a tremendous job with presentation,” he says. For the 2008 Sundance Institute Gala, which had a down-home-on-the-ranch theme, Creative Edge came up with a fuss-free meal of chili and a bag of chips. Of course it didn’t hurt that Parker Posey and Lili Taylor were behind the bar and Uma Thurman and Paul Newman were passing out the beer.
“Mark and I have such a history together,” says Cecchetto of Mark Held, her go-to floral designer for the past 21 years. “We know where we’ve come from, so we know where we need to go to.” Of course the challenge is always topping the previous year, and for 2009’s Zen-themed Academy Awards Governors Ball, Held planted live bonsai trees with succulents. “It was a living landscape within the table,” marvels Cecchetto.
Angel City Designs
Angel City is special event producer Erick Weiss of Honeysweet Prods.’ go-to biz for large-scale sets and decor. “They do the most incredible, full-on, 360-degree thematic decor. We use them for the Grammys, and they can create whole worlds of absolute magic and wonder.”
David Stark Designs
For Stark, who launched his company as a design firm, “Simplicity is ruling right now” in terms of flowers and decor. “A lot of times, we’re taking other decor strategies that are less about over-the-top flowers, perhaps with a recycling or an altruistic bent.” At the Film Society of Lincoln Center gala honoring Tom Hanks, the table centerpieces were made from illuminated plastic boxes with tangles of discarded film inside. “Everybody was trying to guess what film was inside!” Stark says.
American Furniture Rentals
When Dalzell is setting up lounge areas for a gala, she needs literally hundreds of carpets and tables and couches. AFR is her top source.
From her eclectic international influences to her signature jewel-encrusted headphones, deejay Donna D’Cruz is a “spectacular woman,” says Empire Entertainment’s J.B. Miller. “She doesn’t just show up and play music, she shows up with an attitude that just makes the party.” The two have worked together on many events, he says, including philanthropic fetes like the Keep a Child Alive Black Ball, which this year honored former President Bill Clinton.
Anyone in the L.A. events world will tell you the death of DJ AM this summer left a big hole. For events that are less dance-floor oriented, Brent Bolthouse brings his own brand of cachet. “I play more indie rock, a little bit of electro, more like the best-time-ever music,” Bolthouse says, adding that his style is best suited to “store openings and movie premiere after-parties.”
DJ Marshall Barnes
Bolthouse also praises a newish face on the scene, DJ Marshall Barnes, who is at the fore of a new mode of spinning. “The trend in music now is you play a minute of each song, which makes some people crazy, but it is the trend.”
In L.A., points out events planner Joe Moller, “Your first and last experience with every event is valet. Even in this economy, I suggest that clients do not skimp on valet.” Moller’s faves are Chuck’s Parking: “They’ve met every president and every celebrity in the world.”
On the East Coast, coat check is as crucial as valet is on the West Coast. “If there’s an agonizing wait at coat check, you leave with that experience,” notes Stark. So when Stark produced the Huffington Post’s inaugural ball at the Newseum in D.C., he made sure Wolfgang Puck’s staff had the outerwear under control, since the coat check is generally handled by the caterer. “The thing that’s sort of funny is there was so much press about our coat check!”
Call it party feng shui: After 20 years in the nightclub business, Bolthouse knows that a great event is about more than the sum of its parts. “I always approach it from the perspective of, ‘How can we work with what’s here and make it flow?’ At the end of the day, people don’t leave saying, ‘Wow, those couches were so pretty.’ They say, ‘We had such a fun time.’ To me that’s the win.”