Party Flavors

Photo by Debra DiPaolo

The party pooped: Super Bowl Sunday 1986. As Super Bowl games go, this one was hardly memorable: New England Patriots 10, Chicago Bears 46. But as Super Bowl parties go, this one ranked among the strangest ever. Fact is, Greg and I didn’t actually see the game.

We were living in a low-rent apartment on North Argyle Avenue. The freeway underpass down the street was inhabited by L.A.’s pushiest coke dealers and most demented hookers. And there was never any place to park.

Oblivious to the squalor, Greg decided to invite a few male friends over to watch the game. He settled on a simple menu, the focus of which was beer. As an afterthought, he threw together some chicken tacos.

By 2 p.m., the set was tuned to pre-game, and the guys started to arrive. Then it hit me like an outtake from an episode of Martha Stewart: We had no cilantro. Greg was utterly unfazed, but as far as I was concerned, chicken tacos simply could not be served without cilantro. So, I hopped in the car and, within minutes, was back with a fresh, fragrant bunch.

As usual, every parking space for blocks was filled. I edged my Datsun as close as possible to the battered Buick parked in front of our building, raced up the stairs with the cilantro and then dashed back down to park the car. Too late. The cops were already running my plates. When they discovered my expired license and outstanding warrants (all for unpaid parking tickets, by the way) they shot me a smug look that told me I was doomed. The wheels of justice were in motion.

Greg noticed the scene and came down to persuade the cops that I was all right. By this time, a second squad car had pulled up. “Uh, officers, this is my girlfriend,” Greg protested. “And who are you?” one cop asked. Greg dutifully produced his (valid) driver’s license and the cops ran it. I knew that Greg was comparatively law abiding; no unpaid tickets, no warrants. I was certain they’d cut him loose in no time.

The cops huddled for a muffled powwow. A minute later, we were cuffed and tossed into the back of the first squad car. The cops were ebullient. I didn’t get it. Why Greg? I was the one who double-parked!

All was explained after we were escorted through the back doors of the Hollywood station. Greg, it seems, precisely matched the physical description of one Natividad Barazzo, a particularly slippery murder suspect high on the cops’ most-wanted list. On top of that, Greg and Natividad are both Christmas babies: December 25 (hence “Natividad”). The cops were sure they had their man.

Meanwhile, back at the house, the guys chugged beer and munched chicken tacos (with cilantro) while the Bears ran up a 23-3 lead in the first half.

Greg and I spent a seemingly endless afternoon in separate cells. Someone forgot to turn the heat on in mine. It must have been around 60 in there. From his cell, Greg could almost — but not quite — see and hear the cops’ TV, which was, of course, tuned to the game. Human minds could not conceive of crueler or more unusual punishment.

At long last, and without a word of apology, the cops released Greg. Seems that his prints didn’t match those of the suspected murderer.

Now this I’ve gotta say: If I were Greg and my girlfriend just cost me a Super Bowl Sunday in jail, I’d have second, maybe third, thoughts about bailing her out — at least right away. But to his undying credit, Greg made the guys cough up my bail (no ATMs back then), and I was a free woman before midnight. And did he dump me after that nightmare? Nope. In fact, we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary on Halloween.

Hosting with the mosting: For dinner parties, let dinner be late. Keep the cocktails coming but hold the food till everyone’s toasted and fuzzy. Invariable results: People bond over shared adversity (starvation), mingle over shared beverages (intoxication) and rejoice over the eventual end to their fast (celebration). Works every time.

—Deborah Drooz, attorney

The party pooped: I’d just hired a new maid who was also a cook. As it happens, that same week, I had taken in a new rescue dog. To say neither of them felt safe or had history in my ways of doing things is a ridiculous understatement. The maid was running late. She finally arrives and rings the doorbell nonstop, which infuriated the insecure dog. The maid enters the grounds of the house, and the dog bites her firmly on the ankle. OUCH! The guests are arriving in less than half an hour. A friend takes her to the emergency room for x-rays and antibiotics — later on came the monetary compensation for the weeks she was unable to work and the doctor bills. Back in the house, I am trying to clean the blood stain from the freshly painted walkway. Now everything reeks of disinfectant and rubbing alcohol which leaves its own variety of huge stains. By now, the main part of the hot meal, which was originally meant to be prepared by the maid, must be taken care of by me. Guests start arriving. Sixty people are expected. I spent all evening cooking and serving food, while everyone else had a great time.

 

Hosting with the mosting: Like anything else in life, use your senses. Think, plan, control! Knowing every detail, including the weather, will help you in achieving a sense of well-being. Prepare lots of delectable foods and sweets (no potluck or take-away). Enhance the natural and artificial lights of the environment you’re creating for your opinionated and artistic guests. No wallflowers. Have functional toilets.

—Juan Fernandez, actor

The party pooped: A very dear friend came at the end of a party with two wasted friends. They’d arrived drunk and disorderly from Las Vegas and hadn’t slept in three days. One of the unruly guests was hungry, and proceeded to the kitchen. He helped himself to food in the refrigerator, stuffing handfuls into his mouth with his dirty hands. I was glad that he enjoyed the food, but I wasn’t pleased that he trailed it though out the house mashing it into the floors and furniture as he raced around. I may be notorious for slopping up a stage with blood and guts, but I do try to keep a tidy home. The other uninvited guest ran screaming though the house, ending up on the balcony outside the bedroom. She screamed, “Look here, they got a miranda. I think she meant veranda but she was so loaded that I was sure she’d fall to her death three stories down into the garden. The few remaining invited party guests didn’t want to leave on the chance that the obnoxious guests might do something outrageous. So the party dragged on until our friend finally rounded up his noisy sidekicks and split. It was a test of endurance.

Hosting with the mosting: Invite interesting people who have nothing in common.

—Johanna Went, performance artist,
and Stuart Cornfeld, producer

The party pooped: A few years back I had an exhibit at a gallery in San Diego that shall remain nameless. The gallery owner and his assistant got so drunk that they started a fistfight with some of the patrons. I tried to intervene and got punched in the eye. ‰

Hosting with the mosting: I’ve hosted various tea parties, art exhibitions and kinky events for many years. It’s a misconception that a party has to be huge to be a success. Some of my best events have been small tea parties for six or seven people where we all chatted nonstop, sipping tea and enjoying ourselves immensely. (Tea host hint: Always have a small enough group so there’s only one topic of conversation among your guests.) It’s all about the combination of people. You need all walks of life, from celebrity to street hustler (more emphasis on street hustler), and everything in between. What makes Los Angeles so unique is this constant culture clash we live in. Social events should mirror their surroundings, therefore I like creating an environment where people have nothing in common, and are forced to deal with each other in confining quarters.

—Rick Castro, filmmaker/photographer

The party pooped: Progressive parties are a neighborhood tradition that we’ve followed with two other households for a few years. One hundred people walked in at the same time, ate everything, drank up, and filed out two hours later. Very surreal to suddenly be alone in your living room surrounded by debris and no guests.

Hosting with the mosting: We’re assuming that favorite friends, crushes and people-you-just-met-in-line are already on hand, right? Then, music introduces the mood to any party — and the theme drink, which is ready to pour. Luckily, my husband, Lloyd, is a fanatic for retro-tastic tunes and happily lines up great sets from sultry or swinging bossa nova (Jorge Ben! Tim Maia!) to obscure dance hit covers (Joe Quijano’s Fiddler on the Roof Goes Latin — believe me, they like it).

—Ruth Handel, advertising director

The party pooped: I threw a very large loft party years ago, with drag queens performing and various DJ friends taking turns spinning, when some guy overdoses on Quaaludes. We called 911 and soon the paramedics arrived. They had to start putting the charcoal down him right then and there. What’s weird is that you’d think that would have pooped the party, but instead I have this image emblazoned on my mind of this guy’s stomach getting pumped while hundreds of people go-go danced in the background.

 

Hosting with the mosting: Make sure to invite two diva types (preferably drag queens) who cannot stand each other. Stir the martini, sit back and enjoy.

—Fidel Marquez, artist

The party pooped: Back in the spring of ’84 I threw a bash at Santa Monica’s Lincoln Park near the bocce court and had to negotiate a complex treaty with a Nam vet named Sonny involving an exchange of sandwiches and soft drinks for the temporary use of their “camp.” It was a bit hairy for a moment, but Sonny was a man of his word, and he and his camp mates held up their part of the bargain and even engaged in conversation with the revelers. This could only take place in Santa Monica, of course, the town Harry Shearer has christened “The Home of the Homeless.”

Hosting with the mosting: Select a date with few conflicts (no national holidays or triathlon days), send out an invitation at least three weeks before the date and invite everyone you have ever met. Not everyone can, or will come, so cast a wide net. Overcrowding is a problem you want to have, whereas nothing kills a party quicker than a paltry few hovering near the eats table wondering why they bothered coming to such a pathetic event.

—John De Simio, publicity and promotions

The party pooped: Recently the BBC asked to videotape the psychedelic segment for a special they’re doing on drug culture at my place. We threw a party with mushroom tea and were interviewed by the crew before, during and after the tea. It’s always challenging to have a conversation with someone who has six eyes melting into their chin.

Hosting with the mosting: Always mix it up — techies, musicians, rocket scientists, artists, young and old. And never have any rules. Anything goes. Smoking anywhere, bring anyone, stay as long as you like, and stay as long as you want. Only invite people via e-mail. The best thing is to invite them a day or two before the party, as lead time can cause all sorts of complications.

—Coco Conn, social director

The party pooped: Thanksgiving is one of those events that you don’t wish on your worst enemy. The sheer act of coordinating multiple dishes all to be delivered to the dinning room table on time and somewhat pleasing to the eye is second only to performing a burlesque act while on fire. Nevertheless, I opted to be the designated “turkey” a few years ago. I had just recently purchased a 1927 art deco/Spanish bungalow home in Sherman Oaks and was anxious to show it off and host an elaborate dinner party, so I thought, What better than Thanksgiving? I could talk all of my “city” friends into coming over the hill for a spectacular evening of food, fun, and stimulating conversation.

I feverishly prepared for days, carefully crafting and art-directing every last detail. From the music, to the menu, I even monogrammed all 12 plates with cinnamon initials. Everything was coming along perfectly. Somewhere between my roasted nuts and caramelized pumpkin pie I forgot about the centerpiece! So off I go to the L.A. Flower Mart at 5 a.m. to find the makings for the Holy Grail of floral arrangements. After hornswoggling my way in without a resale number (all those nights of not being on the list finally paid off), I had an epiphany and channeled Martha Stewart. One of the vendors had tons of neon-colored peppers in every shape and size imaginable. So I decided to construct the entire centerpiece out of peppers, no flowers.

Dinner was going great, wine was flowing, the vegetarians’ tofurkey was cooking, everything was happening. I must have drawn out the hors d’oeuvres for too long, because the next thing I knew, everyone was hammered. I mean speech slurring, sass-slinging hammered — and dinner wasn’t anywhere near ready. One of my guests decided to inform the table (in a slurred tongue) that the peppers used in the arrangement “were the hottest peppers known to mankind.” Another inebriated guest dismissed this notion, plucked a pepper from the centerpiece and took a bite. From here forward, it was like every thing went in slow motion.

A hush fell over the Thanksgiving table as this guest defiantly chomped away at the little pepper. Within seconds, cheery holiday pallor had turned beet red and finally to purple before the macerated pepper was spit out all over the table and the other guests. Jumping up and screaming, “My mouth is on fire!,” the guest knocked over a chair, caught the tablecloth and ripped it from the table with all of the glasses, plates, etc. crashing to the floor. Then all of the guests took turns trying to cease the burning with various home remedies, packing the victim’s face with everything from sugar to salt to baking soda. In all of the commotion I forgot about dinner and burned most of the meal. The Chinese takeout was delish.

 

Hosting with the mosting: The one thing you need to throw the perfect party — alcohol and plenty of it. If all else fails have multiple outfits for the evening. Every time you leave the room, come back in something different or naked. This always makes for a good time, trust me.

—Mr. Douglas Little, Curator of the Curious

The party pooped: Outlandish moments include (my co-hostess) Cathy Seipp and Luke Ford and me in a tented waterbed at the downtown Standard Hotel, but I’m not at liberty to say any more than that at this time. Then there were a bunch of people dancing around balancing Eugene Volokh’s new law book, The First Amendment, on their heads at Michael’s Room (at our party for Adam Parfrey’s book, It’s A Man’s World.) Also, I’m pleased to say that many people meet at our parties and then leave to do slutty things together, but Emmanuelle Richard, my other co-hostess (the diplomatic one) suggested that my life would be in jeopardy if I named names.

Hosting with the mosting: Invite people who disagree with each other — even to the point of wanting to throttle each other. In other words, if you want to throw a good party, be sure you invite at least one major asshole.

—Amy Alkon, advice columnist


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