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When the Party's Over (for the Party Planner)

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Mugging for the Camera: "Good-bye for now." Kruckel in a last pose at his office.  

MARCH 8 Los Angeles. It’s hard to travel with no money, I learn. Checks are bouncing left and right. I bounce a check to my contractor, and after I explain my situation, he miraculously agrees to keep working. “If you are going to lose your company, you’ll probably need to be spending a lot more time in your apartment,” he reasons.

People editor Martha Nelson has asked us to make tonight’s party at Koi more private, so I decide to jury-rig four sets of curtains so the guests from CSI, Sex and the City, and 24 can eat their free meal in peace. Normally, I’d have five staffers to facilitate this, but I can’t in good conscience ask my L.A. girls to help when I already owe them money. So in between really depressing phone calls, Eleanor and I go to Diamond Foam and Fabric to buy material, tension rods, etc. Eleanor has to pay with her credit card, which makes me so embarrassed I almost cry right there at checkout.

By now it is becoming clear that I have to cancel my Oscar suite. The combination of war jitters on the part of sponsors and a cash crunch on my end makes it undoable. By a weird coincidence, the guy who books me space at the Mondrian, Troy, is at the restaurant the night of the People party. To cancel on the presidential suite, two adjoining suites, and several sleeping rooms just weeks before the Oscars—in the middle of a packed event—hey, that’s cruel and unusual punishment. He takes it well.

MARCH 9 At the sag awards, people keep trying to book appointments to come to my Oscar suite. This one wants a manicure. Vogue and E! want to send cameras. I’m wondering if it was so smart to go out. March 11 For the second time, I am stuck out of town during a snowstorm, this time making difficult calls to clients and vendors. To some, I’m simply announcing that I am canceling my Oscar suite. To others, I tell the longer story: that we’re closing up shop in the next few weeks. Despite the fact that I have finally achieved platinum status on American, I lose my business-class seat. Figures.

MARCH 12 Back in New York, my staff and I have a sad dinner as I try to deliver the bad news. Of course, between telling them how long they can expect health coverage and whether their keys will still work, we also have an event list to plow through. But the mood picks up, and soon they are all in my apartment examining the new construction zone (it’s a horror) and we dance and sing till 2 a.m.

MARCH 13 No rest for the weary. Tonight is Steven Cojocaru’s book party. It’s our last event, but nobody knows, and we pull it off. Lots of fancy people. Cynthia Rowley brings her kid. We’ve taken over an old embassy on the Upper East Side, loaded it with fresh pillows, and no one wants to leave. We hire all these exotic birds, which are a big hit until one of them bites InStyle’s Charla Lawhon, who is a good sport. At the end of the night, we are all so tired; Alexis from my office, sharp to the end, forks over the last $200 of petty cash (“I hid it”) to get us off the hook for cleaning up the next day. At this point, all my employees know that I can no longer pay them. For them, the game is over but for the cleanup.

EPILOGUE How does it end? Who knows? My lawyer initially tells me it takes six to twelve months before I can finalize a deal with the government. At that point, if there’s any money left, the other vendors and creditors get paid. Later, he admits the whole process can take years.

“You need to find a new source of income,” he tells me. Right. Getting to that.

I have to send an official letter to all active vendors and clients informing them of our news. We have only two weeks to clear the premises of ten years of detritus. Maybe we’ll have a sample sale.

My hope is to go back to writing, which is how I started my career—at Time Inc. I’m thinking of writing a book, or maybe pitching a TV show. Picture it: PR, just like ER but different. Shot in fast-paced documentary style. Each week, the clever and attractive team throws a fabulous party and grapples with a new, hair-raising crisis. This week, the bottles of perfume don’t arrive in time for the fancy launch party—what will they do? Next week: Anthrax Alert! An erroneous report causes hundreds of freshly tissued, ribboned, labeled, messengered gift bags to be rudely turned away at their destinations. Worse still, as the bags sludge back in, now all slightly but irreparably creased, the interns revolt and refuse to redo them. (This really happened. As I always say, you can’t make it up.)

One door slams shut, another opens.


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