The State of the Holiday Party

Photo: AP/WorldWide

Bret Easton Ellis, Author
“My annual party started off really small in 1987…a bowl of olives, and some mixed nuts and then we all went out to dinner somewhere…But over the years—and as my social circle grew—the party inevitably became bigger. I needed to hire a caterer, there were bartenders (usually four or five), there were servers, there were cooks in the kitchen, there were decorators…I found myself not recognizing a lot of the guests showing up. Why was Dan Aykroyd smoking a joint on my balcony? Why were the kids from The Lord of the Rings huddled by the bar? Why was Josh Hartnett standing in front of me thanking me for letting him come? Had I? No. Ultimately the party turned into an institution, a job—and it got out of control. (The year there wasn’t room for a tree was the year I realized this.) And there was no way to scale it back without hurting people’s feelings. The simple two hour party of 1987 had turned into—by Christmas 2003—a six hour marathon with 500 guests…I stopped throwing the party last year…And I have no desire to throw the party again.”

Photo: Patrick McMullan

Jimmy Jellinek, Editor in Chief, Stuff
“Magazine holiday parties these days are fairly sedate affairs, I’m afraid…Usually they start early and are on a Monday when it’s cheap and the fact checker grabs everybody’s ass… The idea of spending my evening with the gear editor from Men’s Journal at the Wenner X-mas party seems like some kind of weird torture. Believe me, they’re not that much fun. Some guy from accounting gets way too drunk, people who shouldn’t do drugs, have their first bump of cocaine in years in the bathroom and that cute editorial assistant with the nice rack inevitably vomits or worse causing her to have a derisive nickname until she gets hired at Jane magazine. I’d rather be at home with a Xanax and a Thomas Pynchon novel.”

Photo: Patrick McMullan

Baird Jones, Art Curator of Webster Hall; former doorman at Studio 54
“Steve Rubell hated Christmas parties—it really bothered him that from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. any old person from Armani or Calvin Klein or the American Ballet—who were paying $75,000 or more to rent the club—could get in and stay all night. So he kept this list of nightmare employees who had been fired after confronting customers in completely unacceptable ways. He would stay in contact with these maniacs and bring them back to work the Christmas parties. I would be looking around thinking, ‘Oh my god, all the nightmare employees are back.’ Waiters would be intentionally spilling drinks on people. Men would be walking out of the bathroom red-faced because the attendant had jimmied the toilet door so that it would open on them, or he had exposed himself. There were endless arguments. On top of that, Rubell would release doves and watch them shit on people. There was no good will emanating from that man.”

Photo: Nikola Tamindzic/

Tricia Romano, Nightlife Columnist, Village Voice
“This year we had Murray Hill host, and Julie Atlas Muz and Scotty the Blue Bunny perform. Muz did her patented ‘vagina and butt-synching’ routine, as part of her performance to Judas Priest’s ‘Breaking the Law.’ She also did a ‘White Christmas’ number that looked all sweet and innocent, but ended with Muz sprinkling fake cocaine around her onstage.”

Photo: Patrick McMullan

Dave Itzkoff, Senior Associate Editor, Spin
Spin and Vibe share our holiday party each year (since we have the same parent company), and in the time I’ve been here, there seems to be a friendly rivalry as to whether the DJ plays more Spin songs or Vibe songs that night. If they play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ that’s obviously a vote for Spin, and if they play ‘In Da Club,’ that goes in Vibe’s column. Both sides get partial credit if they play Eminem, and nobody stakes any claim to The Black Eyed Peas.”

Dorothy Robinson, Reporter/Dating Editor, Metro US
“When you get free drinks and young newspaper people who like the hooch together for a party on the company dime, things can get a bit nuts. Plus, our Swedish owners like for us to have a good time: Our head honcho likes to recount a Metro party in Sweden where two people got knocked up afterwards. Alas, our party last year didn’t hold a candle to the Scandinavian party ethic…but at the after party I remember a copyeditor making out with three co-workers, a brief fist fight, and some stripping.”

Anonymous, MTV Networks
“The MTV Network party is held at the Hammerstein Ballroom every year…The DJ always sucks, which is weird…One year, a girl fell from one of the balconies onto the sushi spread. I think a few ambulances were on hand last year to chauffeur some folks from the bathroom floor to the hospital. But the best part, for me at least, are the Lincoln town cars lined up outside for everyone that take you whenever you’re ready to go, wherever you want to go!”

Anonymous, Ford Models
“Last year, my friend arrived with the intent to simply cause trouble [at Ford’s party at Hiro]. He grabbed my straight, svelte 22-year-old assistant and started making out with him in front of everyone, including Ford’s CEO & President. Then after my assistant managed to free himself from his tongue, my friend found his way to the VIP section of the party and stole a bottle of Cristal from a table…He then proceeded to pour champagne over his head and then, as he danced to ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,’ he sprayed the remaining contents onto the guests.”

Anonymous, Debevoise & Plimpton, LLC
“The parties at my law firm are somewhat staid, uneventful departmental cocktail gatherings. I think the decadence and drunken embarrassments, if there ever were any, have been purged from the law firm scene. It’s probably the most image- and reputation-conscious scene out there now.”

Aimee Bianca, Publicist at YC Media
“The worst was one Norton had at the Empire State Building a few years back because I basically got molested by a man wearing a gorilla suit…YC’s holiday celebration this year is going to be cool…starting with massages at the CowShed spa at Soho House, then rooftop drinks, then caviar, frites and champagne at Pravda, and ending the evening somewhere singing karaoke.”

Anonymous, Associated Press
“Last year’s Christmas party rocked. I mean they really let the dogs out. We had just moved to our new digs on 33rd Street…The AP got these heated tents and had the party on the roof…Inside there was a whole room just for desserts: cakes and cookies and petit fours. Coffee and tea, too, in case you had a little too much of Johnnie Walker. This was definitely a far cry from years past when things were a little slimmer in the holiday cheer department. I think everyone was shocked by the spread. After all, you can’t spell cheap without AP.”

Peter Malachi, Public Relations for She Uemura
“We’re owned by L’Oreal, so we also get to go to the corporate party at the Waldorf. It’s not really a party, more of a year-end presentation…It’s more of a wedding environment. Dinner is more of a buffet for 7,000 people…and there are town cars lined up outside, like a military operation.”

Anonymous, former publicist for Miramax
“I’m told last year’s Miramax party was apparently the most awkward corporate party you could ever have. They had it after Black Friday to improve morale, but everyone left after an hour. The one I went to at LQ in 2003 was kickass–It revolved around the karaoke competition…The prizes were really outdated and gross: Third place was a Sony Walkman. Harvey stepped out of the dark shadows to pick the winner (an assitant in finance singing ‘Living on a Prayer’) but it was a very arbitrary decision. He always came to put in an appearance and left early.”

Anonymous, Merrill Lynch
“Last year’s party was in a clubhouse on the Jersey side of the Hudson, where people in starched shirts ate starched salmon, which they served themselves from steel plated serving dishes with a pair of tongs, high-school awards banquet style. Needless to say the champagne was cheap and my time there was short.”

The State of the Holiday Party