Last night was one of those true one-of-a-kind, pinch yourself Manhattan evenings. About seventy stories above the city, friends gathered at the Rainbow Room to wish Nathan Lane a Happy Birthday. The room was full with laughter and people dressed up and music from a big band and warmed by the city lights around us, the stars above us, and love everywhere.
There was a full-scale show, performances paying tribute to the birthday boy featuring a cast of legends: Elaine Stritch, Patti LuPone, Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, Matthew Broderick, Julie Halston, Marc Shaiman, Scott Whittman, Mario Cantone, and Bette Midler (among others). Each performance was truly remarkable - each very personal and full of love, life and humor, like the man they honored.
When you share the down elevator with Stanley Donen, Elaine May, the Seinfelds, and Kitty Carlisle Hart, you know you've been to an interesting party. I felt lucky to be there.
I went to bed dreaming of parties past and future. I love parties so much. (Of course I love the Bravo series "Party/Party" too.) I hate missing them and I love throwing them.
For my 25th birthday party, my pal Graciela threw me a surprise party that was no surprise at all. I helped her plan the entire thing, including the guest list, food, music and what the excuse would be that would get me to my apartment at 9pm on a Saturday night. Leaving dinner at Florent that night, my friend announced that he had to go number 2, couldn't do that in public places, and since I lived around the corner we had to go to my place.
I got very nervous and didn't put up the screaming fight I would have had I not fully known that a party awaited me. By the time we got to my pad I was trembling with fear that I was going to unlock my door and have to perform, to ACT surprised in front of 60 friends happy to surprise me. I needn't have worried because I actually WAS surprised - by the experience of having 60 people smiling and screaming at me when I walked in the door. It was SHOCKING. Actually terrifying.
There were some surprise elements to the party that Grac had kept to herself so that I would have something new to chew on. Like the fact that she had her hair done (bouffant!), that she would be changing outfits every hour (endless party dresses!), that our pal Lee was going to come in drag (his drag name was Monica LaMonica and it was scary), and that everyone would be getting fake tattoos at midnight. It was fun.
A few years later, Graciela moved to LA and decided to throw me a "June Ball" at her place. My birthday is in June, which I always considered a very yellow month. Our thinking amounted to the following equation: June + Yellow = June Ball! All the guests were required to wear yellow and all of the food we served was yellow. That consisted of "Peeps", Bananas, Lemon-icy vodka shots, Lemonheads, and more "peeps!" For me, the June Ball was the party of the year. Jennifer Aniston showed up (not wearing yellow) with Kathy Najimy - I had no clue who Aniston was (it was year 1 of "Friends") but I gave her a huge kiss and hug (I was the birthday boy!) and Grac and I got a couple years of mileage out of the story. I still get use out my yellow sequin tails.
The following year Grac hosted a 30th disco party for our pal Bruce to celebrate his 31st birthday party. (Yes it was a 30th party on his 31st - long story.) Everyone was in disco duds, and I had somehow seen to it that ROOM 222 star and 70's icon Karen Valentine showed up! K-Va in the house! It was a smash.
I returned Grac's favor and threw her a party a few years later in New York City before she got married; I like to fool myself into thinking I started a trend. The party was a "Gay Shower" whose point was to bid adieu to the diva we loved as she headed off to marriage and the Upper East Side. Grac arrived in full hair and makeup with a big red lollipop, there were no other women allowed, she got amazing gifts including a rain poncho from Dollywood, and Bob Morris wrote a genius Talk of the Town piece about the whole thing for The New Yorker.
I've thrown some doozy Christmas parties and they're usually good because I love my friends and putting them together under one small roof is a joy. We've had some great cameos too. One year the "Lady" Bunny arrived with Chrissie Hynde in tow. She sat on my bed. (!) Another time, "Team Guido" from "The Amazing Race" turned up; their timing was great for me, but not for them. The series had ended the night before, they were the nasty gay villains of the show, and thus everyone treated them like nasty gay villains. They became the party scapegoats.
When I woke up this morning I started thinking about all the truly awful parties I've thrown... which is another blog entirely.