The Insiders’ Guide To Surviving A Party

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The Insiders’ Guide To Surviving A Party

Words by Mr John Ortved

12 November 2015

Six veteran revellers from the City That Never Sleeps explain how to up your NQ (Nightlife Quotient).

The recipe for my ideal holiday party is as follows: my girlfriend’s couch; two or three episodes of The Sopranos; home-made pasta arrabiata with sausage. That’s all. Maybe a Martini to kick things off and a bottle of wine with dinner, but now we’re really pushing it.

This party will not happen. Instead – just as I have done every year since adulthood – I will scurry about upper and lower Manhattan, travelling from festively decorated offices to sectioned-off areas of local bars, joining in the train of party hobos we all become as the Saturnalia approaches. The final months of the year can seem like an endless parade of sugary yet spicy drinks, overly warm rooms, tepid small talk and oh-man-are-they-going-to-make-me-take-off-my-shoes crises.

After years on the circuit, I have a few red flags that tell me to make a party stop brief. If the staff outnumber the guests, or if everyone is on their phone, you’re about to have a crap time. Or if there’s nowhere to put your coat, which is not acceptable post-college, you might want to consider making a 180-degree turn upon entering.

For slightly more constructive advice, I sought out the experts: six men who regularly have a double- or triple-header of social engagements, men whose travels through the demi-monde have made them experts when it comes to having a good time.

“Don’t switch place cards, make the host do it”

Mr G.O. is an OG of both parties and propriety. He and Mr Jean-Michel Basquiat helped make downtown New York City happen in the 1980s (“Our scene, the corner of the world we lived in, was a funky musical comedy,” he once wrote). Mr O’Brien knew Mr Andy Warhol’s Factory inside and out (he was the first editor of Interview magazine) and has kept his finger on the pulse of New York City ever since, sharing his knowledge through magazines he’s edited, TV shows he’s hosted and books he’s written, such as How to be a Man.

“Avoid big company holiday parties, even for better firms, unless you are single and really want to meet a lot of cute, young, drunk interns. I’m not and don’t. If the girls at the rope with the iPads offer any resistance, tell them that you own the company. If it’s a buffet dinner, forget about it. If you’re on the fence, ask them to send a car for you. At least you’ll know where you stand. If it’s a seated dinner, you have to RSVP and honour it. Don’t switch place cards, make the host do it. Just say that you can’t be responsible for any violence that breaks out if you’re seated near that person.”

“Put your invitations in a bowl, close your eyes and youwill pick the good one”

Mr André Saraiva, who made his name as a graffiti artist in Paris, resides at the intersection of art, fashion and wherever the most beautiful women on the planet might be. He became legendary for Le Baron, the nightclub he opened in a former brothel in the eighth arrondissement in the late 1990s and has since expanded into outposts in New York City and China. He has just opened his Hotel Grand Amour in a Napoleon III-era building near Gare de l’Est in Paris. He is a master of the vernissage (that rare window of time when a hot spot is not yet open to the public), so if you run into Mr Saraiva, you know you’ve found the fun.

For Mr Saraiva, your choice of poison is paramount: “Always drink good French wine, never alone and always with someone you like. But if you cross a bottle of Romanée-Conti, you can drink it alone. I always thought that wine increases your metaphysical senses and makes you more sensual. This may be the most sexy drink. Maybe wine is the elixir of love,” he says. What if you’re all set with wine, but dealing with multiple invitations (as can happen on busy holiday nights)? “Put them all in a bowl, close your eyes and you will pick the good one.”

“When it comes to a go-to gift for the hostess, nothing beats an indulgent sweet during the holidays”

Rapper Ms Nicki Minaj said it best: “You couldn’t get Michael Kors, if you was fuckin’ Michael Kors.” One of America’s most prominent designers is also one of its most popular. When guys buy his clothes, they’re accessing a piece of the irrepressible personality that has charmed on Project Runway and makes the scene with Ms Gwyneth Paltrow and Ms Kate Hudson. Unsurprisingly, he knows a thing or two about guesting, too.

“When it comes to a go-to gift for the host or hostess, nothing beats an indulgent sweet during the holidays. If you can combine that with a gift that gives back, it’s the best of both worlds. I like to give Chuck’s brownies that benefit God’s Love We Deliver, one of my favourite charities. If you can find something indulgent that helps others, that’s a great combo.”

“Just fade away into the night”

It’s hard to pin down Mr Waris Ahluwalia – a jewellery designer, actor, model, bon vivant and philanthropist – who’s appeared everywhere from Mr Wes Anderson’s films and Gap campaigns, to the world’s most elite parties at The Beatrice Inn and Harry’s Bar. This holiday season, he’ll be racing an auto rickshaw more than 300 miles across India to raise money and awareness for the endangered Asian elephant. You can follow his journey on @houseofwaris.

“Maybe I’ve been to a party or two. You can’t blame a guy for wanting to dance with beautiful creatures. On some reflection, I would say that one of the most important things about any social outing is not the entrance or even the outfit. It’s the departure. My preference is the ‘Irish goodbye’ or ‘French exit’. No one needs to know you’re leaving. Just fade away into the night.”

“Always do a lap before committing to a location”

A golden stylist in Downtown New York’s scrappy but snobby style circles (you can find his work in Fader, Bust and on, New York’s tightest doors open for Mr Ian Bradley: from designer dinners during fashion week to that bar in Chinatown you didn’t even know was the hot new place and will only be open for one more week.

“This tip is a simple one: it actually comes from Cher [Horowitz] in Clueless. ‘Always do a lap before committing to a location.’ You get to see pretty much everyone at the party – old friends, potential hook-ups, and even people to avoid – and you have several witnesses to your attendance. The ideal lap time depends on the size of the event. I tend to opt for less than half an hour. I make sure to talk to the host the longest, if they’re not swarmed with people or running around ‘hosting’. If you decide to bail, try not to draw attention to the fact that you’re leaving shortly after getting there.”

“Trees dress for the holidays. So should you”

Mr Bob Morris is a journalist, playwright and author of the touching, hilarious memoir Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents. His writing career has included 30 years covering some of New York’s (as well as Montauk’s and Miami’s) most elite events and vivid scenes for The New York Times and The New Yorker. In the atomised, heavily charged world of New York City social life, Mr Morris is somewhat of an Einstein, observing closely, sharing and providing necessary insight. His theory: let your clothes do the talking.

“If you attend a party, show up dressed for it. Even if you find it horrible, treat the most wonderful time of the year as an occasion to bring cheer not gloom to the wardrobe. Black velvet blazers, or better yet in deep red or green, are a start. So are go-to-hell trousers in appropriate seasonal plaids. Reindeer, Santa or Menorah motifs (in natural fibres, please) will make a host know you care. And when in doubt, always wear a tie – or better yet a bow tie. Trees dress for the holidays. So should you.”

Illustrations by Mr Antony Hare