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HAPPY BiRTHDAY TO Me

Birthday parties aren't kid stuff anymore

Baby boomers are facing their fading youth with full-bore birthday parties.

"It came to a dead stop awhile ago, but now - with 40th and 50th and 60th birthday parties - it's happening," says Pauline Parry, founder of Good Gracious! Catering & Event Production of Los Angeles.

A client of Teterboro, N.J.-based Party Rental Ltd. turned 40 with a party based on his favorite singer, cult hero Jimmy Buffett of "Margaritaville" fame. Five hundred guests attended the June event at the honoree's home.

Event designer Dejuan Stroud of Little Silver, N.J., and caterer Laurence Craig Distinctive Catering of Maplewood, N.J., keyed on Buffett themes. Buffett fans are known as "parrot heads," so wrapped around the tent poles were special cages with live parrots. The menu included "Cheeseburgers in Paradise," from a top Buffett song (tiny veal burgers on brioche with gouda and shallot relish), and, of course, margaritas.

When one of his clients turned 50 in May, event designer Todd King, owner of Sky Valley, Calif.-based Gilding the Lily, created an elaborate event for 225 guests that included a travel through time.

A '50s cocktail party featured vintage cars, a re-creation of a soda fountain, Lindy Hop dancers, and servers dressed as cheerleaders in the honoree's high school colors. Guests then walked through a 200-foot tent tunnel featuring vignettes with the honoree from the '60s through the '90s. They emerged to the "party pad," a lunar landscape of bars and buffet stations constructed with neon-filled trusses and featuring multicolored intelligent lighting.

Parry threw her own 50th birthday party in April, inviting 100 guests to the L.A. Museum of Natural History for a six-course dinner. The black-tie affair included signature touches such as tiaras tucked into the invitations and a tiara-shaped cake.

Parry wasn't shy about hitting 50: "My husband sabered a bottle of champagne for each decade," she says.

What's behind the impetus to go public with a birthday party? "Some people spent the money on a house and never had a big wedding celebration," Parry says. "A birthday is another way to come together with all your friends and make something memorable."

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