Special Events
GETTING PERSONAL

GETTING PERSONAL

IN the world of events, there are clients and there are themes. But on one special occasion, designed and produced at San Marino, Calif.'s stately Huntington Library and Gardens by Charles Banfield, the two were one and the same. Created to fête his longtime client in honor of her 60th birthday, the 2005 Gala Award-winning “Clearly, Michele” dinner-dance extravaganza drew its cues from the honoree's background and tastes, celebrating “the life and love that Michele, her husband, their family and friends all share,” Banfield says. “No broad sweeps — just a million details.”

FAVORITE THINGS

When Banfield, head of Los Angeles-based Charles Banfield Productions, references attention to detail, he's not just paying lip service to the concept.

For starters, there was the event floral, highlighted by lavish table centerpieces arranged in glass bowls set atop mirror trays. Flowers included phalaenopsis orchids (“Michele wore them in her hair for her wedding,” Banfield says), pink cymbidium orchids (Michele's favorite color), artichokes (favorite food) and ornamental pineapples — “a hospitality symbol, and the client is building a home in Hawaii,” he notes.

Event linen — a combination of white satin and custom-made ombre overlays — was finished with crystal drops hand-sewn to the corners to pay homage to his client's famous jewelry. As Banfield notes, “Her husband claims he's bought more jewelry for her than he has occasions to give it to her.”

As for food, caterer Gai Klass of L.A.'s Wolfgang Puck Catering presented an elaborate menu of Michele's favorite foods including roasted miso-marinated black cod and charcoal-grilled rib-eye steak, followed by individual chocolate cakes monogrammed with the birthday girl's initial.

Then there was the evening's entertainment, which began with a gospel choir, selected “because {my client} once had aspirations of becoming a nun,” Banfield recounts. Rather than spiritual songs, however, the choir performed three tunes by the Beatles (Michele's favorite band), with lyrics personalized for the guest of honor. Throughout the performance, a video montage played, starting with Michele's birth announcement and chronicling her life in photos, closing with an image of the party's invitation.

Hot on the heels of the gospel gig came the arrival of 40 members of the marching band of the University of Southern California (Michele's alma mater), accompanied by the school's mascots.

And if all that weren't enough, the festivities hit their peak with the appearance of a drag “Queen of Hearts” — a nod to “the character Michele has performed with L.A.'s Nine O'Clock Players Children's Theater since the 1970s,” Banfield notes — who led guests back to the venue's cocktail area for a nightclub-worthy after-party.

BASES COVERED

And it wasn't just design details that held Banfield's focus.

“The detail started from the ground up,” he says, noting that no signs of production were visible to event guests. “No road cases, no hand carts, no performers or wait staff passing through the guests to get to the other side of the party.”

In addition, to keep people safe and comfortable, “all power distribution cable was dug under the sod so as not to trip any visitors passing by,” Banfield explains. On top of that, “The lawn was sprayed for mosquitoes the morning of the event so there wouldn't be any bites that night.”

To protect the historic venue, the candles that commonly would be used at such an event were replaced by 1,000 individual battery-powered votive tea lights placed in organza bags. And to ensure that the grounds would not sustain damage, Enka mat — a product used in sports stadiums to protect grass, Banfield says — was installed beneath plywood paths for forklifts, as well as under stages and tent floors. The venue's lawns remained lush: “There was not a single brown spot, even after a total of three days,” the designer adds.

Not to be overlooked, the event's staff was as well cared for as its guests. “Every person involved in the party was properly dressed, properly fed and tipped at the end of the night,” Banfield says. “Every vendor was treated like a guest — ate what the guests ate and was properly paid in full, in advance, and each was as committed to the project and client as I was.”

GOOD FEELING

While Banfield notes that every one of his events benefits from the kind of detailed production he provided for the April birthday celebration, he admits that a devoted client and a generous purse helped him along.

Banfield enjoyed the advantage of a $500-plus-per-guest budget and a carte blanche design directive — “{Michele's} husband gave me complete freedom to do what I do … every detail was left to my discretion,” he says.

But also, throughout planning he was able to bask in the pleasure of knowing he was creating something special for someone special to him. He explains that he considers his clients, with whom he has worked for 15 years, and whom he brought as his guests to the Gala Awards ceremony at The Special Event in Dallas in January, “family.” “I have produced every corporate, social and charity event for these lovely people,” he adds. “For this event, everyone did their best work that night. I could not have been more proud.”




Charles Banfield Productions 8033 Sunset Blvd. #915, Los Angeles, CA 90046; 323/957-9939; www.charlesbanfield.com. Turn to page 121 for a list of resources for this event.

CLEARLY, DELICIOUS

SELECTIONS FROM THE ‘CLEARLY, MICHELE’ DINNER MENU

Roasted Miso-marinated
Black Cod

Rock Shrimp Dumplings

Charcoal-Grilled Rib-eye Steak with Port-Balsamic Reduction

Ragout of Artichokes and Wild Mushrooms

Raspberry, Pistachio and Apricot Creme Brûlées

‘Whimsical’ Chocolate Cake

RESOURCES

CATERING
Gai Klass for Wolfgang Puck Catering
323/491-1253
www.gaiklass.com

FLOORING
Callender Portable Floors
818/780-5721

LIGHTING, POWER, SOUND, STAGING
Showtrends Inc.
928/667-3009

LIGHTING (SPECIALTY)
Images by Lighting
310/641-2500
www.imagesbylighting.com

LINEN
BBJ Linen
310/204-0363
www.bbjlinen.com

PROJECTION
ShowPro
323/805-8000
www.showpro.net

PROPS
20th Century Props
818/759.1190
www.20thcenturyprops.com

RENTALS
Classic Party Rentals
310/535-3660
www.classicpartyrentals.com

Unique Tabletop Rentals
310/764-0373
www.uniquetabletoprentals.com

VENUE
The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens
626/405-2100
www.huntington.org

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