TO ACCOMMODATE 6,000 revelers at a January holiday party for a California health-care organization, Los Angeles-based event production company Los Angeles Party Designs had to get creative with venue and theme, while keeping security strict. Taking advantage of the multiple levels at downtown L.A.'s Westin Bonaventure Hotel, LAPD created a “Music of America” event that maximized freedom while minimizing risk.
ON THE LEVEL
LAPD event manager Chris Clark says the six-part Music of America concept came out of last year's event, which his company also produced. For the 2001 party, also held at the Bonaventure, Clark designed a series of themed clubs, from Las Vegas Casino to Lava Lounge.
For this year's event, Clark again wanted guests “to be able to pick their food, musical tastes, and when they want to come and go — that in itself is such a thrilling thing.” He decided to focus on regional music from across the U.S., not realizing that in light of Sept. 11, the theme would turn out to be “much more timely and celebratory” than he originally expected.
Besides appealing to guests, Clark adds, the theme allowed him to capitalize on the property's multi-level configuration, which includes a large pool deck — ideal for the lively Latin atmosphere of the New Mexico Splendor theme — and a cozier lobby, which provided a more intimate space for Seattle Java and Jazz.
THE IN SPOT
Load-in of decor for the Music of America's six unique themes was particularly challenging. Clark notes that his crew had to use not just the Bonaventure's loading dock, but additional loading areas accessed through plazas connecting the property to surrounding buildings.
Fortunately, the buildings were accustomed to large events at the Bonaventure, and were willing to coordinate with LAPD on the two days of loading required — one of which began at 2 a.m. and ended at 8 a.m. to avoid inconveniencing building tenants. Clark says LAPD's clean insurance record and $2 million to $3 million in liability coverage helped clear the way. “Rarely in our history have we ever had to use it,” Clark says. But, he adds, “that kind of credibility is a calling card.”
Clark says his experiences with last year's event led to better flow and more effective security at the 2002 bash.
For starters, Clark solved the congestion problems caused last year when all guests had to register at a single location in the downstairs lobby. This year, LAPD set up signage on every level of the event's three parking garages directing guests across bridges to the nearest hotel entry point. Registration areas on each level meant guests didn't have to flood stairways or elevators to get the fun started.
LAPD staff, which was in charge of design, decor, floral and lighting for the event, stayed in constant radio contact with Bonaventure security staff throughout the evening. At least four plainclothes security officers were posted in and around every event room, Clark says, as well as an LAPD banquet manager assigned to communicate with the Bonaventure catering department, which handled the regionally themed buffets in each event room.
Guests spent the evening moving from floor to floor, dancing or simply listening to the constant rotation of entertainers who performed in each space to avoid any lull in the music, which ranged from club-style dance music to salsa to zydeco.
Clark says his experience in theater was invaluable for the event.
“Many times with theater, they'll put a table and a window on the stage and ask the audience to believe that they're in a kitchen,” he says. “You're OK with that, because you're so interested in the story.” Instead of a great script, Clark used great American music to set the mood for each distinctive event space, then set the stage with powerful elements including color and light.
Budget, which was limited, wasn't as important as guest imagination, which never is, Clark says. “The guests themselves, I think, subconsciously will fill in the blanks,” he says, “if the music's right, the food is right, and you give them the right decor.”
Catering and security:
Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites
Decor, design, floral, lighting and production:
Los Angeles Party Designs
MG Music Events
Specialty chairs and tents:
Abbey Event Services
Specialty chair covers:
The New Mexico Splendor Buffet
Grilled Corn Salad with Pimento
Artichoke Hearts with Santa Fe Dressing
Grilled Vegetable Salad
Roasted Chicken with Mole Sauce
Beef Burritos and Chile Relleno
Cornmeal-Breaded Catfish with Pico de Gallo
Grilled Corn Cobettes
Churros, Flan and Rice Pudding
Los Angeles Party Designs
6368 Arizona Circle
Los Angeles, CA 90045