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ALTHOUGH IT BEATS the alternative, nobody enjoys growing old. But why not face the inevitable with a sense of humor? That idea inspired a 2004 Gala Award-winning “retirement home” themed event for a “fake” 65th birthday celebration, notes Cheryl Fish, vice president of Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage Events. Her client wanted to throw the surprise bash for “a friend who would never divulge his real age, and who seems to drink from the fountain of youth,” she explains. The real challenge was how to merge the irreverent theme with upscale elements that would appeal to 15 wealthy and successful male guests.

In order to develop authentic props, Fish visited a local retirement home. She and her team then set to work re-creating those elements at the chic Spago restaurant in Las Vegas. Using a public venue meant the event team had to blend over-the-top humor with understatement. “It was imperative not to overstep our bounds with geriatric props that might upset the guests dining in restaurant,” Fish explains. To solve the problem, she created a private alcove using floor-to-ceiling curtains to shield the decor from other diners.

Arriving guests were greeted by Spago staff wearing surgical gloves and dressed in white lab coats embroidered with the name of the fictional retirement home. On the dining table, lush floral arrangements rested in bedpans on top of hospital linen, while each place setting included napkins wrapped in Ace bandages and “senior necessity kits,” filled with items such as denture adhesive, antacid tablets and pill boxes. A wheelchair served as a seat for the guest of honor, while other guests sat on chairs topped by doughnut-shaped foam cushions and draped with blankets in case the “elderly residents” felt a chill.

The old-age home theme also extended to the food, with hors d'oeuvre served atop a gurney and tray-passed “Viagra blue” vodka cocktails presented in small medical beakers. Following an elegant dinner from the Spago chefs, a visit from “Nurse Nancy” — an actress dressed as a sexy nurse — perked up guests and provided one of the biggest laughs of the evening as she checked the guest of honor's vital signs. She then sang “Happy Birthday” to him as he blew out candles on a cake shaped like the exterior of a retirement home.

In spite of the potential for offending an age-sensitive guest, “This was such a fun party to plan,” Fish notes. “It really was a blast to propose this theme to the client and have him laugh along with every item [we] suggested.”

MGM Mirage Events 3665 S. Industrial Road, Las Vegas, NV 89109; 702/792-7798;

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