SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: Roughly how many fund-raisers do you stage at the Beverly Hilton each year?
JILL CROSS: We average about 175 fund-raising events per year, the majority of them between October and May. Most of our fund-raising events average 800 guests; some are smaller, and some have well over 1,000. The Beverly Hilton is one of only two hotels in Los Angeles that can accommodate 1,000 guests, and the only one in Beverly Hills.
The largest, most notable charity fund-raiser, which is held here every even year, is the Carousel of Hope ball, benefiting the Children's Diabetes Foundation. That evening will have 1,350 celebrities and high-profile guests. This year, the evening will be emceed by Jay Leno, and featured performers will be Elton John, Sting and B.B. King.
Our biggest entertainment industry event is the Golden Globes, which is televised live from the hotel. The awards program is viewed by more than 80 million people worldwide, so it gives the hotel wonderful exposure. The event itself is followed by six or seven studio after-parties, and those are all held here.
Q: What makes the hotel ideal for these high-profile events?
A: First, the International Ballroom. Although it's 20,000 square feet, there is not a bad table in the room. It's designed in a square with four tiers of seating. We have a built-in stage, with easy move-in and move-out access for production companies. We also have the best green room of any hotel, located directly behind the stage, as well as a production bridge with direct access from the International Ballroom stage to private suites. Our celebrities don't have to walk through the public space of the hotel. Our owner, [entertainer/producer] Merv Griffin, had the suites and bridge put it in because he wanted something special that no other hotel offers.
We are fortunate that our owner also has Merv Griffin Productions, located nearby in Santa Monica. We work hand in hand with them and recommend them to all our clients. They do the decor, the entertainment — the entire production.
Also, our staff gives the best service of any hotel. There are five of us on the catering team, and collectively we have been in the business for 72 years.
Q: Is there anything special about the menus you create for your sophisticated clientele?
A: Our clientele prefers foods they recognize, and obviously they expect them to be fabulously prepared. Of course we will accommodate any diet needs — vegetarian, fish, fruit. And we have a kosher kitchen. Most of the events will select beef — the majority of them select Châteaubriand. But for the high-profile events, it's not unusual for a guest to ask for a cheeseburger and fries. Some guests come here so often, they know they don't even have to ask.
Q: What trends do you see in fund-raising events at your hotel?
A: During the week, events are over by 10 p.m.; on the weekend, it's 11 p.m. at the latest. The guests come in for a 60- to 90-minute reception at which they network — that's very important in L.A. As guests are seated, we immediately serve the first course and then the program begins, followed by dinner and dessert. During dessert, the entertainment begins. The majority of events have entertainment — a comedian or musical combo or whatever. No event has dancing anymore. Then the night is over.
Q: What is your forecast for your event business in 2003?
A: We had a really good 2002. When the fund-raisers started back up a month after the 9/11 tragedy last year, all of them were breaking attendance records. People wanted to be out with other people and do something for the community. We are now confirming all our annual events for 2003, and talking with events that have not been at our hotel or have not been here for some time. The business is out there; monies will always need to be raised for charities. We're here with the venue and service to help them accomplish that.
Jill Cross can be reached at 310/274-7777. For more on the Carousel of Hope ball, turn to page 27.