What was the most memorable party you’ve ever been to or hosted? Now, think of that question as you ponder the “Party of the Century,” Truman Capote’s famous Black and White Ball held on Nov. 28, 1966, to honor Katherine Graham, president of the Washington Post and Newsweek, and to mark Capote’s success with, “In Cold Blood.”
That drizzly evening, the Monday after Thanksgiving, the author Capote welcomed 540 of his best friends to the Grand Ballroom in Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel. The evening survives in photographs, in the recollections of the guests who still are living 51 years later, in a book, “Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and his Black and White Ball,” by Deborah Davis; and soon, a movie of the same name, “Party of the Century.”
A perfectionist, Capote outlined strict guidelines for his guests: only attire of black or white was permitted, all guests must wear a mask, and women were required to carry fans. While planning the night, he reasoned, “I want the party to be united in the way you make a painting.”
He spent months curating the guest list. The invited rushed to buy new black and white gowns and suits and commission custom masks adorned with pearls, jewels, and feathers (by Adolfo, and a young milliner who used a single name, Halston — Roy Halston Frowick, who grew up in Evansville).
So your most memorable parties are not quite so legendary? Today, we are much less concerned with impressing than welcoming — but still, don’t we all appreciate special treatment? That’s what we sought in the feature, “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!” (page 36) — specific ways to upgrade our family and social gatherings to better express gratitude and reflect our lifestyles.
Here, to get us in the mood to party plan, a few members of the Tucker Publishing Group staff share their most memorable party memories.
Jessica Hoffman and Jennifer Rhoades, advertising account executives, and twins
A couple of years ago, our family (the Campbells) and our godparents’ family (the Montgomerys) started celebrating “Christmas in July.” This year’s gathering took place on the Montgomery farm on the hottest weekend of the year. We did a trek to the North Pole through the woods, a snowball fight with Styrofoam balls, and we worked as teams to turn someone into Santa with crepe paper. A fireworks show titled “Viewing the Northern Lights” was enjoyed with frozen hot chocolate.
Amanda Redenbaugh, graphic designer
Two years ago my family started doing a progressive dinner; now that we are older and have our own homes it is a fun experience. After Christmas Eve service, we started at my house. Sean and I hosted the appetizer portion. We’ve served a cheese and cracker tray in the shape of a Christmas tree, Grinch kabobs (a green grape, banana, strawberry, and marshmallow on top), and veggie pizza. We had fun playing the game LCR (Left, Right, Center) and laughing and carrying on about who would win the game. The main course was at my parents’ house and dessert at my sister’s house.
Trista Lutgring, managing editor
I have friends in Tell City, Indiana, my hometown, who throw a huge Christmas party each year. It is a quintessential Midwest celebration — a large potluck dinner with everything from soups and chili to fried chicken and cheesy casseroles. The great build up of the evening, however, is the gift exchange. I look forward to this game, aptly named “Dirty Santa,” every year. Everyone has a strategy and the competition is fierce. But after several heated gift exchanges and good-natured fighting, we always end the night with some good cocktails and laughter.
Elisa Gross, staff writer
My family always has had an open house policy, literally extending into the holidays with our annual Christmas Open House. Each year, my mom would spend weeks making candies, cookies, and other treats. She still has a giant binder stashed away in the kitchen full of holiday recipes and menus from open houses past. My favorite part was never the party itself, but the anticipation — stirring caramels over the stove, decorating the house from top to bottom, and sneaking cookies from hidden away tins.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you!
Kristen K. Tucker
Publisher & Editor