Do you feel like you’ve had enough experience observing the parties you throw to be able to tell people how to be good guests?
Totally! You know, it’s interesting, it’s important to be a gracious guest, and I think this goes back to hosting and your invite list. You really should only surround yourself with people who truly love and care about you when you’re celebrating. This is not going to be your last party. My feeling is that sometimes it’s a panic, “oh my God, I’m gonna throw this party and it’s the end of the world.” That’s not true. You could have several parties in your lifetime; it’s not limited to one.
So when you’re inviting people, think about who you’re inviting and if they’re gonna appreciate what you’ve done for them. You’re gonna transport them out of their everyday bullshit lives and you’re gonna give them something wonderful to look forward to, and to shine, and forget about all the crap that they go through on a daily basis. You want to really make sure that those guests are gonna harmonize with what you’re doing for them, and with each other. Don’t try to be the Millionaire Matchmaker at your event; that is not your focus. The focus of an event is to celebrate and feel lucky that you have friends and family to do it with. Let the rest be organic. When these events become too contrived, the host is uptight and the guests are uptight. The outcome of that is usually a negative experience.
What advice would you give to aspiring event producers?
It’s definitely an extremely popular industry right now. When I went into it, it wasn’t. In fact, I was embarrassed to be going into this field because my friends at Vassar and Bard were not becoming event producers. They were becoming lawyers and doctors and writing Ph.D papers and things like that. I immediately dropped out of college to pursue this. No matter what, this is a profession. I think people don’t understand that; they think it’s a pretty profession, “oh you shouldn’t make money at it” or there’s no rules or contracts. That’s very untrue. Creative professions need more security than regular ones, because they are kind of so all over the place.
For young people starting out, now there’s all these classes in college to become event producers. I’m not sure I agree with that. I agree with it on top of experience. My advice is, always work in a corporate environment first, as an event person, so that you learn to cross your t’s and dot your i’s, the logistics of it. Because even in a pretty industry, there has to be structure and rules and a lingo you have to learn. So, I tell young people, always intern if you can. We take on a lot of interns every year. Really find out if you love this or not. It’s not the pretty outside picture. You have to love it and you have to live it, in order to do it.
Hopefully get an in-house corporate position before going out on your own, so you really do have a background before you try this. That’s an important thing to note about what I do. I used to hate it when people came up to me and said, “You get to play with flowers and pretty things all day!” I’d just be like, “Oh my God, I’m gonna kill you.” You’re dealing with people’s emotions, you’re dealing with contracts, you’re dealing with money. You’re dealing with timing and you’re also dealing with the fact that you’re doing things politically on the best day of anybody’s life. And there’s a little pressure there. Even on the show. I make these chefs look good because there’s a lot at stake and I want to make them look good. It really is no different than my real life. It’s exactly what I do in real life, which is really cool. It’s kind of the first time a show on television has been completely organic about what I do and how I do it.