ABC's Upfront event after-party was a TV fan's dream: In one corner, Courtney Thorne-Smith and Jim Belushi stood posing for the camera. In another, Jimmy Kimmel chatted with party guests. With the fall lineup set (at least until the Nielsen ratings start coming in) the present and future stars of the network were on their best behavior--much to the delight of the nearly 2,000 attendees who filled the cavernous Cipriani 42nd Street for the fete.
The party was ABC's big moment during Upfront week, when the networks introduce their fall lineups to advertisers and journalists. The week is a series of glossy sales presentations where the networks trot out their talent, make big promises and wine and dine media buyers in hopes of winning advertising dollars. ABC's party followed a more formal sales presentation at the New Amsterdam Theatre, and came a day after NBC presented at Radio City Music Hall, with an after-party at Rockefeller Plaza. CBS pitched its programs at Carnegie Hall, and toasted later at Tavern on the Green on Wednesday.
While ABC execs showed off the new shows at Cipriani, advertisers stood in line for photo ops with their favorite stars. Veterans like Ted Koppel and Barbara Walters were on hand, as well as newcomers to the network like John Madden (an addition to Monday Night Football), John Ritter (star of the new 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter) and Kimmel, whose new late night talk show is replacing Politically Incorrect.
With all of the attention on the stars in the room, over-the-top decor was hardly necessary. Brenda Major, ABC's vice president of conference planning and special events, stuck to a simple, brand-driven theme--courtesy of the network's own creative services department. Two huge, multicolored ABC banners hung from the ceiling, and posters of the casts of various shows dotted the walls. At each photo station, stars stood next to banners bearing the name of their show and the ABC logo. Florist Mille Fiori provided huge vases of yellow cymbidium orchids on the bars and buffets, and simple vases of yellow mini calla lilies for the tables, which were covered in bright, solid color linens.
What was over-the-top--to no one's surprise--was the security. ABC and Cipriani both had security teams, and private firm Elite was hired specifically to handle security for the talent, ensuring that no gatecrashers got into the gala.
Cipriani's kitchen produced hearty fare for guests: pastas (including lobster ravioli and spinach and cheese ravioli), prime rib, turkey and a variety of veggies and salads. Passed hors d'oeuvres included tomato and fresh mozzarella.