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All-American Schmaltz at Hospitality Ball

November 14, 2001, 12:00 AM EST

New York City Hotel and Motel Association International Hospitality Ball Marriott Marquis Saturday, 11.10.01, 7:30 PM onward
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The recurring question is: “Are people ready to party?” And the hospitality industry--the folks who are hoping their customers think they are ready--gave a resounding “yes,” at the International Hospitality Ball given by the New York City Hotel and Motel Association at the Marriott Marquis.

The 86th annual bash, held during the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show at the Javits Center, was originally slated to have an Italian theme, Ginny Schulsohn of event producer Show Stoppers Entertainment and Event Company told us. Instead, the company put together a schmaltzy, patriotic “America the Beautiful”-themed evening designed to bring some good cheer to an industry which has been affected so much by recent events. In fact, this year's event had a smaller number of guests (370 hotel people from all over the country) than last year's, but those who attended were rewarded by terrific food, an evening of entertainment that made everyone a participant, and a real celebration of the ”hospitality” promised in the event's title.

Before guests entered the hotel's Broadway Ballroom (which also hosted the New York Restoration Project's recent Americana-themed benefit with Bette Midler), the cocktail portion of the evening was held in the sixth floor lobby, which circles the hotel's sparkling glass elevators. Lots of serving tables offered an array of hors d'oeuvres including chili-spiced salmon, citrus glazed striped bass and New Orleans bouillabaisse. A plentiful cheese table also featured a large selection of olives and nuts, and chefs served wonderful crabcakes, baby lamb chops and huge gulf coast shrimps. Ice sculptures were featured at the martini tables and a number of bars scattered around the space made for no waiting.

Show Stoppers hired the Moonlight Orchestra to play for the cocktail hour, and brought in a stiltwalker dressed as Uncle Sam, a juggler and a caricature artist. Everyone was so busy eating and talking that getting them into the ballroom proved a little difficult, but eventually they came to see a rousing “Grand Old Flag” number with dancers garbed in robes with flashing lights.

Atlas decorated the ballroom in red, white and blue, with large sparkling silver stars hung above with blue swags highlighting the ceiling. Lush red roses were centerpieces on tables decorated with blue tablecloths and white candles and napkins.

Dinner was fine, especially the wild mushroom bisque en croute, but most people had been overdoing the fancy appetizers and didn't have much room left. An intricate “Big Apple Tart” dessert accompanied by all sorts of sweets and served with Lindemans' Macquarie Tawny Port seemed popular.

Throughout the dinner the orchestra traded off with the DJ, and cabaret numbers (put together by Show Stoppers) with high-kicking chorus girls and marching males carried the event's theme with songs such as “America the Beautiful.” But the joint really started jumping as the DJ persuaded guests to “remember those days at Studio 54,” and the dancers got almost everyone in the place up for a disco number. Soon conga lines had formed and guests were shaking souvenir maracas and wearing red, white and blue top hats as they wiggled from the dance floor to the stage and around the tables. When the finale at 11 PM had cowgirls and cowboys performing Neil Diamond's “Coming to America,” very few partygoers seemed ready to leave.

One additional note: Getting a cab in the jammed Times Square was nearly impossible, but it didn't upset us the way it might have a few months back.

--Susan Silver

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