After a bit of belt-tightening throughout the year, HBO’s 61st annual Primetime Emmy Awards post-awards reception last night was as lavish as ever. This year, the team of designer Billy Butchkavitz and HBO vice president of special events Eileen Rivard took their cue from a master—early 20th-century French fashion designer Paul Poiret, who was known for his decadent soirees.
Never one to repeat himself, Butchkavitz selected a Poiret fashion illustration set in a garden as his inspiration for dressing the vast plaza outside the Pacific Design Center in a striking palette of black, red, and taupe. Floral brocades from Turkey, Thailand, and Taiwan covered seating, tables, and walls, and custom carpeting mimicked the black-and-white floral pattern on the walls. Large red-framed mirrors, red glass plates and goblets, and black glass martini glasses, urns, and ashtrays served as accents and accessories.
Red roses—Poiret’s logo on his dress labels—filled 140 low black glass vases on tables throughout the space, while fabric roses adorned more than 100 eight- or 10-foot-tall topiaries in giant red vases. Pumping up the wow factor even more was a humongous red chandelier—20-feet wide, extending 28 feet from the ceiling—in the custom-made red translucent V.I.P. tent.
Also amped up this year was the banquet of entertainment. Working with 24 Seven Productions in Las Vegas, Butchkavitz recruited 17 musicians he’d met working on events in that city to form the one-night-only Sin City Symphony. Singers and musicians performed on three multilevel performance stages—two atop lounges and one motorized so that it could descend to ground level and pick up new musicians and instruments throughout the evening. In a nod to Poiret’s taste for entertaining his guests with contortionists and belly dancers, Butchkavitz enlisted similar artists from Las Vegas along with local fire dancers who performed on a stage across from the red carpet check-in on San Vicente Boulevard, which was closed between Melrose and Santa Monica boulevards.
Since construction of a new building at P.D.C. shrank the usable area on the plaza, organizers built flooring over the fountains off San Vicente and flanked the new space with banquettes. That made the V.I.P. tent the heart of the party and enabled guests to watch the goings on on the red carpet. As soon as they made their own entrance into the party, more than 1,700 revelers were greeted with trays of Vampire’s Kisses (Belvedere Vodka and Tru Blood blood-orange soda, bottled by HBO in honor of its vampire series True Blood.) Female guests could touch up their makeup and hair at lounges hosted by Laura Mercier and Oscar Blandi.
And everywhere, it seemed, there were Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperiale Champagne and long tables groaning with Wolfgang Puck Catering’s seasonal take on tapas (including caramelized scallops, filet mignon, and sweet tortelloni) as well as a dessert spread of tiny banana crème brulee pies and coconut profiteroles. And Godiva Chocolatier sent matinee-idol wannabes to man bars with samples of its Legacy Truffle Collection.
“This and the Golden Globes are HBO’s two big celebrations each year,” Butchkavitz said. “They want to thank their talent and showcase what everyone has done for HBO, and they really go for it.”