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Loads of Lobster for MTV's V.I.P.s

August 7, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

MTV's 20th anniversary party Hammerstein Ballroom Wednesday, 08.01.01, 6:30 PM onward
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Twenty years of rump-shaking, guitar-playing and crotch-grabbing can work up an appetite. So The Catering Company served 1,000 pounds of lobster and more than 300 pounds of shrimp in the V.I.P. areas of MTV's 20th anniversary party at Hammerstein Ballroom.

Billed as “20 and Almost Legal,” the party was the backdrop of a live three-hour broadcast on the network, and featured a slew of performances from artists including P. Diddy, Billy Idol, Jane's Addiction, Tommy Lee, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kid Rock, Run-D.M.C., Salt 'N' Pepa and TLC, plus appearances by MTV's own homegrown personalities, both past and present (the inevitable Martha Quinn, and remember Remote Control's Kari Wuhrer and Ken Ober?).

Kathy Flynn, MTV's vice president of production events (the ones you see on screen, not the ones the network throws for advertisers, which are the work of Leslie Leventman) hired freelance event producer Tony Richards (of NYC Tone) to produce the event. Although the former MTV staffer has worked on the network's events--including the MTV Movie and Video Music awards--since 1992, he told us this was the most complicated show he's even done. In addition to the performances on stage, the live broadcast included “throw-tos” (“Here's Carson Daly with Boy George and...") shot at various locations throughout the venue, so camera crews and performers had to be able to travel through the building quickly, while navigating a mass of lights, wires, tape and security guards (from International Protective Service Agency), plus 2,200 guests just trying to enjoy the party. “We try to plan for every contingency, but once we open the doors, all bets are off,” Richards told us after the event, saying he felt it all went well, and that the show had no dead air time.

Load-in for the stage equipment started a full week before the event; three days later Jeff Hall Designs' decor came in, including the set and white hanging decor pieces that looked like large clusters of irregularly shaped grapes.

One of the biggest challenges is blending the event's dual purposes: A live broadcast for television and a real-life party for guests. Television lighting is much brighter than typical party lighting, so the audiovisual team tried to strike a balance, bathing the room in purple and blue light. Dozens of flat-screen televisions put up throughout the space allowed guests to watch the broadcast while enjoying the party.

The Catering Company's Tammy Tyson told us the event used all disposable cups, plates and utensils, in order to keep the noise down during the broadcast; the bars didn't serve hard alcohol on the main floor, to discourage guests who could appear on camera from getting too tipsy and disrupting the performances.

The party started at 6:30, with guests arriving on the main level and digging into buffets with chicken skewers, salad, pasta and sandwiches. Hors d'oeuvres included miniature chicken club sandwiches with crispy bacon and basil aioli; wild mushroom, roast pepper and chevre foccacia; and steamed chicken shu mai with black sesame dipping sauce, and The Catering Company also catered the basement area that served as the green room, housing the performers and the food they requested (as in the V.I.P. areas, loads of lobster and shrimp, plus lots of fruit salad).

The balcony V.I.P. area was festooned with cocktail tables that had cardboard “Happy Birthday” hats, noisemakers and some very cool glowing necklaces (from Yanova) that shone with a red MTV logo. In the back of the balcony was a huge food spread with lots of sushi, lobster and shrimp (the second V.I.P. balcony had a similar spread), and behind that area a special V.I.P. room was used for artists to appear on camera after their performances. This room was adorned with famous paintings reimagined with MTV and rock icons--the brain-dead Beavis and Butthead pointing at each other in the famous Sistine Chapel pose; the droll, sardonic cartoon character Daria as the Mona Lisa; and The Last Supper with Michael Jackson as Jesus, P. Diddy as Judas, and Madonna, Boy George, Janet Jackson, Prince and Kid Rock among his disciples. (These were designed by Richards and NYC/Tone set designer Gregory Bartkus.)

The considerable spread even had queen of the ironic deadpan Janeane Garofolo talking more about the food than the music at the event. “Lots of lobster, lots of shrimp,” she said during an appearance on screen. “It's very well catered.”

--Chad Kaydo

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