By Alesandra Dubin Posted February 9, 2009, 1:13 PM EST
LOS ANGELES Throwing a dinner party for 6,000 guests is no small feat. Doing it in a raw venue that requires compete transformation within a scant four-hour load-in window adds to the challenge. Those were the circumstances surrounding the Recording Academy's official Grammy awards after-party, which last night took over the same Los Angeles Convention Center space that only hours earlier hosted the pre-telecast awards ceremony.
Recording Academy vice president of production and process management Branden Chapman once again tapped Mary Micucci of Along Came Mary to produce the party, which immediately followed the award broadcast at the Staples Center next door. The theme of the event—an homage to the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock festival—seemed like a natural fit for Micucci, who started her business out of the back of a Volkswagen bus more than 30 years ago. “It's really magical in there,” Micucci said. ”The era itself was so amazing.”
Chapman added that this year's colorful party, which stood in direct contrast to last year's more sophisticated-looking 50th anniversary bash, was a purposeful departure. “I came up with the inspiration at last year's party, which was very formal, appropriate for our 50th,” he said. ”We realized immediately that we wanted to do something completely different. Every year we seem to raise the bar.”
More than 400 production crew members and 600 servers—not including kitchen staff—were on hand for the event, which featured more than 50 dancers and Lucent Dossier cirque-style performers who entertained guests throughout the evening. The cast of Hair from the production at the MET Theatre in Hollywood performed '60s-inspired numbers for the crowd. Robin Thicke, who had earlier performed on the Grammy stage, also performed a set, as did the Time.
Decor and furnishings included custom water beds and bean bag seating, abundant gerbera daisies, a painted bus at the entrance to the party space, and vintage rock wardrobe paraphernalia in the center. More than 1,000 fixtures lit the voluminous space, and more than 95,000 feet of carpet covered it. ShowPro's lighting included video systems projecting onto giant circular screens showing peace signs, ultraviolet lighting for black-light posters (but of course) and the centerpiece element: a 40- by 50-foot custom LED ceiling fixture programmed to show a variety of images, including a waving American flag with a peace sign amid the stars. Blown-glass sculptures decked a second event space within the overall party, Petree Hall, which doubled as a jazz lounge, evoking images of Jimi Hendrix-era acid-rock.
Wolfgang Puck served dinner at a whopping 56 food stations. All-American stations featured carved prime rib, roasted chicken with truffle au jus, and parmesan and garlic fries. International flavors at Latin and Asian stations included Shanghai lobster, Chinese chicken salad, Mongolian lamb chops, slow-braised Latin short ribs, and crispy red snapper tacos with saffron rice. Vast dessert spreads included chocolate truffle cake, espresso pots de creme, banana cream pie, and passion fruit panna cotta.
“This is the part of my job I enjoy the most—the creativity,” Chapman said. ”My job traditionally focuses on logistics—details and partnerships. So sitting down to talk about dynamic ideas is a thrill for me.”
And how about that nagging economy? “What we're doing is being wiser with our spending. We're trying to put things back into the economy through our strategic partnerships, and we're advancing our greening practices too,” Chapman said. ”We are giving back—there are budgetary benefits to working with partners and leveraging deals.”