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EVENT REPORT

SPECIAL REPORT: Inside the MTV VMA Parties Part 2

Despite Hurricane Katrina, dozens of sponsors delivered a deluge of VMA parties, from ultra-exclusive dinners to booty-shaking bashes.

At the Turchin Mansion, dancers performed on marble platforms built inside the pool.

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Stuff magazine's Friday night party was among the first after Katrina soaked South Florida. Because of the storm, organizer Logistics Management Group had to change venues at the last minute from a private mansion on Star Island to the Moore Building in Miami's Design District. Guests passed between two sleek black Dodge Chargers at the entrance before hitting the red carpet. Once inside, partygoers were treated to a stark and sexy atmosphere that Illuminart bathed in red and fuchsia light. On the first level, a dance floor throbbed before a 25-foot stage on which the post-punk foursome Louis XIV performed. They were followed by a showgirl performance by Carmen Electra. Overlooking the stage from the second floor, EventSource Internationalarranged plush lounge enclaves that offered the crowd a place to sip drinks and mingle. Waiters from Touch Catering passed ceviche on crisp tortillas, beef skewers, and bacon-wrapped scallops; female models roamed the room dressed in body paint and bikini bottoms.

Saturday, the parties continued around the clock. On Hibiscus Island, Logistics organized an ultra-exclusive daytime and nighttime gathering at the Turchin Mansion, a stunning adobe manse overlooking Biscayne Bay and designed to look like a Greek villa. Jessica and Ashlee Simpson hosted the over-the-top affair, which served as the American debut of Russian pop singer Julia Kova (developers John Turchin and Michael Capponi, as well as Ziglo Records footed the event's bill). Her name shone in gobo projections above the red carpet entrance and was printed on customized inflatables. To enhance the exotic architecture, Logistics hired dancers and contortionists dressed in shimmering fabrics to perform on built-in platforms surrounding two swimming pools. Garrett Production Group installed cool-gelled lights in various corners to project onto the house's extended sail-like canopies. AVS Entertainment added a high-tech touch with a variety of plasma screens displayed throughout the house that showed moving digital graphics synchronized to the pulse of the music. AVS provided smaller screens displayed inside clear 10-foot water-filled columns.

And while Saturday's events lured the glitterati to bayside mansions and sky-high lofts, Missy Elliott hosted a truly urban party in the heart of Overtown, one of Miami's oldest neighborhoods. Sponsor Bacardihelped inaugurate the refurbished historic Lyric Theater, which served as the center of black culture in 1950's Miami. Logistics created a twofold event that featured a indoor lounge and a tented outdoor “juke joint” that paid homage to Miami's black population. The indoors had all the accoutrements of a South Beach nightclub, including white vinyl lounges with illuminated cocktail tables provided by Room Service. Illuminart lit the dance floor, while Showbiz Productions filled the room with booty-shaking hip-hop sounds. The outdoors was a decidedly low-rent affair furnished with folding chairs, benches, and card tables from Room Service. Showbiz provided two billiard tables, and in the center of the tent stood a well-worn stand-up piano from the old days of the Lyric. To enhance the down-home feel, Mena Cateringfeatured pulled pork, fried chicken, hush puppies, corn bread, peach cobbler, and other soul food dishes in tin trays.

Meanwhile, high above Miami Beach, A-listers socialized in the 40th-floor penthouse at the new hotel-condominium, the Setai. The room's panoramic vistas and luxurious furnishings set a sophisticated tone for Yahoo! Music's VMA party hosted by Pharrell Williams. New York event planners Noah Tepperberg and Samantha Walker of the Strategic Group created a lush environment that AG Light & Sound lit in deep tropical tones. The Setai served pan-Asian hors d'oeuvres, including braised shrimp and chicken and beef satay. Events East decorated the room with cushions and pillows bearing the Yahoo! Music logo.

And while the party crowd was on the lookout for celebrities, such as Lil' Jon, Gwen Stefani, or Kanye West, they were guaranteed to get an eyeful of corporate branding wherever they went. At the Sagamore Hotel's Style Villa, Brookstone, New Balance, and Express were some of the companies that displayed products in 16 two-story bungalows and in the hotel lobby. The Victoria's Secret bungalow featured a boudoir setting with black furniture strewn with skimpy silk and lace bras and panties. Inside the lobby, Crown Royal set up a lounge that doubled as a barbershop. On the lawn, a long manicured topiary spelled out “Style Villa.”

By the time the late-night VMA after-parties concluded Monday morning, Hurricane Katrina was a memory. That the festivities rolled on relatively smoothly (with the exception of the shooting of rap mogul Suge Knight) showed just how creative and adaptable event planners, producers, and vendors could be.

Vanessa Goyanes and Juan Carlos Rodriguez


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