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T&L Returns to Blowout Style

November 7, 2001, 12:00 AM EST

Travel & Leisure's 30th anniversary party Milk Studios Sunday, 11.04.01, 7 PM to 11 PM
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“Doesn't it feel good to party?” Travel & Leisure publisher Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio asked the crowd assembled at Milk Studios for the magazine's lavish 30th anniversary party. About 900 T&L guests traveled back to pre-September 11 splendor for a large party with extensive decor that resembled the magazine bashes held before earnest benefits tinged with red, white and blue became the dominant special events in town.

On a Sunday night when homebound New Yorkers were debating the merits of watching CBS' third try at the Emmys or the Yankees' last .php in the World Series, the T&L party drew a respectable crowd of people who looked as if they did, indeed, think it felt good to party. Along with last week's soft, but chic Glamour Women of the Year awards event, the T&L party may mark a slight return to the magazine promotional events that have largely disappeared since the World Trade Center attacks. Although the magazine industry is suffering its own economic hardships, it may be ready to get back to marketing events. (T&L was already ahead of the party curve--the mag's last big event, its World's Best awards, were hosted by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at Gracie Mansion, months before he became the hottest party guest in town.)

Originally set for September 20, the anniversary event was rescheduled after September 11 to coincide with the opening of the American Society of Travel Agents' conference at the Javits Center. So the blowout probably brought some good cheer to the invited travel industry folks as they look fearfully toward an uncertain financial future. Other guests included advertising and media types, plus a smattering of celebs including Kyle MacLachlan, Parker Posey, and designer and September T&L cover girl Kate Spade. (It was also the mag's second anniversary celebration in New York, following a smaller party earlier this year.)

T&L senior events manager Laura Aviva and her staff worked with event producers at Merv Griffin Productions to completely transform the vast Milk space, coming up with different decor themes for three rooms. Each was designed to signify a different.phpect of travel--passion, escape and adventure. To unify the event, the decor in all three rooms incorporated the plus sign used in place of an ampersand in the magazine's logo, and all three rooms showed fast-edited videos (by DCode) of images from the magazine. All three rooms also were strewn with throw pillows decorated with the plus sign in colors matching each room's decor.

The pillows were also giveaways, prompting guests to start hoarding them about midway through the party. Some guests walked around with a drink in one hand, and a pair of pillows stuffed under their arm. New Yorkers may have banded together in recent weeks, but they still covet free stuff at parties.

But back to the decor: In the passion room, walls covered in royal blue fabric had large plus-sign-shaped cutouts revealing screens showing the video of photographs. Fuschia seating was covered with orange and peach pillows, and cocktail tables had gold trays with votives and metal bowls filled with fruit, creating a sexy, slightly Moroccan feel. This room also had two masseuses rubbing down models, and a stage where Asmodeo-Giglio and T&L editor Nancy Novogrod greeted the crowd, described their commitment to promoting the travel industry and introduced a sexy performance from Bebel Gilberto, daughter of “Girl from Ipanema” composer Jo?o Gilberto (“She's Brazilian royalty,” Aviva joked to us).

The escape room had a kind of chic Survivor look, with thatched roof huts, straw rugs, bamboo, rattan furniture and giant green and tan pillows. And the adventure room was filled with green lights and plants, black and tan seating, and a dance floor printed with pictures of grass and rocks arranged in a plus sign.

Each room also had different drinks and menus created by Milk Studios caterer Tentation. The “escape” room, for example, offered shrimp on sugarcane skewers, tuna ceviche on scallop shells and Hawaiian pineapple on bamboo skewers.

In addition to Tentation's desserts--which included petites tartes au citron and passion fruit popsicles--the waitstaff came around to all the rooms with baskets of oversized fortune cookies (made by Los Angeles-based Chocolate Fortunes) that promised more than cryptic life lessons. About a quarter of the cookies included strips of paper redeemable for travel prizes including hotel stays, flights and cruises.

As the party began to wind down, many guests could be found watching the World Series on three televisions over a bar in the entry area between the rooms. (The game was a popular preoccupation: “Do you know the Yankees' score?” someone asked on the ride up in the elevator.)

With such lavish events comes longer hours: Aviva told us later that she was there until 7 AM Monday morning--although she had five days to load in the event, everything had to be out of the venue in six hours after the party.

--Chad Kaydo

Read about T&L's awards event at Gracie Mansion...

Read about T&L's first, smaller 30th birthday party at Strip House...

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