By Alesandra Dubin Posted September 22, 2008, 1:29 PM EDT
LOS ANGELES If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That was essentially the philosophy adopted by Entertainment Tonight and The Insider's communications vice president, Lisa Summers Haas, who plans ET's annual Emmy party, sponsored by People. After moving the party last year to the venerable Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown, Summers Haas took stock of the event's success, and its ever-growing importance on the Emmy-night scene, and decided to keep the party exactly where it was for last night's incarnation—minutes from the award show's new venue, the Nokia Theatre.
“Last year, we were nervous. We were the first party to go downtown, and would anybody want to go downtown?” said Summers Haas. ”Lucky for us, the event turned out to be fantastic. The Disney Hall formula worked—everything fell into place, so it was a no-brainer this year.” Another bonus of the unmistakable-from-above Disney Hall: ”ET and The Insider executive producer Linda Bell Blue wants something visually beautiful on the show." A chopper overhead captures the party's red carpet and bold logo gobos for TV.
Bounce, headed up by Carleen Cappelletti, produced and designed the event. Cappelletti called upon her fashion background to create a stylish look that included black and white seating and mirrored tables within the venue's curvilinear walls. Patina's dinner menu was meant to evoke the mood of a wine bar, with Spanish-style tapas like paella and Serrano ham (shaved on the spot from a cloven-hoofed leg). Coppola served its wines on the patio, and Crumbs Bakeshop set up camp in a dessert area with Art Deco-meets-pop-art-ish decor done in cupcakes.
In addition to its splashy new home, another of the party's hallmarks is its annual big-ticket performer. This year, Billy Idol entertained guests, promoting his new greatest-hits CD with a high-energy set of classics like “Cradle of Love” and “Dancing With Myself” for an expected crowd of about 1,200—200 more than last year. (“We got so big when we were at the Mondrian that we had to turn away people,“ said Summers Haas. “When we got to Disney, we realized we're in this glorious space, and we don't have to turn away guests.") Saxophonist Dave Koz also performed, and KCRW DJ Jason Bentley spun.
Among the big crowd were scads of celebrities—guests like Eva Longoria Parker, Jeremy Piven, and Tom Hanks—and fists clutching statuettes. So how does Entertainment Tonight's party consistently manage to draw perhaps the biggest celebrity crowd on Emmy night? It might be the limited-edition Cole Haan gift bag, stuffed with 40 items, including hotel stays, DVDs, and beauty products. Or maybe it's solid preparation on the part of party organizers, like the fact that ET set aside 80 tickets for the folks behind Mad Men (which had 16 noms and took home the trophy for outstanding drama series), even creating specialty cocktails and a lounge area just for the group.
“Maybe when we brought Prince, it was the start of our jump into a party that people want to go to. It's a combination of our gift bags, the entertainment, and when guests come into our party they know they're going to see somehing they haven't seen,” Summers Haas said. ”We put in a lot of thought and a lot of celebrity personal contacts. Each year when the guests come, they know to expect something different.”