Best of the Rest: ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Fox, and More Super Bowl Parties

By Courtney Thompson & Dawson Fearnow February 4, 2008, 2:02 PM EST

Ludacris performed at ESPN the Magazine's Friday-night party.

Photo: Sara Jaye Weiss

FROM SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. Though Maxim, Playboy, and Victoria's Secret garnered the most buzz among the Super Bowl parties here, clever production details abounded throughout the weekend. Here's our wrap-up of the other big events.

ESPN the Magazine

On Friday and Saturday, ESPN the Magazine returned to the Super Bowl with its Next Big Weekend party, setting up shop on the rolling, grass-lined lawns of the Scottsdale Performing Arts Center. Things kicked off on Friday night, with Ludacris performing for some 800 V.I.P.s in a massive, red-hued tent. Produced by ESPN vice president of marketing solutions Fred Bucher, with Event Eleven and East Side PR, the Friday-night fete was accented with chandeliers, cabanas, a circular 20-foot bar, and beer carts that allowed guests to grab a quick Corona on the go.

On Saturday, the ESPN event turned family-friendly as the entire 21-acre outdoor site hosted a sports-themed fair that was open to the public. There were high-tech simulators including a “ProBatter Professional Pitching Machine,” where wannabe major-leaguers could test their mettle against 100 mph fastballs thrown by virtual replicas of actual pitchers such as Greg Maddux. Other interactive displays included the Richard Petty Nascar Driving Experience, a Great Catch football play area, and a hockey goal display where little Wayne Gretzkys could attempt to score goals. The dual focal points of the day had to be the announcement of the 2008 NFL Hall of Fame inductees and a performance by Soulja Boy Tell ’Em.

Vice the Party

Vice the Party returned for its second year on Friday, taking over the French Quarter-themed Venue of Scottsdale. Vice co-producers Toast and Book ’Em Danno’s Dan Parente eschewed the location’s Cajun theme, instead channeling a Hollywood Western look, accented by a live LL Cool J performance.

Ice was another theme at the Coors Light-sponsored party, featuring a female model completely encased in ice (a trick whipped up by the people who previously froze David Blaine), and a chilled, fog-floored lounge area known as the Cooler, where Spike TV’s “Sexiest Bartender” contest winner interviewed patrons while wearing a definitely not-NFL-approved referee shirt. Event details were varied and carnivale-esque: Guitar Hero 3 showdowns took place on a big-screen TV, a cowboy walked around on stilts, and a sword-swallower, dressed in a crisp baby-blue suit and ruby red shoes, swallowed swords.

Sports Illustrated

Taking over local nightspot Barcelona on Saturday, Sports Illustrated hosted its annual Club SI in conjunction with heavily promoted sponsors Cadillac and Patron. The mag brought in its own furniture, creating sleek, all-white lounges, accented by hundreds of candles, trumpet lilies, and the venue’s ornate mirrors. “We’re not like the Maxims and the Playboys, where people are lined up elbow to elbow,” said SI executive director of event marketing Christine Rosa. “We want a nice, full environment, but not to the point where you can’t have a good time.”

Several years ago, Rosa cut the guest list from 2,000 to 1,000, and she said the response has been great. “It’s a place where you can actually have a conversation and visit with the clients you’re inviting to the party, who you only see once a year.” The Roots took the stage around 11 p.m., performing in one of the weekend’s most intimate settings.

The Fox network held its annual invite-only (and sponsor-free) Super Bowl party on Saturday night inside a 24,000-square-foot tent in a downtown Scottsdale parking lot. The event donned a Rat Pack-era Palm Springs theme, with a casino (complete with roulette and slot machines) and a nonstop lineup of diverse entertainment and live performances (think aerialists, dancers, and a python). 

“The idea was to have something going on every minute of the event, continuous entertainment, instead of spiking in the middle of the night,” said Fox vice president of special events K. Tomiko Iwata, who produced the event for 1,400. “For the theme, we always try to do something that makes sense with the destination, but we absolutely didn’t want to do a country-western look. So we started thinking about the desert and then came up with a stylized Palm Springs-in-the-’50s look.”

The tent’s interior was bilevel, divided into areas like the chartreuse-and-maroon-striped Bubble Lounge and the Playmakers Showroom, with its 10 Texas hold ’em poker tables. A cutesy detail: lip and eyelash stations, where professional stylists offered complimentary makeovers.

Penthouse returned with its annual fete on Saturday, this year dubbed “Desire.” The 1,400-person party took over the Venue of Scottsdale, with a red-all-over theme and a performance by Snoop Dogg. Cohosted by MSL Sports & Entertainment, the event featured performer David Garabaldi, who paints six-foot-tall canvases to music while dancing. “The theme was 'desire,' so we really used red lighting as the key production element,” said MSL vice president of branding and creative Eleni Roselli. The Penthouse Pets were omnipresent, wearing teensy referee uniforms.

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