Big Love Party Does Rich-Looking Casino Theme on a Budget

Working within a tightened budget, HBO outfitted its Big Love party with gaming tables inspired by the show's polygamous family and its plan to open a casino for Mormons.

By Irene Lacher January 16, 2009, 10:59 AM EST

A giant banner bore the show's tagline: "Everyone has something to hide."

Photo: Gabor Ekecs

HBO's Big Love Party
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Just three days after throwing one of the three big after-parties at the Golden Globes awards, HBO turned on a dime Wednesday and hosted 900 guests at the season-three premiere of its polygamy drama series, Big Love, in Hollywood. And the events team—HBO vice president of special events Lauren McMahon and designer Billy Butchkavitz—watched its pennies, as it pulled the evening together in the face of a tough economy. Butchkavitz kept costs down by diving into his warehouse to recycle textiles that hadn't appeared in public and by using plenty of gobos of logos and stars—on walls, sidewalks, floors, and even couches—to amp up the drama.

The rich-looking result was an evening that began with a screening of the first episode at ArcLight's Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard. Afterward, guests hopped shuttle buses or walked the four blocks to Social Hollywood, which was outfitted with gaming tables inspired by the show's polygamous family and its plan to open an alcohol-free casino for Mormons. Fortunately, HBO didn't go for complete authenticity, and waitstaff circulated with glasses of wine as well as sliders and French fries, while guests cruised down-home buffets featuring mac and cheese, high-end versions of chicken nuggets, and arugula salad.

Butchkavitz took his color cue from HBO's key art for the season, which uses orange lettering on white. Orange gloriosa and calla lilies, parrot tulips, amaryllis and pincushions filled Venetian-style glass vases with orange swirls on surfaces throughout the venue. Orange fabric embroidered with orange sequins or yellow dots covered tablecloths and pillows, and waitstaff sported orange vests and ties.

One large wall was entirely covered with a Big Love poster with the tagline “Everyone has something to hide,” which Set Masters/44 Props had blown up to 45 feet by 22 feet. It towered over gaming tables, which were customized with felt imprinted with the Big Love logo and an orange bleed toward the edges. White carpeting brought in for the evening made those elements pop.

“It's like cosmetic surgery on the building,” said Butchkavitz, who was assisted by siblings Brian and Peggy Butchkavitz. “They didn't want to blow a fortune. They said, 'Be creative, but don't go crazy.'”

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