Departures Stays Home, Toasts NYC

October 16, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

Departures' Support New York, Celebrate New York promotional event and benefit Hammerstein Ballroom Thursday, 10.11.01, 7 PM to 11 PM
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While the September 11 attacks left most monthly magazines struggling to make their upcoming issues relevant, the editors at Departures found their already completed October issue was suddenly and unexpectedly poignant. A special edition devoted to New York, the glossy travel and luxury lifestyle magazine (which is mailed to American Express platinum cardholders) doesn't have photos of traumatized Wall Streeters, but it's packed with glossy pictures of the shiny shops, cultural institutions and restaurants that dot a city that Americans are now expressing their devotion to--even if they're not traveling here en masse yet.

The attacks also left the magazine's staff with a decision to make. They had planned to promote the issue to advertisers and journalists with a party at the Hammerstein Ballroom, but the magazine wingdings that filled pre-September 11 calendars have been deemed temporarily inappropriate. The Departures staff contemplated scrapping it, but then decided to tweak it a bit: Instead of just celebrating the magazine, the party would celebrate the city itself (and, yes, still promote the magazine), and a silent auction and raffle of travel and luxury items would raise money for disaster relief efforts.

EventQuest, the company Departures hired to produce the event, altered their decor plan to match the new theme. Creative director Mark Veeder told us his original plan had guests entering the party through a small room where they would hear recorded voices whispering things like “Have you heard?” in order to play off Manhattan's sense of exclusivity and the importance of so-called insider information. Instead, that area--decorated as a lounge with six silver, gold and white ottomans--had gobo lights swirling words like “Rebuild,” “Freedom” and “Community.”

Inside the main ballroom area, EventQuest projected images of various New York views (Central Park, an uptown skyline) on an enormous screen at the back of the room (in front of the venue's stage). In the center of the ballroom, EventQuest hung sheer white fabric from the ceiling, creating a smaller lounge area in the center of the room, and filled that area with a bar and funky, mod purple and orange couches and cube seats. The sheer fabric showcased more projections, and helped make the large room feel more intimate, and a few custom-made tables topped with opaque resin and lit from underneath added some diffused, flattering light. Behind two large buffet tables with food from Taste (pulled pork, raw veggies, sliced beef), EventQuest covered screens with fall leaves, meant to suggest the changes of autumn.

Departures editor Richard David Story and publisher Kathi Doolan both made short speeches from one of the ballroom's boxes to greet guests and explain their decision to reconceive the party, NYC & Company's Cristyne Lategano-Nicholas thanked the magazine for celebrating New York, and a variety of entertainers performed at different points in the night. Aerialist Jonathan Nosan performed a routine on a long piece of white fabric hanging from the ceiling (we saw him at the March in Monaco fund-raiser, too). The accompanying music was Jimi Hendrix's version of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and then Lee Greenwood's “I'm Proud to Be an American.”
The act drew enthusiastic applause from a crowd of New York media types who might not have been so receptive to a country music song a few months ago.

The large Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir also appeared, singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” from the mezzanine, and a pair of opera singers sang from one of the ballroom's boxes.

--Chad Kaydo

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