Jon Stewart & Volvo Take Times Square

April 2, 2002, 12:00 AM EST

Volvo's 75 Years & Rolling anniversary event Times Square Studios Wednesday, 03.27.02, 7 PM to 11 PM
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“This is the worst Seder ever!” Jon Stewart joked in mock-e.phperation. On the Wednesday before Passover--and during New York International Auto Week--Swedish car company Volvo celebrated its 75th anniversary with a flashy event at Times Square Studios. The Comedy Central comedian's anxiety was shared throughout the room as the crowd of auto industry journalists and photographers eagerly anticipated the arrival of Irv “The Two-Million-Mile Man” Gordon, who had driven almost two million miles in the same 1966 Volvo P1800, and supposedly reached his actual two millionth mile upon his entrance to the party.

Crowds of teenagers and tourists gathered outside the ground floor of Times Square Studios (the home of ABC's Good Morning America), which had two of its front walls removed so Gordon could drive directly into the studio. On the second floor, guests mingled and relaxed on gray and orange cube seats and black leather sofas in a background of white draping--what Stewart described as an ”Ikea romper room” look. Caterwaiters dressed in mechanic uniforms served Ulrika's Swedish hors d'oeuvres like gravlax and potato cakes with Swedish caviar and lingonberry cocktails.

Plasma screens were set around the room to keep the upstairs crowd abreast of the goings-on downstairs in the staged area. Levy Lighting provided a cool, color-changing chromo cube stack of lights for the backdrop to the small stage where Stewart did a short stand-up routine before joining the Irv wait-fest downstairs.

Following Gordon's arrival at the studio, Volvo president and CEO Dan Werbin congratulated him and gave him the keys to a second brand new Volvo (the company gave him his first free car to mark his first million miles at an event at Tavern on the Green in 1987). Gordon was also officially honored by a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records, who awarded him for “the highest certified mileage driven by the original owner in a non-commercial service.”

Volvo spokesman and recent Oscar announcer Donald Sutherland joined the festivities by cutting a birthday cake with Werbin, and the two men tried to lead guests in a warbling rendition of traditional Swedish toast song “Hell and Gore.”

Better performances followed: Suzanne Vega sang her two hits, “Tom's Diner” and “Luka,” of course, and Sugar Ray drew a small crowd of ecstatic teenage girls who watched the band from behind police barricades. At one point in the performance, after repeated pleas to the NYPD to let some of the kids into the booze-filled party were denied, frontman Mark McGrath jumped off the stage and plucked a few of the screaming teens and led them into the party. He backed up his actions to the crowd by yelling, “See? They're safe in here! Volvo's about safety!”

Produced by Jennifer Brunetti of FBI Productions, the event brought together all the requisite elements for a successful, splashy party: celebrities, a few good gimmicks, street buzz in the form of crowds of tourists massed around the studio, and plenty of photographers, camera crews and press to document it.

It didn't hurt that the venue certainly has a high-profile: Much of the event was fed live onto the enormous JumboTron screen that covers the building's facade, and the running news ribbons periodically ran “Happy Anniversary” messages to Volvo. An additional perk: Who needs decor inside the venue when you've got a megawatt view of Times Square from the venue's second floor event space?

The party's extra gimmick: FBI placed a giant, 38-foot tall silver-colored safety pin bent into the shape of the new Volvo XC90 SUV (to emphasize the company's dedication to safety) on the island that separates Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

--Suzanne Ito

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