NEW YORK—The star-studded cast of Starz’s newest political thriller series Gaslit ditched the drama of D.C.’s Watergate scandal and hung up their 1970s-era pearls for a night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in celebration of the show’s debut on April 24. On the red carpet, Julia Roberts, who plays Martha Mitchell—the loose-lipped wife of President Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell—was joined by her on-screen husband, played by a latex-layered Sean Penn.
The series (which will be released weekly for the next eight weeks on Starz's website and app Sundays at 12:01 a.m. ET, and aired later each night on the Starz channel), follows the lesser-known story of Martha Mitchell as the Watergate scandal unfolds—from her anxieties in the public eye suffering with dyslexia, to the first 24 hours post Watergate hotel break-in that she spent locked in a room without a phone or television, to her eventual breakdown and end of her marriage.
The plot, which is based on the first season of the podcast Slow Burn, hosted by Leon Neyfakh, is riddled with expletives characteristic of the political operatives and not only witty and humorous but also occasionally provocative and emotional.
With a plot so dynamic and over the top, it made sense that the show’s world premiere event was a night that could also be described as such. And while celebrity sightings were plentiful, BizBash peeked under the red carpet and behind the velvet curtain to talk to the unsung heroes—the event producers—about how to seamlessly execute such a high-profile night.
Cue westhaus, the Los Angeles-based boutique event production, design and management company that produced the memorable evening on April 18—which included a red carpet, premiere screening and after-hours cocktail party.
Weston Gonzalez, owner and creative director of westhaus, told BizBash that his team started scouting locations at the end of February, and Starz had its sights set on The Met as the venue, looking to westhaus to strategize installations, flow and breakdown. “We were looking for venues that could host all components, had the ability to accommodate around 600 and had a prestigious vibe.”
Gonzalez said of the creative process: “We started off by rendering out a concept, which we then pitched to Starz and tweaked until we got the green light.” The blueprint detailed the 75-foot-long and 8-foot-tall red carpet set in front of a three-dimensional backdrop in the art museum’s Gallery 131, home of the Temple of Dendur, an ancient Egyptian temple built in the first century B.C. Maeve Dare, The Met’s in-house event producer, said that “no other event has utilized the space this specific way.”
“From there, we tapped our go-to fabrication team Messex Industries to bring the design to life,” Gonzalez continued, noting that westhaus prefers to work with hard walls. “Our designs often include dimensional elements and we feel strongly that hard walls create a cleaner look with less possibility for a wrinkled backdrop—one of our biggest pet peeves!” he added.
But westhaus wasn’t able to load any items into the museum until day of, with construction able to begin only after the museum had closed to the public. “The build required all pieces to be brought in four-foot-by-four-foot sections, so Messex designed custom pieces that were bolted together, wrapped, anchored and stood upright,” Gonzalez said.
The biggest challenge? “Simply working against the clock to ensure we could acquire the appropriate approvals,” Gonzalez said. “The Met is a working museum with irreplaceable art and with that, understandably, came a lot of rules, requirements and questions.” He also noted how closely westhaus’s team worked with The Met's Dare to pull off the event, and Dare recalled how exciting it was to “see the vision and proposals come to life after months of planning.”
Beyond the carpet, guests enjoyed a private premiere screening of Gaslit before heading to the museum’s Great Hall for a cocktail-style reception that tied the show’s deeply historical plot into the event’s design. “We leaned into the ‘70s across all components—from the physical tickets and the carpet design, to the catering and furniture,” Gonzalez explained, adding: “Some of our favorite elements included a 10-foot-long rotary phone bench, VIP bar carts to make tableside martinis (and) servers dressed in white coats serving elevated, ‘70s-inspired food on silver trays.”
Gonzalez also noted that there was “a photo activation that used the hardware from an old-school camera and a live, eight-piece band covering classic hits,” which he attributed to “evoking the elite D.C. environment of the decade prevalent to the show.” Dare agreed, saying that she believed “the greatest success of the night was watching the Great Hall fill with partygoers and actors celebrating as the band played classic 1970s hits.”
Vice president of events at Starz, Brian N. Lo Truglio, said of the era-appropriate space: "We really try to transport our guests into the environment of the show. I like them to leave the screening and move to the after-party with a feeling that it’s an extension of the show they just watched. ... Attention to detail is extremely important to me. Even when choosing a venue, we’re thinking about the experience the guest will have when they first walk into the room or onto the carpet. I want them to see the space and/or decor and immediately say to themselves, 'Oooh, I see what Starz did here.'”
And when asked what his favorite part of the night was, Lo Trugilo responded: "Not to sound cliche, but all of it. The excitement on the carpet is always fun. Then the anticipation as the lights go down in the theater and guests watch the show for the first time. And then, of course, the celebration of it all at the afterparty."
As for Gonzalez, the most prominent achievement of the night was, “without a doubt, getting the carpet to perfectly align with our vision and rendering that we presented to Starz. This was the first time The Met ever allowed a carpet to be built on the Temple of Dendur platform. Working within 20 feet of an ancient Egyptian temple from 15 B.C. with numerous representatives from The Met's curatorial team watching every move we made was definitely a high-pressure situation. Luckily, we are not only a group of creatives but we are also a group of meticulously detailed individuals, and for that reason, we were able to push boundaries and do something that had never been done before.”
"Seeing our client receive praise from executives, colleagues and talent” was also a notable moment, Gonzalez added. And while westhaus is no stranger to entertainment industry events, it has not even celebrated its third birthday, so Gonzalez said that the Gaslit world premiere event showed “that we can do anything.”
“We’re going to continue to showcase our creativity, provide transparent costs, put our clients’ needs first and establish new practices that become industry standards,” Gonzalez said, adding that the night was such a great success thanks to his experienced team. “This was a huge effort amongst the entire team and although I led the charge, it would not have been possible without the individual strengths of Wendy Creed, Ashlea Mackin-Burke, Gem Anderson and Mckenzie Bing.”
Check out the full list of vendors involved, and keep scrolling for a closer look into the prestigious premiere event:
Carpet Build & Miscellaneous Branding: Messex Industries
Florals: Van Vliet & Trap
Food & Beverage: Peter Callahan Catering
Furniture Rentals: Patina Rentals
Lighting & Audio: L&M Sound & Light
Live Band: EastCoast Entertainment
Photo Booth Activation: StudioBooth