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Tips for beating the heat at summer events.

On the first real scorcher of the summer season in New York, 94 degrees, of course I had plans to put on a wool tuxedo. I almost didn’t leave the apartment, but the knowledge that the gala was being held at one of the biggest, most famous (and expensive) restaurants in the world, one with a gurgling pool no less, promised me an evening in an ice box.

No such luck. I’m always complaining about being hot—one friend told me I’m like a canary in a coal mine when it comes to detecting heat. So I try and keep my mouth shut. That is until I see skinny-as-a-rail ladies in strapless dresses waving the evening programs as makeshift fans. Then I put my fear of male menopause aside and spring into action.

Which in this case involved asking the legendary owner to turn up the air. His response: “But we can’t make it too cold, the ladies don’t like it.” Ugh.

But I let it go. The truth is, I knew perfectly well there was nothing he could really do. It was too late. It takes hours to properly cool down a large room. Conversely, once you fill a cold dinner hall with bodies, candles and movement, it takes only a few minutes to warm a space up. I’m not going to pretend to know the science; I just tell you ’cause I know.

Invariably, event planners mean well but are done in by the deliveries. Caterers with proofing ovens, florists, lighting and sound guys with their mysterious giant black boxes, all constantly going in and out through the biggest door they can find, which they prop open with a sandbag. You can beg them to close the door until you are blue in the face, but they don’t care. Once the room is all tricked out, they probably all go to some nice air conditioned deli to wait while the $1,000-a-head folks sweat it out in the sauna of a party space they’ve created.

But we can fight back. Here’s some of the things I’ve either done or seen that help beat the heat.

1. In Hong Kong, when you get out of the oppressively hot, humid, and polluted air, they have a person who stands inside the door at the nice hotels and hands you a cool wet towel with some wood tongs. You lift the thing up to your face…heaven. Then you just drop it in a little box and keep moving.

2. Pass cool, low- or no-alcohol drinks. At Southampton Hospital, Robbins Wolfe usually starts with champagne cocktails. It’s always sweltering, but the cold, sugary drink is a real lifter. Ditto Pimm’s Cup with fresh mint at Ascot in London. Where as normally I say that a well-lubricated crowd is a happy one, in the heat, your goal is to pace the lubrication.

3. Those spritzy misting fans in tents are great where they originated, in Las Vegas, where the dry, angry pavement sends heat up in waves. In most climates they just add to the humidity. Seems so obvious.

4. A chilled mug is a thing of joy. Why is it only beer gets this royal treatment?

5. Don’t forget sound and sight perception adds to the mix. If you can’t afford a fountain, which is like an auditory air conditioner, why not some ambient babbling brook noise? On the other hand, just looking at bright lights can add to the temperature. Make sure no bare bulbs are visible and summer candles (outdoor only, right?) are dimmed with colored glass vessels.

6. I believe in tons and tons of ice. Way more than you need. Fill giant metal or plastic containers—almost anything will do—and get the ice out from behind the bar and into the party. Fill the buckets with exotic beers, champagne splits, and colored sparkling waters and sodas. Helping themselves gets guests touching cold items and cooling off.

7. On a hot, hot night, a pool party can be such a tease. And I think candles floating in a pool is just about the dumbest thing going. They always look so dinky. For my pool, I use my dog, Turbo, for entertainment: He goes in for the ball tirelessly.  But my new trick is to buy a few funny battery powered toys at the pool store and throw them in one at a time. Give some kid a little cash and make it their project. Half of them don’t work and are a rip-off, which is part of the fun.

8. The still, warm air of a tent can be deadly, even worse with these stretchy latex numbers. God invented fans for a reason. And you know they work just as well outdoors as in, don’t you?

9. Old-fashioned folks, me included, don’t take off our jackets until the host does the same. Some hosts need to be reminded how this works.

10. Why not something cold and fresh on the way out, like a mini popsicle or a tiny cup of frozen yogurt to make the parking valet experience a little less monotonous?

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