Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A birthday spectacle like I've never seen

Gina's graduate school roommate, Cathy, is turning 40. Her husband, one of the founders of a large hotel operating company, decided to throw her a huge surprise party. They live in Old Greenwich, CT, and held the party at a New York boutique hotel, the SoHo Grand.

Gina and Cathy and their other two roommates still get together for girls' weekends every year or two, but other than that our families don't really interact that much. However, I was intrigued to go to it, mostly to see the spectacle.

And what spectacle it was.

The day started with a small group of friends joining Cathy for some beauty pampering. This was the diversion to let Cathy think that her birthday was going to be a more low-key affair. Given that they booked the penthouse suite of another boutique hotel, the Tribeca Grand, for the day and brought in all of the stylists and equipment from a smoking hot local salon (whose clients include Gwynneth, Gisele, and several other name-dropping-worthy celebs), I'm not sure "low-key" was achieved.

120 of Cathy's closest friends gathered at the Grand Lounge at the Soho Grand (all rooms were gratis), where we started eating and drinking at 6. Delicious appetizers, including one of my favorites, caviar, were served by lovely young women dressed as elves. That is, the kind of elves Santa needs if he's only giving lingerie this year. The birthday girl arrived promptly at 6:30.

At 8, we moved to a different room where dinner was served, including lamb chops, seared beef, salmon, sushi bento boxes, on and on. As we were eating, we were treated to a brief performance by the Manhattan Transfer, who stopped by on their way to another concert. The freakin' Manhattan Transfer!

At 10, we moved up to the penthouse suite, where we were treated to yet a third round of food, including White Castle style 'sliders,' crab cakes, and on and on (again). The elves accompanied us upstairs and were joined by some go-go dancing elves, wearing even less and platform dancing to the live R&B band.

At 11, we were treated to a video montage of Cathy's life and a three-tier cake that looked remarkably like a wedding cake.

At 12, the police arrived to shut down the band because neighbors were complaining from the street, 17 floors below.

At this point, Gina and I were beat. Please recognize that we were still on Colorado time, so our biological clocks were screaming that it was almost 10:30, far past our bedtime. We went down to our room, which happened to be on the 16th floor, directly below the party. Gina claims that she woke up at 2 to lots of screaming upstairs, so I guess it went at on at least until then. I did not wake up to share the experience with her.

Oddly, the whole spectacle had much the same feel as a wedding. Probably the most enjoyable aspect for me was to see the Connecticut couples that lead such different lives than I do. For instance, we heard several conversations comparing nannies and discussing corporate mergers and acquisitions, and not a single one debating carbon fiber versus titanium road bikes.

I truly appreciate the opportunity to attend the spectacle, and it was good to catch up with some old friends. For my 40th birthday, Gina took me to dinner with about four other couples that we're close to, and it was one of the most memorable evenings of my life. Memorable for quality moments shared with good friends, not for the Manhattan Transfer and caviar. That's really more my style.
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