Something Good #67: On Partying
Here are some parties I would have liked to have attended:
In 1520, kings Henry VIII and François I (of England and France, respectively), met for a three-week rave near Calais. Meant to express bonds of comity and friendship between the two rulers, the monarchs’ barely-submerged competitiveness meant that each were willing to do whatever it cost to outshine each other. The English built a temporary palace, complete with stained glass; the French erected mighty, gorgeous tents of gold-woven silk (the whole event has gone down in history as the Field of the Cloth of Gold).
Each side brought about 6,000 guests and servants. There were jousting matches, archery competitions and wrestling matches. Approximately 100,000 eggs were consumed (as well as around 30,000 fish and hundreds of thousands of gallons of wine). According to the above source:
On average, feasts consisted of three courses made up of around 50 different dishes. Items on offer ranged from swans and peacocks bred by the wealthy—the exotic birds were feathered, cooked, redressed in their own plumage and gilded in gold—to venison pie, candied orange peels, pears in wine, fruit jellies, Tudor wafers, a spiced drink called Hippocras, gingerbread, porpoises and even a dolphin.
The whole thing ended with a Burning-Man-esque display as a gigantic kite, in the shape of a dragon, took to the skies. Within two years, France and England would be at war.
In 1987, Freddie Mercury brought 700 friends to the legendary Pikes Hotel on the island of Ibiza for his 41st birthday party. Among them, reportedly: Tony Curtis, Naomi Campbell, Elton John and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
350 bottles of Moët & Chandon were consumed; servers bore trays of cocaine to sweaty guests. The fireworks display could be viewed from something like 115km away.
The Freddie Mercury birthday party is still celebrated every year on the island.
The New Year’s Eve party in Phantom Thread.
The Bal des Quat’z’Arts was an annual celebration held by horny Parisian art students every year from 1892 to 1966. Nakedness, lewdness and drunken costumed revelry were the order of the day; there were parades, floats which took months to construct. When model Sarah Brown—known as the “Queen of the Bohemians”—was arrested for public nudity, the students rioted.
The last party at New York’s legendary Paradise Garage, presided over by messiah-level DJ Larry Levan, lasted three days. His mom was there. I was not, but even I know that nightlife has not been the same since.
What is a party? What is it to party? Both noun and verb, it can mean many things. An intimate dinner with friends; an uncomfortable faculty event; a mindless rager with thousands of inebriated celebrants. You can party with buddies; you can party by yourself.
Venetians partied regularly for 600 years, until their beloved Carnival was prohibited by Emperor Francis II in 1797; about 200 years later, in 1979, they finally brought it back. The priests and priestesses of the Eleusinian Mystery cult drank kykeon and probably partied. We have party gods—hello, Dionysus—who bring both blessings and horrific consequences, sacred hangovers.
Something in the way we are built drives us, once in a while, to go completely out of our minds. Baudelaire: “You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk. But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.”
It was, I want to say, 2006, and my social life was my life. If I had a hobby, it was throwing parties, inhabiting some grubby loft space or bar for a night, renting self-powered speakers from Moog Audio, getting a beer sponsorship, inviting people, hoping they showed up, playing loud music when they did, spending the next day blearily cleaning up.
I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but myself and a few friends were offered the chance to throw a party at a new loft space in a then-largely-abandoned area of town which today sports a shiny new university campus. I remember we had competition; a famous (at least in our neck of the woods) French rapper was playing a show that night, and there was going to be an after-party.
The day of the parties, the organizer of the rapper after-party reached out and told us that since he hadn’t bothered to publicize his own event, could he just merge with ours? Since we were trying to make a few bucks off this whole thing, we said no.
That night, the party was in full swing. The music was extremely loud; we didn’t care, although years later my raging tinnitus would be a cause for some regrets (fun always has a price). The crowd was packed and heaving. As I mingled and got ready for my DJ set, one of the people we’d hired to work the door approached and told me there was somebody who wanted to talk to me outside.
I feared cops, but it was actually the opposite of cops: a stringy-haired drug dealer selling hash brownies was waiting for me by the door. Why had he asked for me? Well, he didn’t want to pay the $5 door charge to come in and peddle his weed sweets, so he was wondering if I would just buy them all from him and re-sell them myself. Years later, the audacity of this guy, who objected to having to pay five bucks for the privilege of selling drugs to my friends, still amazes me. And yet, I bought a brownie from him for myself.
I remember him warning me that it would take 45 minutes for the hash to kick in. I remember not heeding that warning and eating it, then running back onstage to DJ for 45 minutes. Everything seemed fine until I stepped off the stage.
Then, a small commotion at the door.
The French rapper was here. And he had brought company.
With the other party, the “official” after-party, a complete bust, the rapper and his entourage had arrived to take control of our party. I watched, completely out of my mind and helpless, as they took the stage and took control of the DJ booth.
OK, OK, this was fine. This was going to be OK.
An indeterminate amount of time passed.
Seb, one of the other DJs I had organized the party with, ran up to me in a panic. Not only had the French rapper taken over our party, someone in his group had made it clear that in doing so, it was understood that they were also entitled to the door proceeds as well.
What the hell were we going to do?
I felt like I didn’t have any other choice. I made my way through the heaving crowd to the door, opened the cash box, stuffed the wads of 5s and 10s and 20s down the front of my pants (not totally sure why I pulled that exact move) and ran out into a snowstorm. I stumbled home to my apartment, where I literally hid under my sheets, worried that somebody was going to knock down my door and demand the cash.
Nobody ever did.
It’s been a while since I posted a #nojacketsrequired, but I’m hoping to get the whole thing back on track. First off, this lovely contribution from Julia H; I actually own this edition, but in paperback, so I could never even have guessed at the lovely inscription beneath. As always, send your finds to me directly at email@example.com.
In You Can Live Forever news: we have a gorgeous new poster designed by my friend Ohara Hale, her fourth collaboration with me (and first with Sarah and I!) We have screened at Tribeca and Outfest in L.A., and will shortly screen as the closing night film at aGLIFF in Austin—where we will be attending. We have many more festivals and exciting pieces of news to announce soon.
The film’s completely unexpected odyssey through the internet continues; we have been fan-translated and subtitled into Portuguese, Chinese, Vietnamese and I believe Russian? We have over 1,000 Letterboxd reviews, which, for a film that has shown publicly about six times, is fairly wild. Many, many fan edits, fan art and even fan fiction. I will probably have to write an entire newsletter about this one day. All to say, we are very grateful and look forward to sharing the film even more this fall.
Bonus track (read the comments):
Postscript to the above story: Apparently, after I left, somebody tried to grab the cash box and run off with it, but was literally tackled by the other promoter—the interloper! They didn’t get anything either way though.
I’ve been a bit absent due to travel and movie commitments, but I have some upcoming SG issues that I am very excited about; do expect posting frequency to be more monthly than weekly for the rest of the year, however. As always, if you like what you read here, please tell a friend or subscribe below:
Lovely stuff throughout. That Baudelaire quotation is a gem.