Sunday, July 12, 2009

Party Girl

By Lisabet Sarai

I thought long and hard about what to say about Helen’s topic this week, “Other Talents”. My first notion was to introduce Salisha, my belly dancing alter-ego who existed long before Lisabet hit the scene. Then I realized that I’d already discussed my dancing in an earlier post. I could talk about the fact that I’m a genius computer programmer. I find software development incredibly exciting, but for most readers that would be about as sexy as income taxes. I can sing, draw, and cook. However, I don’t think I can compete with Helen or Donna George Storey. Then it hit me, my special talent that is simultaneously amusing and unusual.

I throw a mean party.

For me, organizing a party is a sublimely creative endeavor. Decorations, invitations, music, food and drink, games and activities, each aspect gives me a chance to express myself in a concrete way. I take entertainment extremely seriously.

Even as a shy teenager, the class nerd with the coke bottle glasses, I loved parties. In high school, a girlfriend and I threw a “computer matchmaking” party in her basement rec room. You must understand that this was a long time before any of us had ever seen a computer! We carefully selected an equal number of guys and girls and had each one fill out a questionnaire. Then we produced simulated punched cards encoding each person’s responses and used the traditional knitting needle approach to identify the couples whose responses were most similar, and hence were the most compatible. We didn’t spend much time on the decorations for that party, once we made sure that the couches were comfortable, since we planned to keep the lighting dim.

In college I lived in a dorm and didn’t have the opportunity to exercise my talent much, but in grad school I came into my own. I lived in a group house with five men. (There are lots of stories there, but I’ll save them for another post!) I’ll never forget the Hotel California Party we put together. It began at 9PM with pink champagne on ice and ran until dawn, when we served tequila sunrises. We weren’t able to install mirrors on the ceilings, but we didn’t need them.

At my first job out of graduate school, I was elected president of the company “entertainment committee”. I had a $20,000 annual budget to support events to amuse the thousand odd employees. Talk about heaven! I organized a Las Vegas night, a family barbecue with balloons and clowns and one-legged races, a boat trip to a local island. I got a bit spoiled!

Of course, all that entertainment had to be G-rated. Once I met my husband, our parties became spicier. I love costumes, the wilder the better. For years, our Halloween bashes were legendary. At one point, we were active in a group dedicated to open relationships, and threw an erotic costume party for our closest friends. I dressed as a mermaid, in a green satin “tail” I had created, bare-breasted except for loose fishnet and shell necklaces. My husband was a satyr, wearing horns and hairy pants that I’d fashioned from a brown plush bath rug. The other guests’ attire was equally provocative.

Our wedding was perhaps the most elaborate party we’ve ever organized. We gathered our seventy guests in a woodland clearing, at the edge of a small lake. We made banners emblazoned with personal symbols - a cat, a dragon, a yin/yang sign, the Hebrew characters for “life” - and hung them from the tree branches. I sewed the scarlet dress that I wore under my white sari. With some help from family and close friends, we prepared the food: Indonesian satay, lasagna, gazpacho, salads, homemade bread. For two months before the event, we had a Gantt chart up in my husband’s workshop, to help us coordinate our activities.

The night before the wedding, we threw a coed stag party for selected friends. There was a cake embellished with a naked couple fashioned from white chocolate. We gave out adult party favors. The women belly danced while the men watched. We played half-naked Twister. The air crackled with erotic possibilities, and in fact, late in the evening, I stumbled upon a threesome in one of the bedrooms, a close woman friend and a couple, each of whom had flown in from distant cities to grace our nuptials. I was a bit embarrassed. On the other hand, this was a sure sign that the party was a success!

Not all of our parties were rated X. When we moved from our apartment into our first house, we held a “House Cooling Party” with a tropical theme. Before we left for our two-year stint working in Bangkok, our friends joined us at a “Jet Set” party. I built a replica of an airport security gate out of silver-backed foam insulation boards and set it outside the front door. We rented chrome-plated champagne coolers and serving dishes for a luxury effect. I wore a hot-pink gown with a plunging neckline, and pearls.

At some point, we must have had a science-fiction-themed party, because I vividly remember concocting a drink that I called “Blue Venusian Brew”. It was a vodka-based punch made with fresh blueberries, served in a transparent fish bowl. It must have been quite a party, because I don’t remember anything else!

As we’ve gotten older, our parties have become less frequent. Our friends became more conservative, especially as they began to have kids. People left town, or become too busy. I did organize an eightieth birthday bash for my father, which we managed to keep secret despite the fact that about fifty people attended. We held the party as his favorite sea-side restaurant, in a glass-walled room with gorgeous views of the ocean. It was a huge success. Guess I haven’t lost my touch.

Just a few weeks ago, we moved into a new apartment. I loved this place the first time I looked at it. It has an enormous living room and a big kitchen with tons of counter space. The first thing I thought of was, “This will be a great place to entertain.”

I’m planning a housewarming for next month!


  1. Throwing a good party is a great talent. I have some of the instincts/genes, but usually, it takes the combined efforts of my sister and I to throw a great party. One year we threw a "Cleopatra" party - dressed up like Egyptians and Greeks, filled the house with middle eastern cuisine (not exactly authentic, but still delicious) and had a bunch of friends and family over to watch the Criterion Collection edition of Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison.

    It can be a lot of work, but getting ready for the parties is often a lot of fun too.

    So, when's the housewarming party, Lisabet?

  2. Sounds like you do have a wonderful talent as a party girl! You know, that's not what kind of a party girl I was thinking when I saw it was Your reputation precedes you!

    Thanks for sharing, have a great week!

  3. That is a fun talent!! Took me back to some shindigs I've thrown. Your wedding sounded awesome!


  4. Lisabet - great topic and FUN WEDDING! (no wonder you guys are still going strong some 20-something years later!)Party-throwing is indeed a creative skill, one I don't participate in enough. You've reminded me of how much I need to throw a summer party! Mary Kennedy Eastham, Author, 'The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget' and the upcoming novel, 'Night Surfng'

  5. Oh, this sounds like so much fun, Lisabeth. I have a feeling it's going to be a very informative week.

    Nekkid twisters. Sigh


  6. Hi, Angela,

    Yes, putting a party together takes serious work. But the preparations are often as much fun as the gathering itself.

    Jenna - the title was deliberate. And not completely inappropriate in its other sense either (LOL).

    Hello, Lisa -
    Maybe you can share some of your party adventures!

    Hi, Mary,

    Our wedding was definitely a hippie classic. But it was 100% ours. Cheap, too!

    Hello, Jude,

    Come on, the Twister game was only half-naked! A few weeks ago, when we were packing to move, my husband proposed that maybe we should chuck the Twister game. Even though I'm so arthritic these days that I can barely put on my stockings, I vetoed the plan! Who knows what the future might hold.

    Thanks to all for your comments!


  7. Wow, and I thought I was a party girl!

    The pictures were wonderful!


  8. Lisabet!

    Okay, late comment. When I was reading your post it reminded me of my Dad and step mom Lavonne. Lavonne is in a kitschy rock n roll group called "The Wildcats". They've evn got a couple of studio CDs. But Dad and Lavonne were a party throwing couple, unfortunately long after I left the scene so I never had the chance to learn from them. Religion sucks when it comes to fun stuff. I've steered my kid away from it, because I want him to have his share of party throwing too. I think parties are nurturing.

    That was YOU in that picture? Now we know what you look like. Whoa.


  9. Lisabet,

    I know I'm late on this but I just wanted to wish you every happiness in your new home.


  10. Late to the party again, but I just wanted to say that throwing a creative party is an impressive talent and definitely brings joy to the world. I was entertained just reading about all the bacchanals--and I wanted to go back in time and attend! There's plenty of material for stories here, indeed. And if you need cookies for your next bash, sign me up, as long as I can dress up and dance, too :-).

  11. What a fun post! I love dressing up too and quite appreciate a Halloween party opportunity to do so. :)

    Thanks for sharing!


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