Marla Mase, who founded the kids’ event-planning company Party Poopers in 1991, had long wanted to start a division for adults’ parties—after all, she had been throwing them here and there for years. “I kept thinking I should make it official,” she said. “I racked my brain for names of who I could work with. Then I met Loretta.”
While Loretta Lester didn’t have professional event-planning experience, she was no stranger to creating an atmosphere, having been a buyer at ABC Carpet & Home, where she did collaborative work with merchandizers.
The new division, Party Swank, officially launched at the beginning of October. The women say that kids’ and adults’ parties aren’t all that different, at least from the organizer’s point of view: For both, you have to think about venue, theme, decor, and casting. “The difference is in the approach,” said Marla. “With kids, there are a certain number of options that are always popular—princesses, pirates, Disney movies. If you’re four years old, you love superheroes.” Adults, however, are more likely to want to do something different.
For kids’ parties, the challenge is to find entertainment that speaks to kids but is also sophisticated enough for adults to enjoy it. That’s where the casting comes in. As we chatted at Loretta’s Seaport apartment—they’re working out of their homes (Marla lives on Duane)—it became clear that they have fantastic Rolodexes. Among the types of performers that were mentioned: Broadway singers, belly dancers, clowns (“When I say ‘clown,’ I mean French-trained physical comedian”), pole dancers, mentalists, tarot readers, even snake handlers. “For a recent adult party, the client wanted a snake,” recalled Marla. “They were doing a Russian theme, and they had that famous Nastassja Kinski photo in mind. Well, I know all the snake people. I actually got her a couple yellow snakes to choose from.” Too bad the restaurant wouldn’t allow it.
I asked what the trends are these days for adults’ parties, and Loretta said Middle Eastern is hot: “People want that Marrakech feel, with Moroccan food and belly dancers. It’s exotic and fun and different.” Other themes: Mad Men and (separately) gangsters. “Cool original bands are also popular,” said Marla. Having only thrown one party in Tribeca—a story I’ll share for another day—I was curious which Tribeca venues the women had worked at. They mentioned Tribeca Rooftop, City Winery, Tribeca Cinemas, Locanda Verde‘s private room, Greenhouse, and the downstairs room at City Hall.
Concerned that this was all sounding grander than you might be envisioning for your next get-together, Loretta pointed out that you can hire Party Swank or Party Poopers à la carte. “We’re happy to do the whole party, from top down,” she said. “Actually, we’re thrilled to do that. But we can also just do the entertainment, the invitations, the favors, the lighting, the staffing—whatever it is you need help with.” Even if all you’re looking for is a snake.