A Hollywood Party Planner Who Isn’t Instagram-Obsessed


Every good Los Angeles story has a big break. Ms. Oren’s came in 2001 when she landed Jason Bateman’s wedding to Amanda Anka (though pre-“Arrested Development”). Three years later she found herself at Kevin Costner’s Colorado ranch arranging the actor’s nuptials to Christine Baumgartner (though post-“Waterworld”). Still. A celebrity is a celebrity regardless of where they land on the bell curve of fame.

As Hollywood types dipped into their Rolodex on Ms. Oren’s behalf, her acolytes skewed more notable: Reese Witherspoon, Anne Hathaway, Donna Langley, Mariska Hargitay, Drew Barrymore, Adam Levine, Natalie Portman, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson.

The list goes on. Try cajoling names out of Ms. Oren, though, and she’ll deflect. (She says her events end up in the tabloids only when stars or their guests share information of their own accord.) With clients dropping a minimum of $2,000 per guest, no precaution is too outrageous: code names, confidentiality agreements, casual espionage. Whatever prevents the paparazzi from showing up with long lenses.

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Laura Austin for The New York Times

“She is not someone who just plans for people,” Ms. Barrymore said in an email. “She is reliable and respected. She’s tough, and you know she’s got your back.”

Ms. Oren has 10 people on her staff full time, though she will sometimes bring on up to 40 part-time employees depending on a party’s scope. (Earlier this year, Ms. Oren filed a lawsuit against a former employee, one she had promoted to managing partner, after their business relationship dissolved. The suit is being arbitrated.)

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Laura Austin for The New York Times

The parties may take place in the middle of a desert, in an art gallery or on a private yacht. Sometimes events have themes (“One of our favorite clients had a New Year’s Eve party and was like, ‘Let’s do a little Marie Antoinette situation,’” Ms. Oren said), but most are an extension of the customer. “The more you know about them, the more you know about the type of event they’d throw,” she said. “Are these people who would go to Tangier or Istanbul? Tulum or Cabo? What kind of hotels do they stay in? I take in what they wear, I look how they decorate their house.”

Ms. Oren’s clients often have sizable requests, but it helps that they usually have the budget to match. One three-day “Bohemian Burning Man”-inspired event in Mexico required her to hire a team of local macramé artisans. In planning a bar mitzvah for twins, she had mirror images of their silhouettes printed onto invitations, custom guitar picks and the two sides of a Ping-Pong table. “If I had to do the same thing over and over again in three of the same hotel ballrooms or ugly country clubs, this would not be appealing,” she said.

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Laura Austin for The New York Times

Maha Dakhil and Michael Kives, both agents at Creative Artists Agency, hired Ms. Oren to work with the agency’s in-house events group to produce its Oscar party. “On our first phone call, she declared that our party needed to be held at Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery,” Mr. Kives said of Ms. Oren in an email. “People are still talking about how she turned each room into a different sensation.”

Ms. Oren is not a yes-person. “We would have an idea, and Yifat would be quick to tell us we were wrong,” Ms. Dakhil said. “She is so assertive about her vision, and her confidence gave us great confidence.”

The dinner held in Ms. Citrone’s backyard was low key by Ms. Oren’s standards, but had a celebratory spirit. “My whole thing is celebrating life,” she said. “Every year something happens. Someone gets sick, or God forbid, someone gets divorced or dies. So here it is, another summer, and I’m so happy I get to do this. I just love a good party.”

Five Tips for Giving a Summer Party

LIGHT IT UP Candles are not enough. “You have to do some sort of lighting outside. The simplest is string lights — buy them at Home Depot, Amazon Prime them, whatever you need to do,” Ms. Oren said.

PLAY HOST “To really be a wonderful host, receive your guests, greet them — and put a cocktail in their hand.”

HAVE A MENU STRATEGY “If you’re not going to hire a caterer, put a menu together that’s room-temp. Then you’re not going to freak out about the timing.”

RAISE A GLASS “At some point you have to reel it in and give a good toast. You don’t have to be very formal, but clink your glasses, thank people, be a gracious human. Be jovial and anecdotal, but do not go on and on.”

TAKE A SEAT “I love a good seated dinner. I’m really big on seating the right people together: who can bring out the best in each other? And don’t let dinner go on too long. No one likes to be stuck at the table. Finish and get the party started.”

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