According to Lerner and Loewe, we’re about to be firmly rooted in The Lusty Month of May. And while Camelot feels like a long way off (a really long way), there is still reason to celebrate: Season is officially over. No more being forced to valet at Whole Foods. No more traffic jams that seem to start 20 feet beyond your driveway. No more parties.
Yep, it’s true. If May is upon us, tradition tells us that it’s time to put away our corkscrews, our fancy attire and our sense of fun.
In fact, if there is one problem we have in this area, it’s that we tend to forget who we are once the roads clear and the party invitations stop arriving in the mail. Many of us assume the sidewalks get rolled up and so we hibernate. We tell ourselves we do that in an effort to recover from a fabulous season in which we partied too hard, spent too much and slept too little. I believe it was Hugh Hefner who said, “They wore me out. I’m tuckered.” Actually, it may not have been him.
But going cold turkey on the parties is not good for the digestive system or the funny bone. And so I have been called upon to give you some ideas on how to keep the party going, even though a surprisingly large number of people have left for Wisconsin. It seems almost unfathomable to enjoy anything without them. Well, to that I say, “Go get some Johnsonville sausage, a chunk of cheddar cheese and a piece of straw and it’ll be like they never left.” Of course, I’m kidding. They don’t all smell like sausage.
And yet the truth of the matter is that at this time of the year, we need to be a bit more resourceful than we may have had to be earlier in the year. We need to think outside of the box.
Oddly enough, I used to write a nationally syndicated column that was about this very topic—parties. Each week, in newspapers across the country, I would tell readers how to throw a party themed around their favorite television show. I could tell you how to purchase a plane fuselage for a Lost party, get a used ambulance for a party around Grey’s Anatomy, or throw an impromptu fashion show for an episode of Project Runway. Subtlety was not on the menu. In fact, the entire column covered all aspects of a party: the décor, the menu, the food, the music. It was perhaps the least-popular column in the history of newspapers, but no one seemed to notice for about five years, and by then I had a lucrative sponsorship deal with Chex Mix. (That’s a lie.)
But this time around, we’re just shooting for a nice, low-key get-together that will leave a smile on your face and a few extra pigs-in-a-blanket in your refrigerator.
In a throwback to days of yore, back when drinking and driving was far too prevalent, the cocktail party was king. And thanks to Uber, there has never been a better time to offer guests various types of liquid nourishment. In a perfect world, this event would look like a scene from Holly Golightly’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A real shindig.
And so, let’s start with whom you want to invite. Obviously, you’ll want to invite the late Mickey Rooney and ask him to come as an offensive ethnic stereotype. Ha ha. Just kidding. You’ll want to invite me and the rest of the staff at the magazine (because, of course you do), but first and foremost you want to invite people who are important to you—friends, family, bail bondsmen, etc. But you also want to include people you want to get to know better and who will bring an interesting viewpoint to the festivities. No point in trying to keep out the riffraff at this point. With season over, beggars cannot be choosers. Plus, you’ve already got magazine people there to skew the coolness quotient higher. But in all seriousness, the guest list is what makes a party go from dud to stud. Arabesque in Naples can help you work out the details on invitations made of actual paper. Yep, old-school.
Of course, even though I don’t think we should theme this party around Game of Thrones or The Big Bang Theory, it still behooves you to have a central sense of style from which to build upon, so let’s go mid-century modern and pretend it’s 1961 and Dean Martin is hosting everyone in a red cardigan. You’ll want to load up on the vinyl records (I suggest you find a copy of Mel Torme’s Swingin’ on the Moon) and keep someone stationed at the record player all night. Fort Myers has several good record stores worth checking out, including Echo Vintage Books & Vinyl, Joe’s Record Exchange and Record Trader 1. Of course, you can just fake it and download all the songs you want from iTunes—but if you don’t have at least one vintage album on display, no one in Wisconsin will feel bad about missing this party.
And while it would be great if all of your guests looked like extras from season one of Mad Men, we’re leaving it up to you to decorate in a manner that makes everyone reminisce about a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. The easiest thing to do would be to talk to an expert from Niche Event Rental, or even call event planners such as Soiree Atelier or Margaret Events. But the truly committed would head to Treasure Island and pick up some signature pieces that set the mood. They’ve always got some great mid-century items worth adding to your décor. Remember, we’re trying to do this on our own and with casual ease.
Of course, the real trick here is the next part of the process—buying the booze. For some reason, and I’m not judging here, Southwest Florida has an inordinate amount of shops loaded floor-to-ceiling with alcohol. Some are capable of selling you bottles of wine worthy of the Naples Winter Wine Festival or the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest. Others are Trader Joe’s. Still, nothing says “cocktail party” like bottles of liquor. So load up on the glassware and ice buckets and learn how to make a few classics (a host who makes the drinks is the coolest host) such as martinis, gimlets, gin and tonics, old fashioneds, etc. Everyone gets a drink as soon as they walk in the door and gets introduced to someone fabulous.
And if you’re lucky, a Lerner meets a Loewe.