I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published October 11th 2010
These days, everyone aspires to be famous. In between our addiction to technology and our never-ending Twitter banter, everyone is in search of his or her 15 minutes. You can have a little fun with it all by being the first of your friends to host a "dead celebrity" party, a hysterical take on our collective attraction to celebrity culture.
After all, who among us hasn't at one time or another hoped to become the next Kurt Cobain? Joey Ramone? Elvis? Marilyn Monroe? Mae West? James Dean? The list goes on and on. And just think the fun your guests will have not only planning their costumes, mannerisms, and catch phrases, but trying to guess who everyone is impersonating. Getting to watch them interacting with one another while in character is even better. And going to a party incognito enables those among us who are a little shy to have one hell of a conversation starter, especially considering how each person may either be very much like the deceased star or starlet in question, or a total departure from him or her.
Prepare for the party according to your individual budget. It will work just as successfully on a shoestring. If you have some cash on hand and can spring for decorations, keep it simple: Local party stores often carry celebrity-themed items, such as mini Oscars, director's clapboards, and film reels. If you prefer to do it yourself, break out the mirrors, toss around some glitter and confetti, hang a bunch of stars in different shapes from the ceiling, and create mock "spot lights" out of standing lamps. Balloons, when done in large quantities, can often make a room more festive for very little cash. Get a bunch of director's chairs and stencil the names of famous dead directors on the fabric. Make a mock "Hollywood" sign, or hang some classic film posters. To help bring it all together, decide on a color palette such as gold and black, silver and black, or black and white. You can even make your own Hollywood "Walk of Fame" by cutting out large stars and "engraving" them with famous names. Send invitations in the form of ticket stubs.
For entertainment, keep things interactive: Make a mock "red carpet" and have one or two people on hand act as "paparazzi" as your guests make their entrance. Encourage guests to perform as their celebrity. This takes a little pre-planning, but the results are well worth it. Plus, just a few planned performances often inspire others to improvise. Before long the entire party is swinging and everyone is having an amazing and memorable experience. Style part of the room as a "stage" (even better if your party room has an elevated section) with a karaoke machine, or working microphone, amplifier, and speakers. The set-up needn't be elaborate as long as there is one clear focal point and a way to hear each performer. Ensure that everyone has good visual sight lines and seating and choose one person to act as an emcee. Again, some of this requires pre-planning for the best possible outcome. If you have serious money to spend, consider hiring one or two real-life celebrity impersonators, but be sure that none of your guests are coming as the same person. (As everyone RSVPs, make sure they let you know which dead celebrity they'll be impersonating and have them commit to it.) For further entertainment ideas, you can have dead authors and poets read passages from major works, have dead stars and starlets act out a minute or two from famous film scenes, and more. Be creative. Give out awards for "Most Authentic," "Best Dressed," and "Most Original" costumes.
Keep the menu limited, but have servings in abundant amounts, enough to feed all your guests. Have plenty of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages on hand. Be sure that people who drink alcohol are also eating. A buffet is a great way to plan ahead. Just a few hot or cold dishes when kept at set temperatures over ice or heated chafing dishes can enable you to offer food for the duration of the evening. Be sure to decorate the buffet table lavishly with festive garnishes, flowers, or confetti, and have plenty of dishes, utensils, and napkins accessible so guests can eat and drink leisurely. That way you'll enjoy the party without worrying about serving food.
Finally, consider a timeline. Obviously guests can stay later (and often do) but you should have a clear idea of how the party should progress to avoid any lulls. The more thoughtful and excited you are about your party, the more effort your guests will make. Before long, the indulgent fantasy will come together and guests will be signing your praises for an encore.