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PARTIES

They'll Take Manhattan

In Gotham for the Republican National Convention, Delegates and Guests Aim to Party Hearty

By Jose Antonio Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 29, 2004; Page A27

This was a sure bet: Bring the Republican National Convention to the city that never sleeps and the parties won't stop, either.

New York City, after all, is the event capital of the world. There, that thankless task of event planning is an around-the-clock, $4 billion industry. (That's more than the gross domestic product of Haiti, Rwanda and more than 50 other developing countries.)


President Nixon gabs with singer Sammy Davis Jr., master of ceremonies at a youth rally that Nixon attended in Miami Beach just after being nominated for reelection in 1972. (AP)

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"There's about 200 parties and events, mostly private, going on every night," says David Adler, CEO of BizBash, the New York-based go-to clearinghouse that covers the event industry the way Women's Wear Daily covers the fashion industry. "Promoters are being very tight-lipped about their events. Usually, they want to tell the whole world about it. But between the terrorist threats and protesters, promoters are being extra careful about giving out too much information."

Republicans are indeed in hostile territory. For one, Democrats outnumber them 5 to 1 in the Big Apple, and Manhattan is synonymous with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Security is strict, with more than 10,000 local officers patrolling barricaded streets around Madison Square Garden. The officers have plenty to do. Protesters are at full cry today, among them the Paul Revere impersonators who plan nightly rides down Lexington Avenue crying, "The Republicans are coming! The Republicans are coming!"

They certainly are coming: more than 4,800 delegates with nearly 50,000 expected visitors between yesterday and Thursday.

Don't expect the GOP equivalent of a Ben Affleck or a Sarah Jessica Parker. Though the stars of the Republican Party will be ubiquitous -- with Sen. John McCain, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and New York's iconic Rudy Giuliani leading the way -- the convention is low on A-list celebrity wattage. So far, the confirmed stars are Michael W. Smith, the Gatlin Brothers, Ron Silver, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and former New York officer Daniel Rodriguez (billed as "America's Tenor").

But, of course, there's always Arnold.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Gov. George Pataki are hosting a welcoming party for the California and New York delegations tonight from 7 to 10. He'll attend a GOP brunch at Planet Hollywood on Wednesday, and he'll throw a VIP party at the Mandarin on Thursday night.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, no stranger to big parties himself, is hosting at least five soirees, three of which are for factions within the GOP. Early today he's co-hosting a brunch to honor the Latino Congressional Caucus at Gracie Mansion; later today he serves as honorary host to the Log Cabin Republican event at Bryant Park Grill; and Tuesday night he'll be at the Sky Club, hosting, with Bo Derek, a dinner for the Republican Majority Choice, a group that supports abortion rights.

Today, Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert will be honored by G. Richard Wagoner Jr., CEO of General Motors, at a 1-to-3 p.m. brunch at Tavern on the Green in Central Park West. Later tonight, California Rep. David Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee, who also serves as the convention's parliamentarian, will be honored at the Bowlmor Lanes and the Pressure Lounge with a "Big Apple Martinis" party from 9 to 12.

Monday, the opening salvo of the convention, will be especially busy. McCain is co-hosting, with former senator and "Law & Order" star Fred Thompson serving as emcee, a luncheon at Cipriani, where Giuliani will receive the Bob Hope Award. Tickets begin at $2,000 a person. From 6 to 8:30 p.m., Don Graham, CEO of The Washington Post Co., and Lally Weymouth, Rick Smith and Mark Whitaker of Newsweek will host the magazine's cocktail party at the Four Seasons Grill Room. General Motors, in one of a few events throughout the week, is hosting a cocktail buffet in honor of Sens. Lamar Alexander, Christopher Bond, Conrad Burns, Norm Coleman, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Pat Roberts and Jim Talent, featuring a performance by country singer Travis Tritt at the Hammerstein Ballroom from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

The Creative Coalition, the nonpartisan advocacy group, which hosted events at the Democratic convention, is hosting a book party for Ron Reagan's "If You Had Five Minutes With the President" Monday evening at Rockefeller Center.

Tuesday starts off with an 11 a.m. reception at the Marriott Marquis Hotel for first lady Laura Bush hosted by the Alexandria-based FEDPAC, a political action committee organized in 2004 to build on the work of the National Federation of Republican Women. The Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, will introduce their mother, and former first lady Barbara Bush will also attend. Later that night, at the New York Yacht Club, Frist will be honored at the "Celebrate the Spirits of New York" party hosted by the Weekly Standard, the Economist, Roll Call and the Distilled Spirits Council. ("Please enjoy spirits responsibly," the invite reads.) One of the most anticipated events is the spoof on the New York institution that is "Saturday Night Live." McCain and his wife, Cindy, will host "Live From New York . . . It's Wednesday Night!" at Cipriani 42nd Street from 10:30 to 1:30, with "SNL" regular Darrell Hammond.

The following day, the Israel Project -- "a new, national nonprofit organization devoted to promoting security, freedom and peace by educating the public about Israel," reads the invite -- is throwing a party on board Mariner III from 6 to 8 p.m., docking at Chelsea Piers.

The official party kicked off last night, with a media bash for journalists at the new Time Warner building at Columbus Circle.

Immediately afterward, the GOP's opposition launched the Imagine Festivals' "Unofficial, Uncensored Welcome Party" at Crobar New York on West 28th Street. It's the hottest ticket in town, at least celebritywise. The festival, which runs through Thursday, will present nearly 200 performances, events and exhibits that explore "the critical issues facing the nation," with participants including Richard Gere, Margaret Cho, Tony Kushner, Yoko Ono, Marisa Tomei, Moby, Gloria Steinem and E.L. Doctorow.

It's not just liberal showbiz, though, but liberal New York, says Michael Musto, nightlife columnist for the Village Voice.

"I still can't believe the Republicans chose New York! I mean, half of the people here are heading for the hills to avoid the influx of Republicans, and the other half is going to party even harder in response."

But the Republicans are hoping to have the last laugh.

The Laugh Factory in Times Square has booked a pro-Republican comedy fest, "The Right Stuff," through Thursday. "Politically conservative stand-up comics are finally coming out of the closet!" reads the event's Web site. "They are sick and tired of hiding their political beliefs and feelings just to fit in the liberal world of showbiz."


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