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Partying With Taxing Precision

Carrie Jones and Michael Karlan go over details of a New Year's Eve party at the French Embassy as Aiah Babonjo lays the dance floor. The embassy bash is one of two planned for tonight by Karlan, founder of the social network Professionals in the City. About 800 guests are expected at the embassy.
Carrie Jones and Michael Karlan go over details of a New Year's Eve party at the French Embassy as Aiah Babonjo lays the dance floor. The embassy bash is one of two planned for tonight by Karlan, founder of the social network Professionals in the City. About 800 guests are expected at the embassy. (Photos By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)

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By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 31, 2006

Michael Karlan is throwing not one, but two glitzy New Year's bashes tonight. For 1,700 people.

At the French Embassy, guests in glittering gowns and dapper tuxes will sip bottomless glasses of champagne, take mini-lessons in French and dance the New Year in while mimes stroll.

Downtown at the Washington Plaza hotel, hundreds of young professionals will venture into "A Social Experience" -- a Madonna impersonator, massage seminars, speed-dating, a caricaturist.

The galas, Karlan said, cost him "one hundred thou each."

Karlan, 38, is an expert party guy, founder of the social network Professionals in the City. He takes partying to an exponential degree, hosting about 1,000 mixers and social seminars each year. He has about 40 employees in six cities and an e-mail list 140,000 names long.

"I almost take it for granted now," said Karlan, who talks at breakneck speed and rarely stops smiling, referring to his role as social architect and matchmaker for Washington.

Who is this bon vivant?

He works at home alone. He shuns phone calls. His roommate is a cat. He is single and has a few close friends. He is a former IRS tax lawyer who has published articles with such titles as "Cash or Deferred Arrangements, Matching Contributions, and Employee Contributions."

Yes, Washington, the tax man is throwing your parties.

And his key to a good party, of course, involves crunching numbers. He has partygoers rate every event's features and then ruthlessly axes all but the best-rated.

The Life Behind the Party

Growing up on Long Island, N.Y., Karlan figured he would be an entrepreneur but not this kind. He says he is shy. His party persona, he thinks, has always been his way of compensating.

He lives in a small apartment in Van Ness, with soft white carpet and simple, Storehouse-style furniture. In his bedroom -- his office -- are the two computers he sits at and answers 700 e-mails all day from clients and staff members, who run most of the parties. On a bookshelf are Spanish flashcards, which he has been studying since going on a recent trip to Medellin, Colombia, one of his first vacations in years. Every morning, he wakes about 10 and runs about five miles to the White House and back, Spanish lessons playing on his iPod.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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