Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium launch party
Andy Warhol regretted not being able to attend Yves Saint Laurent’s “big, glamorous YSL Opium party,” which should tell you just how ridiculous and amazing the million-dollar affair was. To celebrate the launch of his new fragrance in 1978, which created controversy amongst Chinese-American groups and was banned in several countries, the designer threw an exotic yacht party in New York City. More than 800 people attended, including Diana Vreeland, Cher, and Truman Capote. Guests were greeted by a 1,000-pound Buddha, Chinese temples, the sweet smell of 2,000 Hawaiian orchids, and fireworks.
Elton John’s 50th birthday party
English piano man Elton John turned 50 in 1997 and did what every flamboyant celebrity would do to celebrate: he dressed up like Louis XIV and invited 500 of his famous friends to an over-the-top soirée. The singer’s outrageous costume included a wig so massive that he had to ride to the party in a moving truck — seated on a custom velvet and gold throne, mind you.
Andy Warhol’s parties at the Factory
Like-minded artists, celebrities, and beautiful people headed to the Factory in the 1960s and ‘70s for drugs, sex, and rubbing elbows with Andy and his elite group of superstars. The Factory was covered in aluminum foil and silver paint (even the toilet bowl) — part snarky social statement, part amphetamine logic. The loft at 231 East 47th Street hosted hundreds of partygoers who practically lived at Andy’s studio, but the landlord sent Warhol a letter in 1965 putting the kibosh on the fun. Something tells us Andy didn’t pay it any mind.
ELK REALTY, INC. 1107 BROADWAY NEW YORK, N. Y. 10010 AREA CODE 212 WATKINS 4-3560
November 15, 1965
Mr. Andy Warhol 231 East 47 Street New York, New York
Dear Mr. Warhol:
We have been advised that you have been giving parties in the fourth floor space occupied by you. We understand that they are generally large parties and are held after usual office hours. We have found that your guests have left debris and litter in the public areas which you have never bothered to clean. Further, we feel that a congregation of the number of people such as you have had may be contrary to various applicable governmental rules and regulations and also might present a serious problem with the Fire Department regulations.
Your lease, of course, does not permit such use and occupancy and you hereby directed not to have any such parties in this building.
Very truly yours,
ELK REALTY, INC., Agents
Alfred R. Goldstein President
Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball
Breakfast at Tiffany’s author Truman Capote hosted a lavish masquerade ball in 1966 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The $16,000 party took three months for Capote to plan, and the evening became the stuff of legends. Inspired by the “Ascot scene” from the My Fair Lady, the elegant Black and White Ball was accented with splashes of red and gold, and all the guests (540 of them) — including Mia Farrow, Frank Sinatra, Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams, Sammy Davis Jr., and several Kennedys — wore masks. The writer published In Cold Blood earlier that year and had established himself in New York’s social scene, but the gathering was cleverly disguised self-promotion. Where there are celebrities, drama is sure to erupt. “Tallulah Bankhead insulted Norman Mailer, Lauren Bacall spurned eager dance partners, and the host himself tried to physically block the exit when Frank Sinatra and then-wife Mia Farrow departed at midnight, [prompting may of the guests to follow them out the door].”
The parties of Comte Etienne de Beaumont
International scenesters Gerald and Sara Murphy were the party. Wealthy and fabulous, the Murphys palled around with Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Jean Cocteau, Picasso, and other famous artists and writers of the time when they moved to the French Riviera in the 1920s from New York City. Their famous parties were rivaled by friend Comte Etienne de Beaumont, who was the center of Parisian society and known for his extravagant gatherings designed by avant-garde figures of the time. He was a patron of the arts and financed several films, ballets, and theatrical productions. This photo, taken by mutual friend Man Ray, shows the Murphys at Comte Etienne de Beaumont’s Automotive Ball in 1924, held at the Théâtre La Cigale.
The Playboy Roller Disco & Pajama Party
Oh, if only the Playboy Mansion could talk… The famous party pad of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner and his Bunnies has been a magnet for celebrities and wealthy wanderers from all over the world. The magazine reached its peak during the 1970s, which is when this absurd Playboy Roller Disco & Pajama Party kicked off. The 1979 bash was turned into an ABC special, hosted by Family Feud’s Richard Dawson. Brace for disco, slow-mo bikini shots, a whole lot of saxophone, and terrible jokes.
The parties at Studio 54
Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager’s New York nightclub Studio 54 was the place to be during the 1970s. During one New Year’s Eve shindig, owners poured four tons of glitter onto the dance floor. Bianca Jagger rode a white horse into the club for her 30th birthday. Andy Warhol also celebrated his birthday there, gifted with a bin full of dollar bills. It was the center of disco and celebrity nightlife, and offered musicians like Madonna, Duran Duran, and Run-DMC a chance to perform before they became famous.
Frank Sinatra’s Farralone home
Rat Pack icon Frank Sinatra lived in the Farralone house, conveniently close to Los Angeles and Malibu, which drew Hollywood celebs like Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, and the Farralone’s most famous guest, Marilyn Monroe. The 50-foot swimming pool was the site of the blonde bombshell’s last photo shoot, and the guesthouse was reportedly the place she rendezvoused with President John F. Kennedy. Known as the “Great Glass Mansion,” Sinatra’s 10,000 square-foot party palace has also hosted several films and television series, such as Mad Men and Bewitched.
The Ballets Russes Les noces party
The groundbreaking artistry of Sergei Diaghilev’s ballet company, known as the Ballets Russes, drew prestigious choreographers, composers, and designers from across the globe — including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Coco Chanel. The opening night party (thrown by Gerald and Sara Murphy) celebrating the company’s performance of Igor Stravinsky’s Les Noces took place on a dining barge floating on the Seine in Paris. Picasso reportedly rearranged the table centerpieces for laughs.
The 1937 costume party at Hearst Castle
Publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst, whose life was the inspiration behind Citizen Kane, was known to be a serious and somewhat aloof man, but he married a true party girl. He had a longtime affair with actress Marion Davies, who charmed fellow stars by hosting elaborate parties (many that lasted for days) at the 118-room castle and the couple’s Santa Monica beach house. In 1937, she threw a circus-themed bash that featured a full-size merry-go-round and even saw guest Bette Davis (one of 2,000 people who attended) dressed as a bearded lady.