Composer Igor Stravinsky loved to have a good time with his friends. On his 80th birthday, several people threw parties for him — one person invited him over for cocktails, another person invited him over for dinner, and so on. When all the little parties were over, he said, “Well, that was marvelous. Thank you very much. I’m going home.” The other people said, “Very well,” so he asked, “Isn’t anyone else going home?” They said no, for they were going out again to get drinks and perhaps do some dancing. Mr. Stravinsky then said, “What? You think that I’m going home to bed when all the rest of you are going out on the town?”
Big, important events sometimes conflict with everyday events. When Madeleine Albright learned that she would be named United States Secretary of State, she needed to fly out to Arkansas to meet with President Bill Clinton before the news of the appointment was made public. That meant that she had to call up everybody she had invited to a party and disinvite them. Fortunately, once the announcement that Ms. Albright would be the next Secretary of State was made, everybody understood why she had cancelled the party.
At a BBC Light Entertainment Christmas party, Monty Python member Graham Chapman started crawling around the floor biting people’s ankles. This joke started to get out of hand, so Monty Python TV director Ian MacNaughton went over to him and said, “Graham, can you just select whose ankles you bite?” Mr. Chapman stood up, brushed himself off, said, “I get the picture, old boy,” and behaved like a gentleman during the rest of the party.
As a famous opera singer, Geraldine Farrar had her share of invitations to parties just so she could provide entertainment. At one such party, the hostess requested of her, “Dear little songbird, do please sing that heavenly Butterfly entrance, I so seldom hear it.” Ms. Farrar replied, “I am so sorry, but if you would arrive in your box before the middle of the first act, and stop chattering, you would hear it, in the opera house, where it belongs.”
Early in her career, the actress Divine hosted a fabulous party at the Hilton. Everything was so luxurious that the Hilton asked for permission to take photographs for their brochures. Divine readily gave permission, but unfortunately her guests kept covering their faces when someone tried to take a photograph of them — nearly all of Divine’s guests were either wanted by the police, or on parole, or in trouble in other ways.
Belly dancer Fahtiem once performed as a surprise gift at a party for a garbage collector. His friends carried her into the party in a brand new garbage can, but her entrance was unspectacular. As the garbage can had swung back and forth, she had gotten wedged in. When the can’s lid was over, she was supposed to pop out. However, being completely stuck, she had to call for help — the partiers pried her out so she could dance.
Babe Ruth kept late hours and partied but managed to be a terrific ballplayer anyway. Once, Babe came in way after curfew, and Yankees manager Miller Huggins decided that he needed to have a talk with him. The following day, Babe hit two home runs in a game. After the game, road secretary Mark Roth asked Mr. Huggins if he still wanted to talk to Babe, so Mr. Huggins called, “Hi, Babe. How’s it going?”
Sibyl Colefax was a successful hostess, and at her affairs literary lions were on display. Her first major success as a hostess occurred when she hosted both H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw at a party. She managed to get both men to attend by sending them invitations on which she had written that the other author would be attending and wished to make his acquaintance.
When Out magazine editor Sarah Pettit entered college, she walked up to a man who looked very gay to her and asked, “Excuse me, you’re gay, aren’t you?” After he replied that he was, she said, “Well, then take me to where the gay people are.” They went to a party, and she met the first woman she ever dated.
The football team of Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minnesota, lost 50 games in a row before finally winning, 17-14, in a game against Mt. Senario College of Wisconsin. However, this didn’t make the students of Macalaster happy. One sophomore student complained, “We party before and after every home loss. Now there won’t be anything to look forward to.”
Isaac Newton could be absent minded about everything but science. At a dinner party he was hosting, he left his guests to get a bottle of wine from his study. On his way to get the wine, he started thinking about a scientific problem, and he started working on the problem in his study, leaving his guests to continue the party without their host and without the wine.
Poet Nikki Giovanni once invited several people to a party at which she served tiger shrimp along with chunks of grilled vegetables. She announced that everyone had to eat with their hands — because the food would taste better. (It also had the desired result of making the party very informal.)
Wilson Mizner’s sister Minnie was a snob. When a newly rich family began to live in a mansion on a cliff above her own residence, she objected. Seeing the newly rich family hold an outdoor party, Minnie burned piles of trash, sending huge clouds of smoke upward to disrupt the party.
Skilled flutist and composer Stephen Foster was wary of being invited to parties only so he could play the flute for the guests. After being invited to a party for that reason, he sent his flute to the party — and stayed home.
Once upon a time, the List Game was popular. At parties, everyone would write a list of 10 things he or she hated. The lists were shuffled, then one was drawn at random, and people would try to guess whose list it was.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, had a wicked sense of humor. She used to invite people who hated each other to her dinner parties — and sit them next to each other.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates enjoys a good party. At one of the parties he threw for Microsoft employees, he had six tons of sand brought in, then he held a contest to see who could build the best sand castle.
Comte Robert de Montesquiou lived an exquisitely decorated house filled with works of art. In fact, he admitted that at his parties, the only troublesome aspect of the decor was the guests.
Marilyn Monroe once gave a dinner party before she was rich enough to hire caterers. Something went wrong with her stove, and she ended up finishing cooking the noodles with a hair dryer.
One of the parties given by dancer Isadora Duncan ended on a Nile houseboat — after starting in Paris and then moving on to Venice.
Leaving a party, Groucho Marx told his hostess, “I’ve had a perfectly lovely evening — but this wasn’t it.”
© 2016, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved
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