But theme parties don’t have to go the way of the proverbial dodo. By tailoring the event to your lifestyle, it’s easy to step out of the dinner party rut and into something new and festive. It may sound hokey, but it’s also fun. Sometimes it can even feel downright inspired.
We watch a lot of movies in our house, often over dinner (which would appall my mother). I decided to throw a movie clip party; all guests were asked to bring one or two videos cued up to a favorite scene.
We invaded Mark Bricklin’s house for the party, as the size of his television reflects his love of pop culture. Amidst a veritable forest of green (he’s the “Lucky Bamboo Guy,” and his plant inventory borderlines obsession) we set up shop.
Snacks were primarily hearty finger foods, such as chicken sate with peanut sauce, eggplant caponata with olive bread, spinach dip, sun dried tomato-and-cheese-filled toast cups, parmesan stars and Austin’s famous chile con queso.
The key to party food is ease of eating. You don’t want to force people into using a knife when they’re gathered around a television on the sofa. Bite-sized bits are best. There should also be plenty of drinks.
The only guidelines we had for the clips were time limits (five-minute maximum), but those went out the window early on. People would briefly introduce their films, then hit play. The line up was determined by whomever volunteered.
As expected, the movie clips were eclectic in nature. “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” opened the festivities, with quite a bit of mayhem and guffawing as the Pink Panther tripped up himself and others. “The Groove Tube” followed, a particularly classic bit of racy ’70s TV. Emulating a cooking show, the main ingredient was Kramp, a Crisco-like product. That set the stage for the first jail scene in “Blazing Saddles,” probably Mel Brooks’ best (and most politically incorrect) movie.
Seeing who brought which movie was as interesting as the actual scenes. Can we trust Conan when he tells us what is best in life? (“Conan the Barbarian.”) How did a director conceive of the idea to toss Mike Tyson into a cast without his knowledge, and record his responses to various scenarios? (“Black and White.”) Can you make a scene in a concentration camp funny without being crass? (“Life is Beautiful.”)
These musings, and lots of laughter, are the stuff of party dreams. It was both frivolous and enlightening.
We decided to have a more specific theme next time, such as death scenes, mistaken identity snafus, surreal experiences or least likely romantic encounters. This will allow for more of a comparative reaction, though the pell-mell, anything-goes feel worked well, too.
For a potluck party, have guests bring their mother’s classic dish. (This will inevitably mean at least one green bean casserole and couple spinach dips.) Friends of ours hosted a “white trash” party and had guests bring their best white trash food, such pigs in a blanket made with Twinkies and canned franks. Or have guests pick a character from a book and, without costumes, emulate their personality during the course of the party.
Most important, parties should be a heap of fun. If the host isn’t having any, the guests won’t either.
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.