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July 19, 1962, Vol. VII, No. 39
On the Subject of Parties
By John Wilcock
Over the past three years I’ve probably given close to 20 parties — rarely with less than a couple of hundred guests — and I have formulated several rather definite theories with which I’m prone to bore acquaintances whenever I get the opportunity.
The first theory is outlined very succinctly by Toots Shor [“Every party I ever went to I enjoyed myself. You go with my attitude and you’ll enjoy yourself, too.”] Too often people go to a party with a sort of chip on their shoulder. “So okay, I’ve come to your party; now entertain me,” is their unspoken challenge. It’s the wrong attitude, and I once proved how wrong it was by sponsoring a party via this column. “Let’s give a party,” I suggested, “at which everybody is welcome but at which everybody agrees that they’ll go and introduce themselves to people they don’t know; at which everyone will be friendly and not status-seeking; to which everybody goes determined to ENJOY themselves.” I invited everyone who sent me his or her name; instructed all guests to bring liquor; borrowed the enormous studio of an artist-friend — and had one of the most enjoyable parties I’ve ever known.
That was five years ago, and many of the people I met then are still on my regular invitation list (which has now grown to more than 100) and form the solid, warm core of most of the parties I give today. I can’t stress too much how important it is to have this sort of nucleus for your parties: when half the people know each other well already, there’s a warmth and friendliness that gradually permeates the other half.
One of the most important rules for a good party is to have plenty of space, and not only space but room for circulation. Rooms with bottlenecks are out. Most apartments are out, even big ones, unless there’s a way for people to make a complete circuit back to the starting point (i.e., out into the hall via one door and back via another). Bigness, of course, is not enough in itself; the place should also have a little atmosphere and charm. It should NOT be dark. This is a mistake many party-givers make. Nice, attractive people like to look at each other at parties; only the guilty or insecure prefer darkness.
At large parties an equal number of each sex isn’t such an important matter, of course, but you can’t have too many pretty girls, paper cups, or bags of ice cubes. And music is important, too: live jazzmen if you can get them, otherwise good records. Most important of all is good conversation. Creative people with plenty of tastes and views in common always have plenty to talk to each other about and, taking my responsibilities as a host rather keenly, I try to ensure that all the people who’ll like each other are sure to meet each other. Apart from an insatiable desire to know everybody in the world, it’s always been a secondary dream of mine to introduce everybody I know to everybody else.
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