Domitian (51-96AD) is notorious for his cruelty and ruthlessness, but few are aware that he also threw the first recorded themed bash – his “death party”. He invited all the Roman senators to dinner at his house. The invites, coming from someone who had already executed senatorial opponents and had a habit of burning the genitals of those who got on his nerves, did not spark universal delight. Instead, the Senators who made their way to the Emperors house at the appointed hour were wary. Their anxiety increased a hundred fold when they were ushered into the banqueting room and found it had been painted completely black. Not only that but Domitian had kitted out all the tables to match with black cloths, black crockery and black goblets. Each of the guests was assigned a naked, black- painted boy to serve them.
When they were shown to their seats, their fears weren’t exactly assuaged by the fact that each of the table settings had an individual black tombstone on it. The food, when it arrived, was of the funeral kind and Domitian made a suitably sombre speech. When the senators made it to the end of the evening and back to their own homes without being disembowelled, their relief knew no bounds, but at 3am each was woken by a spine-chilling knock on the door. Oh my God, here it comes…what they must have been thinking (or the Latin equivalent). Trembling, they drew back the door to find, not the armed guard they’d been dreading, but the servant boy who’d served them at dinner, bearing the tombstone which turned out to be solid silver and was a gift from the emperor, as was the boy himself, a life-long servant. Talk about the ultimate party bag…..
Domitian was no fool, he realized by throwing a party and showering his guests with generous gifts, he could buy their loyalty, but by giving it a theme as cleverly as he did, he could also scare them into submission. Shame he didn’t use the same strategy on his wife, who had him assassinated on 18 September 96 (AD).
What has this got to do with me? Well, last year a rather high profile client asked me to organize a themed event for his annual charity at his home and wanted to show it off as well as raise money. The idea of the party was a white theme and possibly a horror sub type theme somewhere. During the days immediately preceding the party, the lawns were trimmed, hedges made into various designs and much care taken to get every detail just right.
“Haven’t you got anything we can put in the pool to liven it up?” I was asked at the eleventh hour, on the day of the party. I glanced at the pristine outdoor swimming pool and said, “ I think we might have an outsized crocodile somewhere. “ I thought. “It will look cool, as its hollow so it will sink to the bottom and make an interesting feature.“
The crocodile was duly brought over and unceremoniously tossed in the water where, true to form, it lurked menacingly on the bottom of the pool.
“Perfect” was the verdict.
The next morning, I arrived at work to find a panic stricken message on my answering machine.
“Er, Jason, it’s ******. Can you give me a ring? Its rather urgent. My F**ing swimming pool is bright green!!”.
Sure enough, when I raced round to the home, I found the chlorine in the water had clearly reacted with the paint on the crocodile and turned the normally clear pool a bright, luminous lime colour. It was too late to drain the pool. There was only one solution.
“We’ll make it a green theme with the white ball!” was my inspired response. There was just enough time to tweak the rest of the party to marry the two themes of Green and White before the guests arrived.
Two days later, an enormous bouquet of flowers arrived at my office at The Penthouse London. Nestled inside was a note, “ Best party ever. Don’t worry about the pool – it’s gone down in history among our guests “. I am not saying I have changed this high profile clients world but recently I saw a certain picture and just smiled to myself.