This story was written for Man Repeller. Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
The best party of my life happened one day after my own 18th birthday party. I was hungover and terribly unmotivated to go. A friend had invited all of us to celebrate his birthday in the countryside at his grandparents’ manor house. All of my friends were there, but also some aristocratic geeks with striped ties and too much hair gel on their heads. How was I going to survive this night? After dinner, my friend Mira and I went back to the barn where we had left our sleeping bags and took a nap. When we walked back to the main building close to midnight, the aristocrats had gone to sleep, and the host had started to blast out Kanye West and Earth Wind & Fire across the yard. We danced for seven hours, drank vodka and snacked on leftovers from the buffet, and at six in the morning, I took a break from dancing to make out with a boy in a shack by the garden pond. What a night.
These days, I barely go out, because parties often bore me. Many of them turn out to be wasted nights full of superficial chatter, flaky company and that distinct feeling of lostness at the crack of dawn. And yet, I’ve decided I want to go out more again. The best party of my life has proved that the best parties happen when you least expect it. I’ve always loved the promise and excitement preceding a party; the possibility of unexpected happenings, of letting loose and forgetting myself. I miss that! If we stop hoping for a normal Friday to turn into an unforgettable night, don’t we stop hoping then at all?
To get into the spirit, I asked eight cool people about the best party of their lives. Their stories are sure to lift moods and butts off the couch, as if by magic. And if the couch is your idea of a party? Excellent. Be sure to dress extravagantly for it. Cheers to that!
“This party marked the end of an era for me.” – Natasha Stagg
Natasha Stagg is a writer and the author of the novel “Surveys.” She lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter @natasha_stagg.
I wish I didn’t like parties, but I love parties. I love fancy, weird parties — the ones where you feel like you actually shouldn’t be there.
The party of my life happened in 2010. I was 24 and in grad school at the University of Arizona. Before grad school, I had toured with my friends’ band down the East and West Coasts. I sold band T-shirts for them, which was probably the most fun job I ever had. On that September weekend, their record label took over an entire hotel in Las Vegas for its 21st birthday party and invited all of its bands to come perform. My friends from the band called me and said, “We’re going to Vegas! You must come!” So I drove all the way up there from Tucson, although I probably didn’t even want to go. I was teaching English and creative writing classes at 8 a.m. back then and couldn’t afford to be hungover. But I thought this party could be a chance to go back to the old days and live my old life for a weekend.
The party went on for three days. Everybody acted like rock stars: drugs, smashed hotel rooms. If you look at pictures from this night, you can see how messed up I was. I look miserable. But in my memory, I was really happy. I remember thinking, This is exactly what I want to be doing in my life: partying with rock stars, hanging out at the swimming pool.
When the party was over, I drove back to Tucson with one of my friends from the band. We went through the worst storm I’ve ever seen. There were horrible sheets of rain, but I had to keep driving. I screamed the whole time. I was so scared that I was going to crash. The drive ended up feeling like a metaphor for the new chapter I was about to enter in my life. I had always wanted to be the fucked-up rock star with no responsibilities, drinking bloody marys by the pool, spotting celebs, feeling so cool. But as I drove through this mad storm, this actual horror, I realized: This is my life. Shortly after the party, I graduated and moved to New York. Suddenly, I was an adult who had to figure out a job and how to survive in the city. I never thought about it like this, but looking back now, it somehow feels like this party marked the end of an era for me.
“I rode my bike home at 7 in the morning feeling extremely exhilarated and joyful.” – Ace Tee
Five years ago, I was invited to a house party in the outskirts of Hamburg, Germany. A guy I didn’t know had invited us to this huge house he had inherited from his parents. The house was going to be demolished, which made it the ideal location for a wild night.
A friend of mine had been asked to deejay the party. I wasn’t expecting much — maybe a cozy evening, nothing major. When we arrived, I was shocked. There were at least 500 people. Everyone I knew had been invited. The host had set up four different dance floors, each one with its own soundtrack. My friend was playing in an empty swimming pool. The bathroom functioned as the bar and was full of booze. There was even a “love room” for making out. People were going completely crazy. Someone gave me a broomstick to smash the walls — after all, the house was going to be demolished, and we were here to do the groundwork.
I love good music and really enjoy dressing up, but I wouldn’t call myself a party person. Most parties are all the same, anyway. At some point, my legs usually start to hurt, and if nobody manages to distract me, I’ll leave without saying goodbye.This party was different because there was so much to see that it was impossible to get bored. The house resembled an amusement park. One room was illuminated in black light with fluorescent markers hanging from the ceiling for people to write and draw on the walls. In another room, people were playing parlor games. It was incredible. There were even fireworks at midnight!
A good party is a party where everyone is happy. I remember riding my bike home at 7 in the morning feeling extremely exhilarated and joyful.
“You never know who you’re going to meet a party.” – Tziporah Salamon
I love parties for two reasons. Reason number one: There’s nothing I enjoy more than to dress up. I used to ask myself, Has Bill [Cunningham] already seen this outfit? If he had, I wouldn’t wear it. I always wanted to thrill Bill. Whenever Bill saw me, he took my picture. He raised the bar for me. I wanted to please him more than anyone else.
Last July, I was invited to my friend Zach’s house in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the birthday of his husband. I like to call Zach my brother; there’s something so familiar about him that makes him as important to me as my biological family.
They live in this beautiful house with a granite sphinx in the hall, dark wooden floors, a marbled kitchen and jasmine flowers everywhere. It was something from another world. Zach is a magician. He always throws the chicest parties. This evening was no exception. There was Middle Eastern music playing, Champagne flowing, and delicious Middle Eastern food served. People hung out in the living and dining rooms, in the kitchen and outside in the garden. I flitted from room to room and felt very loved because everyone commented on my outfit.
I was wearing two layers: On the bottom, I wore white silk satin cigarette pants (I had them made in Egypt in 1992). On top, just a white camisole. Over that, I wore a blue and white summer kimono from the 1920s, one of my favorite pieces, tied with a scarf. On my head sat one of my favorite hats: a blue linen number with a horsehair tassel. (But I love all of the girls equally. I have 300 hats. I don’t want to make the others jealous!) My shoes were very ladylike cream-colored Manolo Blahnik mules that fit like a glove and made me feel sexy.
Reason number two why I never miss a good party: You never know who you’re going to meet. At this party, Zach introduced to me to an Egyptian actor who lived in L.A. His first question was, “What are you wearing?” Immediately, I was seen by him. He himself was a vision: tall, handsome, but also fun, intelligent, loving, humble and generous. He had all these amazing qualities that I admire. I totally loved him immediately. Immediately, he was home. That’s what made this party actually life-changing for me: It gave me another brother.
“It’s good to leave a party when it’s the most fun.” – Charlotte Olympia
I’m a big Agatha Christie fan and am generally inspired by the bygone eras of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, so I made the theme of my 33rd birthday party “1933.” I had always wanted to throw a party at the Hotel Burgh Island on the eponymous tidal island off the coast in Devon, England, where Agatha Christie wrote a lot of her novels. It’s an art deco hotel that has been kept in the spirit of the era.
I invited 60 of my good friends to celebrate over the weekend. It was a decadent, quintessentially British weekend. We kicked it off with a seafood dinner and nautical party on the first evening. The next day, we did a treasure hunt and a picnic by the sea. We even had an old-fashioned photo booth where you put your head in a holed board and it looks like you have the body of a mermaid. After the picnic, we had high tea with gin cocktails at the hotel and played parlor games. For the big party on the second evening, everyone got all dressed up, hair done (I hired hair stylists to do vintage hairstyles for the guests); we had a Champagne tower and a 1920s jazz band play during the reception before dinner.
Great people make a great party. The invitation is also very important. Sending out hard-copy invitations instead of emails sets the tone for the night. If you get people to help you, I recommend hiring a bartender. I like old-fashioned drinks and the process of having my cocktail made at the bar. I like to serve whiskey sours, and I also love a good negroni. Make sure you don’t run out of alcohol. The minute the bar is dry, the party is over.
Another good tip for throwing the perfect party (although this one might sound obvious) is to decide well in advance what you’re going to wear. That’s the last thing you want to worry about on the day of the party. For the nautical dinner on my birthday weekend, I put on an Olympia Le-Tan sailor kind of outfit. During the treasure hunt and picnic, I wore Prada beach pajamas with a big hat. For the black-tie dinner party, I had my hair done and put on a fringed, crystal-embellished Temperley gown. At 3 a.m., I changed into something else because I didn’t want to ruin it.
The morning after, we had a big farewell brunch before everyone got ready to leave. I felt sad that it was over — it’s always hard to leave on a high. But it’s also good to leave a party when it’s the most fun. You’ll then keep it in good memory.
“The club was full of transpiring, dancing people, and everything smelled like fermented milk.” – William Fan
William Fan is a Berlin-based fashion designer. Follow him on Instagram @studiowilliamfan.
I studied fashion design at the Academy of Art & Design in Arnhem in the Netherlands. It was an interdisciplinary school, so in addition to fashion people, I hung out with graphic designers, musicians and fine artists. On the weekends, we often traveled to Amsterdam or Rotterdam together. On one evening, I was out with five performance artists from my school who had been hired to perform at a party in Rotterdam. They had pulled silk stockings over their faces, applied makeup on them and tied their hair in high ponytails, which made each of them look like a spooky mix of alien and horse. I was wearing a nude top and nude leggings paired with black patent leather over-knee boots. I basically looked naked.
Back then, I was extremely curious and interested in different characters. I knew how extreme my classmates were, which was exactly why I felt attracted to them like a magnet.
The party took place in a cellar. There were swings everywhere, which made it look less like a sex club but rather like an art installation. My friends’ performance was insane: They simulated the delivery of a baby on stage. Just as the “child” was “born,” they started to splash around with milk. It was extremely strange, disgusting and fascinating.
The crowd in the room was mainly people from the city’s art scene, but even they were shocked. It was all so crazy and unexpected — but most of all, it was extremely funny. I love when people are pushed out of their comfort zone. The craziness and hysteria surrounding the performance released an energy in the room that took hold like a drug. People started screaming and groaning. It didn’t feel sexual at all, but very artistic. That’s what made this party so special: Everyone really let go. I think that’s also the secret of any good nightclub, like the Berghain in Berlin: People are among themselves there; they don’t feel exposed, but become one with the crowd. And that’s when they know they can relax and be themselves.
“You want to look different from your everyday self at a party, don’t you?” – Lisa Folawiyo
If you haven’t been to a Nigerian wedding, you haven’t partied. Especially in Lagos, weddings are incredibly extravagant. You have weddings here where there are 1,000 or even 5,000 people. The bride sometimes changes up to four times. There is too much food, too much booze, and people dress to the nines. Nigerians are naturally over-the-top, particularly in Lagos. We love celebrations here. It’s inborn and part of our culture.
This June, my sister-in-law got married. It was a black-tie wedding, and as I don’t go to very formal events a lot, I was really happy to throw on a gown, get my hair done and see my husband in a tuxedo. I wore a long red evening dress embellished with crystals from my own brand, paired with Oscar Tiye sandals, disco-ball-shaped earrings and a Nathalie Trad clutch. I usually get my hair braided, but for this wedding I got it straightened. You want to look different from your everyday self at a party, don’t you?
The wedding took place at the Civic Center by the water in Lagos, and after the ceremony there was a big reception followed by a seated dinner. Apart from that, they served a range of Nigerian hors d’oeuvres throughout the night, like yam balls and puff puff, a sweet dough that is fried into a ball. If you don’t have puff puff at your wedding, I’m sorry, I won’t come. A party is just the time to eat that kind of food and throw all caution to the wind.
While I am not a party person and often ask myself at a party why I even bothered to go, I am a big dancer. I LOVE to dance. The morning after the party, I found all these videos I had shot of myself dancing on my phone and asked myself, What was I doing? But I guess I just really had a good time. I hadn’t let my hair down for a long time and was excited to be out again and see my family and friends.
Sometimes you can’t put a finger on what made a party so particularly wonderful. Of course, a wedding is a special event, as you go there to rejoice, to celebrate someone and to share love, so you’re naturally in good spirits. Apart from that, I had the best mood that evening. That probably helped a lot.
“Relationships end, but the dance floor is forever.” – Oliver de Gemayzeh
Oliver de Gemayzeh is the buyer and manager at the design boutique Les Arcades in Beirut. Follow him on Instagram @oliverdegem.
I always go out with zero expectations. I strictly go out to dance. I dance with my eyes closed and just keep on smiling at everyone. Since I don’t go to parties to hunt boys, there’s no room for disappointments, so I almost always have a great night. You know, relationships end, but the dance floor is forever.
Beirut has a bustling nightlife, but the best parties are always the Cotton Candy parties. I’ve been going since they started, so I’m sort of like their unicorn. Even today, they still feel like big private house parties. People between 21 and 60 go there; everyone looks funky and loves to dance. There are no codes and no bouncers; it’s not about seeing and being seen. All people know each other from somewhere or through someone, and everyone shares the same attitude: We don’t care about your sexual orientation or where you come from.
The Cotton Candy parties are never dark. There is always a mix of fabulous music — mostly funk, disco and melodic electro. The atmosphere is fun and happy, and the whole party feels like a big ball where a big family comes together. There are no class distinctions on the dance floor.
The way everyone dances is unique. I love watching people dance because it’s often only then that they reveal their real personality and their weak points. Even mean people disclose their soft parts when they dance. Dancing brings the best out of people.
I have always been a big dancer. My mother says that when I was two or three years old, I would dance to every noise in the house — the spinning sound of the washing machine, the hammering beat of my father driving a nail into the wall. Later, I studied classical ballet, jazz and Latin dance. I’m extremely shy, and as a gay boy in Lebanon, the dance floor was always a place for me to be myself, to go out in the world and to be accepted, even by the straight community. Everyone always wants to have me on the dance floor because I spread happiness. When I reach the climax at a party, I let off my trademark “shout of joy“ with a very high-pitched opera voice. It’s funny how motivated people get when they hear my shout of joy on the dance floor!
“I wouldn’t have been surprised to see an elephant walk across the hall.” – Racil Chalhoub
I think people enjoy going to parties that they travel to. It feels different: You leave your daily life for a while and enter a new world. The extra effort you made to get to the party is a great motivation to make it an unforgettable night.
Last May, I was invited to a designer’s 30th birthday party in Florence, Italy. The theme was “extravagant jungle,” and they sent us all these amazing mood boards ahead of the party. I chose a patterned vintage Pucci dress with an open back and paired it with a headpiece mimicking the mohawk of a zebra. I flew to Florence with a lot of friends who were all invited to the party. Since we all stayed in the same hotel, we got ready together, which felt like a little pre-party. My headpiece wouldn’t fit in a taxi, so we had to walk to the venue while passersby stared at us: a flock of five people in bright gowns with crazy headpieces. So that set the tone for the night.
Entering the party venue, the ground floor of an old palazzo, felt like stepping into an actual jungle. The entrance was full of plants and trees, and there were massive stuffed animals and birds. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see an elephant walk across the hall. Every room was decorated in the most extravagant, spectacular way — each a different theme from the others. I flowed from room to room and was just mesmerized. It must have taken months to organize it.
I remember going back to the hotel so late that breakfast was served, which meant I had to walk through the breakfast room with my giant zebra headpiece while all these tourists stared at me. God, it was such a fabulous night.