Party of the Century (Part Two) Answers to Truman Capote

Paul Allen’s Parties…

 One thing you can say about Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen—-he throws great parties. In fact, he has hosted a few of them over the years that could vie for the title of  “Party of the Century.”  

His parties always have a great theme, luxurious surroundings, and an interesting, eclectic group of guests.  Scientists like James Watson, artists like Dale Chihuly, comedians like Robin Williams and Eric Idle, rock musicians Bono and Mick Jagger, actors such as Tom Hanks and Candice Bergen, socialites like Paris Hilton, political dignitaries such as presidents and princes, movie producers like David Geffen and Steven Spielberg, writers and tech luminaries—even spiritual guru Deepak Chopra all rub shoulders with each other at his lavish soirees. But there is often more going on in these kinds of high profile get-togethers than celebrating and having a good time. *  It is also often about making the right connections. 

From “The Toughest Job at Cannes: Working the Parties”: 

“People think the deals get done at all the
hotel suites and at the market,” said Michael Peyser, who first came to
Cannes in 1979, when he was a production manager on the Woody Allen film
“Manhattan.” “But the real deals happen at the hot parties. It’s much
easier to make friends with someone while they’re dancing by the
swimming pool than in a business meeting.”

Ironically, an important role Allen has played in recent years is that of behind the scenes host, bringing people together to make things happen, not just in business but creatively** and even philanthropically.  When the private billionaire, thought of  as shy and even  reclusive, began to emerge as the consummate host in the mid-90s, some people were surprised.  But the role was actually quite  familiar to Allen. In the early days of Microsoft, he often played host to the close-knit Microsoft crew. Allen was the guy with the big screen T.V. in those days, and so his house was the place to go on Saturday nights to watch Saturday Night Live and have a good time. (Later on, the guests themselves were SNL cast members.)**** 

As Microsoft stock went up and Allen’s wallet grew, so did the magnitude of his parties.  In fact, some of his gatherings over the years have been pretty remarkable. Here is a list of a few of the more notable parties that Paul Allen has hosted through the years:  

1996 Cap-Ferrat


1)–His first Hollywood party during the 1996 Cannes Film Festival at his Villa in South France–where David Geffen, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Daryl Hannah, Carlos Santana and David Lynch all rubbed shoulders with tech luminaries like Xerox PARC’s David Liddle, then head of Allen’s Interval Research. Elaborate invitations embossed in faux gold went out to all of the guests, and the pirate-themed ambiance included a large model ship that floated decoratively in the swimming pool. Allen reportedly flew in more than 200 people from London, Seattle, New York and Los Angeles for the lavish affair.*1


  1997 Venice 

2)—His party in Venice the following year, where each of the 300 celebrity guests he invited were flown in on chartered jets and whisked away to luxury hotels. Entertained the first night with a baroque music concert, the second night, guests were met at their hotels by gondolas laden with champagne and crystal glasses and taken to a fifteenth century palace on the Grand Canal to celebrate the luxurious Renaissance-themed soiree. David Geffen called it the “best party I’ve ever been to, bar none.”*1   

1998 Alaska 

3)–Allen’s 1998 four-day party cruise on the Crystal Harmony that went from Juneau, Alaska to Prince Rupert, Canada, down the Inside Passage. This trip included even more guests—450 this time. Paul invited friends and big money business people; Bill and Melinda Gates, venture capitalist Ann Winblad, and wireless billionaire Craig McCaw, to name a few.*1  An interesting mix of guests, the list included Donald Johanson, the paleoanthropologist who discovered “Lucy,” the oldest and most complete human ancestor, actors Jeff Goldblum, Dennis Hopper, Kevin Bacon and Penny Marshall, and DreamWorks Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Activities included bear-trekking tours, seaplane rides, salmon fishing, lectures by Jacques Cousteau’s son, Jean-Michele, and a traditional Alaskan potlatch ceremony. In the evening there were jam sessions with musicians Peter Gabriel, Lou Rawls, Mick Jagger, Lynyrd Skynryd, Dave Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Little Feat and of course, Paul Allen.*2    

2001 St. Petersburg, Russia 

4)—The 2001 trip to Helsinki, Finland that ended up as a luxurious cruise to St. Petersburg, Russia. The invitations were delivered to guests in a gold-embossed wooden box covering a delicate faux Faberge egg. Once having accepted the invitation, guests were flown to Helsinki, Finland soon to be escorted to their own deluxe suite in a luxury liner. They were then treated to various trips and luxuries throughout the tour, including a day-long sauna retreat on a nearby island, museum visits, a helicopter tour of the city and the opportunity to shoot AK 47s. And as expected, the trip culminated in a fabulous party. “Save your energy for tonight,” the itinerary read, “the evenings festivities will be unforgettable.”  

And finally, during recent years, Allen’s parties have been hosted aboard his 414 ft. megayacht called the Octopus. The parties he’s thrown aboard this yacht, and (sometimes even his other smaller vessels such as the 199ft. Meduse and 302 ft. Tatoosh) have been THE place to be during recent Cannes Film Festivals. See… 

And in many ways, the ship is the perfect venue for a party.  Described as a “floating palace,” the lovely Octopus has seven decks, a swimming pool, basketball court, an infirmary, a concert space for 260 and comes equipped with a recording studio, a movie theater, and a beautiful glass bottomed room on the underside of the ship all lit up for viewing marine life and whatever else dwells in the undersea world below.

As you can imagine, it is easier to keep secrets in and unwanted guests out when the parties are hosted aboard a contained yacht. But a few leaks have revealed some really great parties, including one New Year’s Eve Party at St. Bart’s that included George Lucas, Eve, Owen Wilson, Simon LeBon, Ron Perelman and Ellen Barkin, Stephanie Seymour and Peter Brant, Harvey Weinstein and Georgina Chapman, Barry Diller and Diane Von Furstenberg, and Russell and Kimora Lee Simmons.   

Allen performed onstage all night that evening with various musicians while people sang and danced. The jam sessions continued well into the morning, when, at around 3 a.m. Usher jumped up on stage and joined Paul Allen and his band, singing a few Ray Charles and Johnny Cash songs. 

Allen has also entertained other kinds of celebrities aboard his yacht, including the art community in Venice in 2005, a gathering that included Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter, Diana Widmaier Picasso. 

 But the Octopus has been more than just a party venue. Last summer, it was the home base for a trip to Africa, where Paul Allen’s friend, Dan Aykroyd considered opening up one of his House of Blues restaurants in Durban, South Africa.  The eventual gathering of friends,*** included a number of celebrities, including Aykroyd, Bill Gates, President Bill Clinton and Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson.

 During the same summer trip, Bill Gates and Paul Allen visited Kenya, where they donated funds to help the 3,500 locals there to construct a dam for their livestock. 

Whatever else can be said about Paul Allen’s parties, it is clear that the reputedly shy billionaire*4 has also become the consummate host.  

“No one entertains like that anymore. He is like a Medici, a grand seignior, someone who entertains in the old style,” said movie producer Howard Rosenman.*2.5 

The last “Party of the Century” was hosted by a writer.  Who knows?—maybe the next one will be hosted by a tech wizard. Stranger things have happened…. 


*“The New York Times”
Sunday, May 26, 2002
Toughest Job in Cannes: Working the Parties


***Paul Allen and Dan Aykroyd were traveling aboard the Octopus, though some of the others in the group that met in Africa that summer may have arrived by other means. 

****(See..”Gates: How Microsoft’s Mogul Re-invented an Industry and Made Himself the Richest Man in America,” by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews, p. 124) 

*1(From Jeff Goodell”s “Inside the World of Paul Allen” Rolling Stones’ magazine 6/22/00) and  (“Usually Private Allen Throws a Big Bash at Cannes” by Sarah Lopez Williams (Seattle Times East Bureau) 5/14/96) 

 *2 ( “Rand and Kimber’s Alaskan Adventure”) 

*2.5 ( From Calling all Czars: Ersatz Romanov Paul Allen summons Subjects to Throwback Party” by Landon Thomas Jr., 8/01) 

*3 Seattle PI, 8/6/05 The Ultimate Playthings for the Ultimate Few: Gigayachts By Todd Lewan, AP National Writer 

*4 Although he has a reputation for being shy and even reclusive, some of Paul Allen’s closest friends disagree with that characterization:

“Paul is, by nature – I don’t want to use the word shy – but he’s not extroverted,” Rayburn says. “He doesn’t like to stand up in front of people like Bill Gates does.”

Neither is he a recluse in the fashion of Howard Hughes. “He’s actually very outgoing in the right environment and once you get to know him,” Rayburn says. “But the working press likes to create this image of a mystery man. It’s not a cultivated image. It’s not intentional. It’s just his nature. He’s never felt compelled to behave to someone else’s standards or to explain what he’s doing except to a pretty select group of people.”  (From “Paul Allen: More than Money” by James Wallace, Seattle P-I, 4/22/96)