It’s always slightly unnerving to experience an event where the location and the crowd are widely and, in this instance, shockingly different. Last night’s event planners’ soiree was such an odd mix of a night, that it made their signature cocktail, The Avalanche (an unlikely paring of what I was told was raspberry rum and cranberry juice), seem all too apropos.
Let me begin where the evening began: waiting in a jaunty line outside of Celsius. Situated on the edge of Bryant Park’s picture-perfect ice rink, Celsius is a seasonally open club and restaurant that has evolved over the years from a few heat lamps and some tables, to a two-story, full-on operation. Beautifully constructed of glass and scaffolding, and illuminated with glowing blues, whites and reds, the structure has a modern, graceful ice-palace feel.
Because there’s no need to make it a permanent structure (Celsius will be closing for the season on Sunday), Celsius floats in a lovely netherworld between art installation and Icelandic greenhouse–white leather banquettes, sparkling chandeliers, and hanging plant trellises all adding to the effect.
Upon entering, I was guided up the stairs and offered one of two signature drinks, The Avalanche, and the Polar Bear Cosmo. Both cocktails were a striking fuchsia color, and their fruit flavor extremely sweet, but even a whisky drinker like me can imagine sitting back after an hour of skating with a candy bomb of a cocktail hitting just the right spot. Finding a nice, quiet little corner, I realized almost instantly, was a prize that I was glad to claim quickly and the saving grace of my evening.
As the crowd rolled in, I was immediately stuck at their personality. This wasn’t the mingling of svelte ice-princesses and snow bunnies that the decor brought to mind. Rather, it was the convergence of middle to retiree-aged ladies and gents, who made it swiftly clear that the mission was to elbow their way to the passed hors-d’oeuvres. Grabbing them by the handful, the poor servers merely waited, with a petrified flinch, until the masses relieved them of their morsels and gave no further interest. I have witnesses who will attest with me that no more than five minutes after the food appeared a fight ~over a dumpling~ broke out between a man with a cane and an oddly slick-looking thirty-something (who was dressed like he might be a real estate agent for a Miami retirement community). Folks, it was a dumpling.
Awe-struck, I wandered back to the bar (which was generously open, in addition to the passed cocktails and wine… thank you, Celsius!), stopping briefly to casually ask a group of ladies in orthopedics, what had brought them to the event tonight. They answered vaguely if not slightly hostilely: they “knew someone” in events.
Luckily, the bar seemed relatively tame by comparison to the conga-line-like following that trailed any server with a food tray. I stood next to a stylish woman who was waiting for her drink. Her refreshingly unflustered demeanor encouraged me to strike up a conversation about the major question on my mind. Who were all these people who were acting more like they were at cousin Jessie’s wedding than at a hip club with an urban “Events” crowd. The woman gave a knowing nod. “Events event-crashers.” This is almost too ironic, too snarkily delicious, to be real.
But it was all too real. I could only feel sympathetic towards the Celsius owners, who’s sound intentions were somewhat thwarted by these unabashed sponges, who, I was informed, go so far as to make their own business cards in order to gain admission and go wild. My astonishment encouraged my new friend and her legit events-planner colleagues, and they told me story after story of shameless, ungracious behavior that they’d witnessed at similar fetes over the years. Used to it by now, they’d taken to viewing it with amused distance. Since this is not a piece of cutting-edge investigative reporting, I will not go into the nitty gritty of these party crashers (which is an all too current theme of hilarity anyway)—but suffice it to say, it was an eye-opening experience.
Biding farewell to my bar-side confidents, my date and I decided to try our luck downstairs, where the terrace overlooking the ice rink called to us with large white leather couches and ample heat lamps. Though still fairly crowded, the open air and the more muffled sound allowed me to imagine how lovely sitting there on any other night might be. The Manhattan skyline twinkled magically and lacy tree branches framed the white of the ice, as skaters passed rhythmically. The surreal nature of sipping a cocktail in cozy warmth outside on a winter night, while not perhaps the most eco-friendly, is a rare treat and an experience to be had at least once in your New York lifetime.