Everybody knows the quadrennial presidential nomination conventions have become a tiny bit of official business and a whole lot of partying. This year’s Democratic National Convention in Boston is proving no exception.
Democratic delegates, elected officials, lobbyists and hangers-on will have a chance to rub elbows with celebrities, sip cocktails with big-name politicos, and party-hop from one exclusive engagement to the next.
In a city with a historical reputation for rowdy parties — anyone remember the Boston Tea Party in 1773? — the Democratic National Committee and the convention host committee are now preparing for one of Boston’s biggest celebrations yet.
Despite some early worries about the slow pace of organizing the convention — not to mention the looming labor strife between Boston police unions and Mayor Thomas Menino — event planners and corporate sponsors have already racked up roughly $95 million in convention-related expenses for five days of parties and receptions, according to a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity. The festivities are expected to draw more than 35,000 attendees.
Event organizers are bringing world-famous celebrity and musical guests to some of the city’s fanciest and best-known venues.
Former President Bill Clinton, “Daily Show” comedian Jon Stewart and “Star Wars” actress Natalie Portman are just a few stars lending their name and talents to the various Democratic bashes around the city. The party spots range from posh nightclubs such as Felt and Avalon to old-time Boston institutions like Fenway Park and the “Cheers” bar.
Most events are open only to invited guests, which often means those lucky few who are willing and able to shell out multi-thousand-dollar donations to the organizations sponsoring the events. For Boston-area party-goers still determined to stay in the loop next week, here’s a quick rundown of the events that are garnering the most advance buzz:
On Sunday night, the grassroots advocacy group Democratic GAIN kicks off convention week with “The Jumpoff” at the nightclub Avalon. Former President Clinton, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and the Rev. Al Sharpton (a former contender for the 2004 presidential nomination) are slated to be on hand as New York-based DJ ensemble the X-Ecutioners and DJ Biz Markie spin the latest hip-hop and dance hall beats.
One of the few venues in Boston big enough to accommodate multiple parties simultaneously — not to mention a 30,000-plus crowd — is fabled Fenway Park, where both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and corporate sponsor Citigroup will host separate pregame parties before the home team Red Sox take on their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees, on Sunday evening.
The festivities continue at Avalon on Monday evening, when comedian Margaret Cho performs at “Unity ’04,” a ticketed event open to the public and sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and other national gay-rights organizations.
Meanwhile, alternative rock group the Goo Goo Dolls will be wailing at Boston Park Plaza Hotel’s The Castle — literally an old castle with a large, renovated inner hall — for “The Limelight” party, which honors “current and future Democratic leaders,” according to the event’s glossy invitation.
Across town at Felt nightclub, Grammy award-winning fusion rock band Los Lobos will perform for members and supporters of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in the “Dance by the Moonlight” party, co-sponsored by the American Gas Association.
No Boston bacchanalia would be complete without a party for Massachusetts’s premier political family, the Kennedy clan. On Tuesday evening, Sen. Edward Kennedy will take a break from endorsing presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) to appear at a party-concert in his own honor at Symphony Hall. Billed as one of the hottest tickets in town, this event will feature performances from rocker Bono of U2 and classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Soon-to-be-retired Sen. John Breaux (La.) will be honored at the Boston Aquarium in one of his final convention-week blowouts — the “Caribbean Beach Bash,” featuring musical guests Buckwheat Zydeco and reggae singer Ziggy Marley, as well as plenty of ice-cold pina coladas to go around.
Also on Tuesday night, Grammy-nominated rap-pop group the Black Eyed Peas are slated to rock the mic at MTV’s “Rock the Vote” concert at Avalon. Co-sponsored by the Rock the Vote Action Fund and the Recording Industry Association of America, the concert is intended to help mobilize young voters to be active in the November elections, organizers say.
One of the hottest events on tap is the Creative Coalition’s “Seconding the First” party featuring rockers the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Louis Boston clothing store Wednesday night. Rivaling the glitz and glam of some of the best convention-week bashes in Tinseltown four years ago, a slew of celebrities are slated to attend, including actors Ben Affleck (a Cambridge native), William Baldwin, Minnie Driver and Janeane Garofalo, among many others.
“This will be a pretty big deal,” said TCC Executive Director Robin Bronk. “It’s the only party at either convention that celebrates our First Amendment rights” of freedom of speech, the press and religion.
But Chili Peppers fans and Affleck lovers be forewarned: Entry to this party requires a special invitation mailed several weeks in advance and a donation ranging from $1,000 to $50,000. (The minimum donation buys you one ticket and a Creative Coalition gift bag.)
Finally, as we all know, there ain’t no party like a Roll Call party. Roll Call, its parent company The Economist, The New Republic and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States will co-host “Spirits of Boston” at Anthem restaurant Monday night. Billed as one of the classiest gatherings in town, this party will feature a tasting bar of rare imported scotches, whiskies and cognacs and a live jazz band. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.) will attend as an honorary guest. Bottoms up.