July 3, 2003
'Introduce every guest to everyone'.
*We asked Laurie Frank for tips on how to throw a memorable
dinner party (without driving yourself or your guests crazy).
By Laurie Frank
like my dinner parties to star the guests and not the food
or the hostess. I'd like everyone I invite to feel they
have equal billing I only invite people who I'm really,
really crazy about. I don't even think of including my friends
who like to hold forth, argue ferociously on topics everyone
agrees on anyway, or shanghai too many guests at one time
in any one conversation.
My most important work as a hostess is to introduce every
guest to everyone else as they come in. I make no exceptions;
I interrupt any conversation it doesn't matter what
people are up to, in my house they are going to meet everyone
who walks through the door. Unless the possibility of sex
is involved, people only talk to people to whom they've
been formally introduced. I try to mention one thing about
the person I'm introducing, so the others have a clue to
where to start the conversation once I've left to go back
into the kitchen.
I invite people of various ages, backgrounds and occupations.
It is possible in L.A., I promise.
For me, drinks are as important as the food I never
serve only wine; I find it makes people sleepy and drunk,
as opposed to festive and drunk. When offered a martini,
I want people to feel the way they do at their favorite
restaurant only they can take their shoes off, smoke
cigarettes inside and actually meet all the other diners
in the room who seem interesting. I always try to have a
variety of nonalcoholic choices other than bubbly water
my friends who don't drink should feel equally loved
and looked after.
My table is extra-skinny, which makes it easy for guests
to be engaged by the person across from them as well as
those at their left and right. I love seated dinners because
people are forced to talk to people they don't know; at
buffets with the same number of guests, people can leave
without talking to a single new person. Often I can go to
a dinner party and not be introduced to anyone at all. I
never do a seating plan. I like to see where people put
themselves, and I love making them take responsibility for
where they're sitting. It makes for lucky accidents and
no hurt feelings.
I always say yes when my guests want to bring their houseguests
or old college roommate from London. I love to discover
people I don't already know at my parties if my friends
like them enough to hang out with them, I'm sure I'll like
them too and this way it never gets boring for the
friends who get invited regularly. I like to try to find
just the right mix so there's a sense of good friends coming
together and also the excitement of "who will I meet
You can't have too many exciting, challenging, attractive
people at one time at your house. Lots of people cancel
at the last minute and no one ever seems to mind squeezing
one more person in.
I like to serve my guests at the table and I love to let
them help me serve and clean up. I'm shy myself, and I know
it helps me to be doing something at other people's dinners,
and helping in the kitchen makes my friends feel that they're
part of the family. I have yet to discover anyone in the
serving and cleanup contingent who doesn't end up bonding
with everyone else in the kitchen. And it helps maintain
the balance between the graciousness of formality and the
freedom of intimacy.