Throwing a Party
Everything I Could Ever Tell You About …
Texas Monthly - February 2007
Jackson Hicks | AGE: 60 | HOMETOWN: Houston |
QUALIFICATIONS: Society event planner and caterer for 26 years / Has
balls, and dinners for hosts like Ann Richards, Nellie Connally,
Dominique de Menil, Lynn Wyatt, and George and Barbara Bush, as well as
for such honorees as Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Bill Clinton,
Elton John, and the Texas Capitol
• To have a great party you have to have great guest balance. You can
have beautiful flowers, great food and beverages, beautiful decor—all
those things are important—but if you don’t have an interesting mix of
guests, the sort of interaction that makes a party a party, well, then
it’s just another place to eat.
• If the band plays so loud you can’t hear, it destroys the mood,
because people can’t interact. Or there might be a Tower of Babel flower
arrangement in the middle of the table and you can’t see around it to
talk. Or the hostess wasn’t careful about seating, and you have one
person seated here and their divorced spouse at the next table, and
everyone feels icky.
• The opening of the Menil Collection was really a terrific party in
1987. Mrs. de Menil had an extraordinary eye for detail, and she invited
an exceptionally international cast of characters—more than five hundred
people. I remember we were doing a tasting beforehand, and she wanted to
check the china and the table settings. We were trying to give her
options, so we had done several different napkin folds: a pope’s hat, a
crown, and such. She took a look at one of those fancy folds and said,
“Ooh, that looks like a very grand party in a very tiny town in the
south of France. I think we’ll do something simple.”
• It’s not about saying no; it’s about how you’re going to do it. In
1985 we had the groundbreaking for the new wing at Methodist Hospital.
They really wanted to have it on-site, with a luncheon for eight hundred
in a tent. It was going to be during the day, and air-conditioning
twenty years ago was not available for a tent in Houston. So we went out
and contracted for thirty window units and had them installed around the
base of the tent to keep it cool.
• We buy good quality and we don’t overcook. It just takes about an
extra thirty seconds to turn a good $3 shrimp into tire rubber.
• My perspective on food in general is that it should be recognizable.
Not overly decorated or covered up with weird sauces. People here grew
up, like me, on great Southern cooking. Cardboard piecrust will not be
tolerated, or biscuits like hockey pucks. Mrs. Bush’s favorite thing is
my grandmother’s strawberry shortcake. She’d rather have that than
anything else we cook.
• Guests who don’t respond to party invitations deserve to be taken off
guest lists. Also, not taking the time to write a host or hostess a
thank you note is so thoughtless. Showing up later than 29 minutes after
the appointed time is not okay. Showing up early is not okay either.
• I never gossip about my clients. Part of the privilege of being a fly
on the wall is that flies don’t talk.