I love a party! Sure, GALAs and PREMIERE PARTIES are over the top. Dressing up in couture, sipping on champagne, and nibbling on caviar are exciting ways to spend an evening. And of course, CELEBRITY sightings can be fun too. Moreover, it's nice to be a V.I.P. and interact with those being honored, like Tony-award-winning friend LaChanze at festive party that followed her big win for "The Color Purple" back in the summer of 2006.
But I'm also into the low-maintenance brand of coming together for a house party --- an intimate little set with some food, friends, and fun (maybe cards, music, a TV event, or just good conversation). The fun could be "just because...". Or, in the case of a recent set at the elegantly-decorated, Lakeshore Drive home of my friend Chicago Carl, it was a "let's-get-together-because-Patrick-is-back-in-town" party. So, after the business of my day, my Ti-Ti (Itika) picked me up (as she had just seen "Norbit" by herself because Carl, Jesse, Arlene, and I were to see it with her the night prior, but she came to the wrong theater. SMILE! "How you doin'????" LOL!). Ti-Ti and I ventured up to Carl's pad and he was awaiting us with open arms. Ever the host, we were given a tour and then seated comfortably as he provided fabulous glassware for Itika's two-step 'apple martini' (with Appleton Rum). CHEERS! Soon, Carl's generous and kind friend Vince (who hosted the last affair we all had when I was leaving Chicago from my month-long stint in January) joined us and we let the sounds of Diana's current CD "I Love You" and one of her "greatest hits" (along with a career-long collection by Patti LaBelle) score this portion of the evening. During this time, Vince, Itika, and I chatted intensely and passionately about "The Secret". This movie was created by Australian Rhonda Byrne, who says that if you follow its philosophy, you can create the life you want—whether that means getting out of debt, finding a more fulfilling job or even falling in love. (www.thesecret.tv/). I haven't seen the movie, but Vince has. And since I'm always attuned to tools that can support my delivering on the results I want to have show up in my life, I sat their OPEN to what he had to say on the subject. It echoed some life work I've done and have written about here on the blog www.momentumeducation.com . (REMEMBER: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2006/10/25/love-is-in-the-air.html ). Itika weighed in with a series that her pastor was teaching on CONFESSIONS. It all looks at - on some level - WHO ARE WE BEING that the results in our lives are showing up or not showing up??? And as "The Secret" goes, the most powerful Law of the Universe: the Law of Attraction should be our guide. Because, according to this work, "Like attracts like," or "It is done unto you as you believe" (a belief is only a thought you keep thinking). And most importantly, Law of Attraction is something we are all armored to make work to our advantage. Once I see the film, I'm sure I'll talk more about it. Playing in a conversation around POSSIBILITIES at this inspired party (over pizza and wings) was the perfect way to spend our time.
Once Carl's brother Andre got there, we placed his DJ hat on him and he rewarded us with an awesome, prolific box set from Holland-Dozier-Holland, who wrote many of my Diana's hits with the Supremes. "Heaven Must Have Sent You: The Holland-Dozier-Holland Story" is a 3-CD collection that traces the development of these master music men's craft. From "Where Did Our Love Go?" to "Love Is Like an Itchin' In My Heart", we watched these classics bring joy to our faces. (http://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Must-Have-Sent-You/dp/B0009S2TIY) Big shout out to Andre for skipping through to all my Diana selects first... before we heard the other magic that Holland- Dozier-Holland created over the years. (Thanks for the ride too!).
I've also told you about hairstylist & weaver extraordinaire Jesse Dean. Carl works with her at the Jesse Dean Hair Salon. She brought her husband Brian. And it was a pleasure to meet him as she's spoken about him so many times. He's a great guy and not so bad on the eyes either. Go Jesse!!! Now that I have seen her husband, I get why she was so quick to acknowledge how handsome my boyfriend Anthony is. (Not too much, Jesse!).
Carl was nothing short of the host with the most - going so far as to replenish our liquor well with a late-night run as we all felt like one more drink would cap off the night. Since Carl himself doesn't drink, I just found that to be so generous and loving. He truly wanted to make sure we all had a good time. And we truly did. THANKS CARL! I'll see you soon!
One day later, I found myself scheduled to return home to New Jersey without a Grammy set. It came on Sunday night. Just as I was commuting to Chicago's O'Hare airport to get on my flight, I get a vibrating text from my friends Jason & Marqise who decided to have a few folks over for an intimate, Grammy-viewing party. You'll recall, they were in the mix for my BDAY EXTRAVAGANZA (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2006/11/21/a-birthday-in-the-life-of-riley.html). Also, they threw a New Year's set at their home in Jamaica, NY and my Anthony and I had a brilliant time ringing in 2007 there. (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/1/4/its-a-new-year-and-im-still-dreaming.html). Well, this time it was much more simple. My Marlynn, Troy, Jason, Marquise, and I (along with a girlfriend of theirs who didn't stay too long) were in the mix. Jason, still and always ever the host, prepared our plates of BBQ and baked wings, macaroni and cheese, and salad. Riesling (White wine) was the drink of the night. And he capped off his menu with a delicious yellow cake with chocolate frosting. The GRAMMYs provided our entertainment and we experienced many highlights including:
* The blue-eyed soul of Miss Christina Aguilera shut the kids down as she performed James Brown's "It's a Man's World" as a tribute to the late great. She worked the song to perfection - so much so, I was trying to figure out who preceded her as she entered unannounced from the bottom of the stage. Then, a big picture of James Brown appeared on the background before she lunged into this historic performance. Juxtaposed to Beyonce's luke-warm, tentative "Listen", Christina definitely had one of the top sets of the night. (I hear, however, Beyonce had a stomach flu).
* Overall, it was Mary J. Blige's night. In great voice, she sang "Be Without You" in front of an orchestra before breaking out into Bette Midler's "Stay". She was phenomenal! When she accepted her best R&B album trophy for "The Breakthrough", her thank-you list was so long she was nearly cut off. But isn't GRATITUDE what you would want to come from an artist on a night where eyes are all clearly on you? And she further rewarded the crowd with her hook on Ludacris' latest which was presented with Earth, Wind, & Fire.
* Stevie Wonder introduced one of the more unusual performances of the night, a collaboration among Corinne Bailey Rae, John Legend and John Mayer. But it was a highlight for me. Rae began with "Like a Star," accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. Mayer joined in on electric guitar, then Legend on piano. Legend then turned his "Coming Home" into a trio in which Mayer and Bailey Rae chimed in before Mayer took over with his bluesy "Gravity".
* Another inspired medley (that I'm reminded is what preceded Christina): Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, and Chris Brown - each who paid tribute to the R&B genre with one of their hit songs. Robinson displayed his sweet, tender falsetto "Tracks of My Tears." Richie craftily sang and tickled the keys of the piano to his huge, but delicate, hit "Hello," and Brown (with a hoodie-wearing dance troupe behind him) gave a performance worthy of MTV VMA Awards credibility as he displayed modern-day R&B through the melody (and accompanying choreography) of "Run It."
After the GRAMMYs, Jason, Marqise, and Marlynn reminded me why I hold them all so high as friends. In addition to our chats about the GRAMMYs, we each checked in with each other and where thing are with our lives and our careers. And in that moment (and after that moment), I was reminded of how nice it is to have friends who care and about whom I care. And I thought how blessed I am to - from time to time - have people in my life who are as concerned about me as having a PARTY! And YES! There MUST be a PARTY!!!!!