Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chapter 12: Bonding with Kona

About a month after the Collin's Estate wedding, Wellington's was booked to provide flowers for a private birthday party in New York City. One such event was a 60th birthday party for a rich old queen. It waqs set for the first weekend in November, the same weekend Stewart was going to Japan for their annual flower show. He asked Johnny to help Kona do the job. It turned out to be one of the longest days of Johnny's life, but it also gave him and Kona a last chance to bond as friends.

Since Johnny lived between Southampton and the city, Kona had to load the van herself and pick Johnny up along the way. The flowers and accessories needed for the event weren't too much to have to load into the van, except for the four boxes of heavy river rocks and the very expensive Kuninga vases they would later go into.

Kona got to Johnny's at 7:30AM. This would be the first time he would experience riding in the van with Kona driving for the 90-minute trip into Manhattan. She was a wild one, that was for sure, weaving and darting in and out of the traffic and making the trip in just under 50 minutes! They arrived at their destination on the Upper East Side just before 8:30.

The weather was unseasonably cold that day. A bitter wind coming off the East River reminded them that winter was just around the corner. It was too early to enter the venue. Bill's staff wasn't getting there until eleven o'clock and they couldn't enter the building until ten. Kona suggested they get a cup of coffee and wait in the warm van. Johnny agreed.

For the next hour or so, Johnny and Kona traded lines to the latest hip hop hits. "Hot damn, this is my jam. We're gonna party until the AM..." They laughed and sang, having a good time, and before they knew it, it was time to start unloading the van and trudge it all the way up to the 40th floor penthouse where the party would take place. They had to make a lot of trips!

Johnny and Kona labored through the next two hours, unpacking a little at a time from the van, carrying it to the freight elevator, going up, unloading, then returning down to the van for more. They would repeat this process over and over again until they had gotten the van completely unloaded. By then, Bill's people were already scurrying about, beginning to "pretty up" the room.

The theme for the party was color. There were several rooms in the penthouse and each would have its own color theme. There was a red room, a blue room, a green room and an orange one, and Kona had had to spray paint the leaves of tall stemmed flowers to match the color of each room. These painted flowers would be placed in prominent positions in each room within the Kuninga vases.

That would be the bulk of their work for the party, other than some placing of some pre-made centerpieces and candles on the tables throughout the apartment. Once they were done, they'd be on their own until 11PM, the end of the party, when they would have to break it all down. They'd planned on being done by 2PM or so, and were going to spend the afternoon and evening doing something fun in the city.

As things will go, Johnny and Kona's plans didn't quite happen as they had hoped. What they thought would be a simple setup turned out to be not so simple, especially when Bill arrived on the scene.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Aristocratic Affairs

Before Stewart started his own flower shop in the Hamptons, he had been a floral designer for one of the most exclusive flower shops in New York City, "Il Bello Fiore." During his time there, he'd become friendly one of their clients, William Tate III, "Bill", the owner of an upscale Manhattan caterer aptly named "Aristocratic Affairs." Much like Wellington's flower shop, Bill's company catered only to the very wealthy. His parties were well known in social circles throughout Manhattan and he referred a lot of business to Wellington's during the off season. Many weekends throughout the fall, Stewart would take Johnny into Manhattan to help him with these events.

Working events in the city with Aristocratic Affairs was a whole new experience for Johnny. Not only did he get the opportunity to see unbelievably upscale parties up close and personal, but working with Bill and his crew was always full of a different kind of tension than Johnny was used to at Wellingtons. Bill certainly knew what he was doing when it came to his business, but he wasn't the easiest person to work for.

Aristocratic Affairs had its own hall somewhere down in the West Village. It wasn't a large place, but it was big enough for parties of 80 people or so. The place was like a New York City loft, complete with brick walls and small nooks and crannies everywhere. Once it had been decorated with flowers (by Stewart, of course), it always looked amazing.

Another venue often used for Aristocratic Affairs parties was a building on the west end of 33rd Street. The building housed photography studios on each of its 10 or floors. The studios, each with wrap-around terraces giving magnificent views of the Hudson River, were wonderful settings for catered affairs. Every time Johnny worked a party there, he'd often fantasize about being a guest at one of them.

Bill was a big old, nasty queen. He's the kind of homosexual tyrant that gives gay people a bad name. His wait staff was made up entirely of wannabe actors and actresses, each one more stunning than the next. Johnny knew why they were hired, and he also figured that they must be paid well because they always took a lot of abuse from the dude at every single party...and so did the lighting guys, and the photographers, the kitchen workers, and the flower people!

Johnny hated Bill. Being that he technically worked for Stewart, Johnny always steered clear of Bill whenever they worked an event. Unfortunately, whenever Bill got worked up over something, which was almost every time right before the start of the party, Stewart, and evidently Johnny, would find themselves running around helping out Bill's crew so that they'd be ready for the event.

Bill was prone to yelling and name calling whenever he got agitated. The words 'idiot' and 'ass' flew out of his mouth like water out of a faucet. When Bill came into the venue, usually an hour before the start of the event, tension levels rose. Waiters and waitresses would scramble to finish their place settings, the lighting guys would rush to finish whatever it was they were doing, that is, until Bill changed his mind about the placement of a spotlight or two. Stewart and Johnny would invariably end up lighting candles or moving tables, or whatever other orders Bill barked out at them.

For all of his tense-filled tirades, Bill was good at what he did: throwing fabulous, upscale parties. Each of his affairs inevitably brought new clients to his business. One of the coolest weddings Johnny had ever helped set up was a New York City-themed wedding in which both the bride and groom were aficionados of the metropolis. The groom, an amateur photographer, had taken photos of some of the couple's favorite spots in the city: Soho, Central Park, Yankee Stadium, The Battery, and a whole lot more. These pictures would serve as Billboards for what Stewart was doing on the tables.

For this event, Stewart had brought square shaped vases in four different heights. They would serve as faux buildings, a skyline on every table. Clear, glass rocks were placed at the bottom of each vase and tall grasses were situated within. The black and white photos were put on the sides of the "buildings" as billboards showcasing the features of each location throughout the city that had a special meaning to the couple. Instead of placards with table numbers, each table had a subway sign with the name of the locale on it. The venue was very original and it looked spectacular!

Nevertheless, Johnny always dreaded working one of Bill's parties. In fact, one of the last times Johnny would ever work with Kona ended up being one of the longest days of Johnny's life, and that day the two of them would bond in a new way united against Bill's wrath.

to be continued...