BOSTON — The last thing that Pineo Maffeo, head chef at iconic retailer Louis Boston’s Restaurant L, wants to serve Democratic National Convention luminaries next week is their umpteenth lobster roll.
This story first appeared in the July 22, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Maffeo, in charge of edibles for a Wednesday party sponsored by the Creative Coalition — set to draw Susan Sarandon, Miramax chairman Harvey Weinstein, other Hollywood big shots and arts and entertainment activists — has been tinkering instead with a menu that recasts street food as luxury nibbles.
“Kobe beef hot dogs with maybe a miso-onion relish…mocha or lavender [flavored] cotton candy with different toppings, like kafir lime leaves,” he said.
Yet a distinctly unfestive spirit fogs the city as Democrats eager to defeat President Bush arrive.
Retailers have been worried for months about how the disruption of services, the closing of roads and the lack of traditional summer tourists will affect business, while the main police union is threatening to picket Democratic mayor Thomas M. Menino along his entire itinerary. Delegates from Maine, California, Tennessee and Ohio, all of which have strong labor ties, have been advised to boycott welcoming parties at which Menino is the host in order to stay clear of picket lines.
Consultations with the Secret Service and police have quashed several events. The city refused the request of Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and native son, for a free Boston Pops Orchestra concert and fireworks on the Esplanade, the open-air venue along the Charles River. Kerry staffers were able to convince the officials to permit a smaller event at the Columbia Point campus of the University of Massachusetts, next to the John F. Kennedy library.
The city faces a $34.3 million net loss from the convention, including lost worker productivity, lower retail sales and the departure of two major events — the Tall Ships festival and the U.S. Gymnastics team qualifying competition, David Tuerck, executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, a public policy research institute, has estimated.
Chris Guiliano, the city’s revenue manager, has acknowledged that lost business is a concern, though he said a good portion of the sales will be made up during the weeks before and after.
Amid the Sturm und Drang, there will be politicking, a party platform, speeches, lobbying, fund-raising and parties galore.
Party planners, restaurateurs and public relations firms are making final preparations for the four-day convention, which starts Monday at Boston’s Fleet Center with a feeling that the city isn’t quite ready for the onslaught. Delegates begin arriving on Saturday and parties kick into gear the next night.
“I’m getting the sense that Boston has been so bogged down with the total inconvenience that they don’t understand what’s truly going on,” said Louis Boston owner Debi Greenberg, who is the host and financial backer of the Creative Coalition party that takes place in tents outside her specialty store. “The parties are a process unto themselves. They are a chance for delegates and politically minded people and influencers to mingle together and develop a platform. It’s not just one big frill.”
The party scene is shaping up as a broad array with a loose theme. The beginning of the week focuses on Clinton-related fetes and the end belongs to the Kerrys.
In between, attention will focus on Massachusetts senior senator Edward Kennedy, a longtime advocate of strong minimum wage legislation and health care reform. There are myriad shindigs being given by and for Kennedy, including a Tuesday concert tribute featuring U2’s Bono and cellist Yo-Yo Ma at Symphony Hall. Bristol Myers Squibb, Bank of America and the AFL-CIO, which has endorsed Kerry, are helping to pay for it.
The Coalition is hoping to get Ben Affleck, another hometown boy, to show up at its event, which would be a coup, since Kerry strategist Bob Shrum has already promised Affleck a spot writing speeches for the candidate. Also on the list are Alec Baldwin, Mandy Patinkin, Sarandon and Weinstein, with the Red Hot Chili Peppers supplying the entertainment.
On Monday, after a 10:30 a.m. dedication of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the Kennedy clan will gather for lunch at the Boston Aquarium. Then Tuesday, before Kennedy addresses the convention, his wife, Vicki, will be the host at a private luncheon for 250 women at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to honor Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. On that list are insider pals such as Coco Kopelman, wife of Chanel president Arie Kopelman; Wendy Mackenzie, a key New York fund-raiser, and Diana Walker, Time magazine photographer and daughter of the late Washington retailer Dorcas Harden.
“We all got those invitations as phone calls,” said Walker, who will be staying at the Park Plaza Hotel, along with the Kopelmans and the rest of Kerry’s inside crew. “I just spent two days with Teresa in Sun Valley. She’s all rested and off to the races.”
Expect paparazzi to feast on Affleck’s jaunts, as well as on Kerry’s photogenic daughters, Alexandra and Vanessa, and his stepson, Chris Heinz.
Along the way, those with power will be flexing their muscles.
Supporters of Kerry’s vice presidential running mate, Sen. John Edwards, will be welcomed by a lineup of parties hosted by the Boston-based lobbying group Dewey Square. Nick Baldick, a principal in the firm, was Edwards’ campaign manager during the primaries, when Edwards made manufacturing jobs and trade a centerpiece of his campaign. Baldick’s firm is hosting a Sunday night bash at the Beacon Hill Hotel.
Also on the list are two key Kerry supporters from Boston: Robert B. Crowe, a lawyer and lobbyist who is vice chairman for finance of the Democratic National Committee, and Jack Manning, a Boston real estate executive. Wednesday night, Crowe and Manning will host their own DNC dinner for 350 to 400 guests at Mistral, the upscale French restaurant, in honor of Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Target Corp. will be the host at lunches for Sen. Max Baucus of Montana and Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. A handful of corporate and trade-association sponsors signed on, at $20,000 a pop, to fund Louisiana Sen. John Breaux’s retirement party at the New England Aquarium. It will be a Caribbean-themed gala for 1,500 people featuring performances by Ziggy Marley and Buckwheat Zydeco, said a spokesman.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the convention chairman, who is said to be on Kerry’s list for Secretary of State, will be honored Tuesday night at a party given by Bank of America to launch its “Get out the Hispanic Vote” rally at the Cyclorama in the Boston Center for the Arts.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will be feted at “Revolutionary Women,” a daytime event featuring female party luminaries, such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Clinton also will be honored at a private soirée at Spire restaurant with New York’s senior senator, Charles Schumer. Hillary and former President Bill Clinton will appear Sunday at “An Evening with the Clintons,” a gala hosted by fund-raiser Elaine Schuster for 900 people at the State Room ballroom.
“A picture of myself and Bill Clinton on the front page of The [Boston] Globe,” said State Room owner Jim Apteker. “How much is that worth? I’d say it will give us marketing momentum.”
His penthouse ballroom, with its views of the skyline and harbor, will be the site of 28 convention parties. Although the $250,000 in total convention revenue is less than he anticipated, Apteker is pleased to have landed evening events with both the Clintons and the Kerrys, who will attend a midnight rally at the State Room on Thursday after the senator’s acceptance speech.
On Wednesday night, Kerry will be schmoozing top-shelf Democratic donors at the French restaurant Mistral. In olive green engraving, the invite asks for attendance at an evening honoring the senator’s wife.
Lynne Kortenhaus, president and chief executive officer of Kortenhaus Communications, the Boston firm planning the Kerry Mistral party and the Louis Boston Creative Coalition event, echoes others in calling the convention “an investment” for her business.
Kortenhaus is also one of a trio of planners pulling off the week’s biggest party: the Media Welcome for 15,000 journalists at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston.
Conceived as an ultimate “taste of Boston,” about 50 chefs, including celebrity chef Todd English, will prepare a signature hors d’oeuvres in exchange for a $250 honorarium and media exposure, which in this case will be quite literal: menus and chefs’ pictures will be projected on scrims around the convention center.
There are also many smaller gatherings sprinkled throughout the city.
Newsweek’s editors will get together Sunday night at the restaurant No. 9 Park for a four-course meal featuring house specialties such as cherry-glazed duck confit, paired with wines. The group has been a dream patron, booking the engagement two years ago, manager Janet Kim said.
The next night, No. 9 Park will host Kennedy and 50 friends for a sit-down dinner. On Wednesday, chef Barbara Lynch is renting the restaurant to her cousin, Rep. Steven Lynch, for a reception.
Amid the professional efforts, the lobbying for young voters hasn’t been overlooked.
Affleck is slated to use his celebrity chops and power of persuasion to create junior Democrats during an appearance Sunday at Comcast’s “Power of One: Decision 2008.” Time Warner is hosting its own “Light Nite” bash starting at 9 p.m. at Tia’s Waterfront, where Sarah Jessica Parker is expected. On Monday, Roll Call Magazine is hosting another late-night get-together at the Anthem starting at 10. On the more exclusive side is CNBC’s lunch for 30 on Tuesday at the Old State House.
On Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., CNBC and Tina Brown are having a private luncheon for Hillary Clinton at Radius Restaurant. Then there’s the standing lunch date hosted by Atlantic Monthly Tuesday through Thursday at 1 p.m. for about 30 editors, writers and friends at Parris in Faneuil Hall’s Quincy Market Building. The “Today” show will be camped out all week at Faneuil Hall’s Salty Dog Café.
— With contributions from Susan Watters, Washington