N.Y.C. Braces for a Grand Old Party

Posted August 27, 2004 at 5:34pm

Kid Rock. ZZ Top. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Martina McBride. Trace Adkins. Brooks & Dunn.

The Republican National Convention in New York this week is shaping up to be less of a stuffy political gathering and more of a grand old party.

All in all, more than 200 private parties are scheduled for this year’s convention, which will be attended by a 50,000-plus entourage of political leaders, corporate sponsors, state delegates and journalists.

The convention is likely to cost a total of $166 million, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.

And that kind of price tag comes with plenty of high-end entertainment.

“Every night in New York there are great shows,” said Pete Shapiro, a New York-based concert promoter. “There are a number of big acts playing in smaller venues. I don’t think you would ever see a big act like ZZ Top playing at a place like B.B. King’s” Blues Club.

The 1,000-person ZZ Top concert tonight — billed on the invitation as being “as big and bad ass as the band’s home state” of Texas — is just one of a half-dozen big-ticket parties being thrown this week by corporations and lobbying firms for the thousands of Members of Congress, delegates and reporters who have invaded the Big Apple this week.

About two dozen corporations ranging from Anheuser Busch to Southern Company will pick up the $250,000 tab for the party.

“We don’t want it to be too crowded,” said John Green, a Republican lobbyist who put on the concert. “I just want to be able to get a cold beer and chill out with my friends.”

Also today, actor-comedian Joe Piscopo — rumored to be considering a Democratic bid for New Jersey governor later this year — will perform a “Tribute to Sinatra” with his 17-piece Big Band for the Massachusetts GOP Delegation’s “New England Clambake.” That performance follows an afternoon “Salute to America’s Veterans” attended by President Bush aboard the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier docked in the Hudson River.

And later tonight, the Georgia Delegation will throw a “Rock the Apple … Georgia Style” party at the Roseland Ballroom, where country music star Martina McBride will perform to benefit Camp Sunshine, a non-profit program for children with cancer.

The big-time party scene kicked off last night with a late-night soirée, “R: The Party,” hosted by the Bush daughters, Jenna and Barbara, at the Roseland Ballroom, as well as a Lynyrd Skynyrd show at New York’s Crobar. That event, which cost more than $100,000, was billed as a tribute to Southern Republicans and was paid for by the Southern Company, Edison Electric Institute and a handful of other corporate sponsors.

On Tuesday, Hollywood’s Creative Coalition holds a $1,000-per-ticket fundraising gala at SPIRIT featuring Max Weinberg and the Max Weinberg Seven of NBC’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”

Although not as star-studded as its Democratic counterpart in Boston, the Creative Coalition’s New York gala features a bevy of actors, musicians and entertainers, including Sean Astin, Piscopo, Liev Schreiber and Montel Williams.

One of hottest tickets on Tuesday is the “Spirits of New York” party at the opulent New York Yacht Club. Sponsored by Roll Call, The Economist, The Weekly Standard and the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., the reception features a tasting bar, a Cigar Aficionado-sponsored VIP cigar lounge, and a jazz performance by the Marianne Solivan Quintet.

On Wednesday afternoon, the “My South Celebration” showcases Southern culture with food prepared by renowned Southern chefs, literary readings by such authors as Mississippi-born Julia Reed, and music from blues, gospel, bluegrass and rock bands.

“This is a very important cultural event that’s been in the making more than five months,” said My South organizer Will Milligan, who sent out invitations that come with a watercolor still-life print and a 16-ounce package of “Dixie Grits.”

The festivities continue Wednesday evening when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his wife, Cindy, host “Live from New York … It’s Wednesday Night,” a late-night bash attended by “Saturday Night Live” alum Piscopo and current cast member Darrell Hammond, at the world-famous restaurant Cipriani’s.

(The McCains’ colorful invitation plays a tinny 10-second sound bite from Abba’s Broadway show “Mamma Mia.”)

But the highlight of the week may well be “Enter the Limelight,” a 2,000-person bash at the nightclub Avalon that will feature performances by country music star Trace Adkins and rap-rocker Kid Rock on Wednesday night, sponsored by the Recording Industry Association of America.

On Thursday, blues-rock outfit Blues Traveler, a perennial favorite at past Republican and Democratic conventions, will perform at the Republican Governors Association’s “RGA Rocks Times Square” event at Planet Hollywood.