Unleash your inner party planner with these strategies for hosting from Tori Spelling's new book. Here's an excerpt.
BECOMING A HOST
I guess the celebrations of my youth planted a seed, either that or party planning was in my DNA, because as soon as I could, I started hosting my own parties. The first year I moved into my own apartment, my best friend Jenny and I decided to host Thanksgiving. We were nineteen years old, and we thought it was a very grown-up thing to cook a Thanksgiving feast. Of course, most of our friends were still locked into Thanksgiving with their families, so we set ours for Wednesday night, the day before the real holiday. (When you’re nineteen, you don’t see anything unappealing about stuffing your face two days in a row.)
I was still acting on 90210 at the time, and the day of the party, filming ran later than scheduled. I arrived home at five o’clock that night to find Jenny in the kitchen, sweat pouring down her face. The kitchen was a mess, with half-started dishes on every surface. Jenny said, “Why did we decide to do this?” She wiped her brow.
I said, “We can do it!”
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Jenny said, “The chopped liver. It’s over there.” She pointed a wooden spoon in the direction of the liver, which I had insisted on making from scratch. We got to work, cooking and drinking and greeting guests as they arrived for dinner to find that it was hours from being ready. At eleven o’clock that night, we were finally done. Jenny and I were excited to have our first real dinner on my new dining room table. But my then-boyfriend Nick and his friends were caught up in some sports game and refused to come in and eat at the table. Sothe girls ate at the table and the boys stayed in front of the television. The dishes didn’t look spectacular, and everyone was so hungry it was hard to tell if the food was actually good, but we had succeeded.
(Before I served Nick his turkey, I put a few drops of Visine on it. I had heard it caused gastrointestinal distress. The special ingredient was meant to be payback not just for the TV watching during my dinner, but for all the nights he partied it up and left me at home. If he noticed a weird taste and complained, I was going to make that old fly-in-my-soup joke and tell him to be quiet, or everybody else would want what he got. As far as I know, the Visine didn’t have the intended effect, but I was still somewhat vindicated. Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home.)
That Thanksgiving Jenny and I had tried to cook every single recipe that struck our fancy. It was our first lesson in being overly ambitious. But for the most part we were undaunted by the chaos. Jenny and I continued to throw parties — all very experimental, spaghetti-on-the-wall type stuff. Literally. One of my friends always joked about how there was always old spaghetti hanging off the ceiling in that apartment. For every party we threw, Jenny and I would pick a gazillion recipes and cook all day long. There was no rhyme or reason to our labor. If we were hungry for deviled eggs, we made deviled eggs. If artichoke chicken sounded yummy, we threw it in. The only unifying theme for the menu was that it came from a pile of recipes we wanted to try. Although décor has become my obsession, I didn’t care much about it at the time. But all that experimentation was fun, and it laid a good foundation for future parties. By the time I wanted to do a spooky Halloween spread, I already knew how to make deviled eggs, and it was a no‑brainer to turn them into eyeballs and dub them Evil Eggs. And so on.Story: Martha Stewart redefines the art of entertaining
As I became a more experienced hostess, I branched out. I began by throwing the most obvious theme parties — holidays were my starting point. At first, Christmas was the only party I threw that truly qualified as over-the-top. I had my mother’s example as inspiration, but where she was ever-elegant, I went in the other direction. Maybe we’re all drawn to what we don’t have — but I was into the kitschiest food and decor I could find. I decorated with plastic reindeer, tinsel, and fake snow. I served mini grilled cheese and mini peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and I stacked up Krispy Kreme doughnuts to form a tree. There was always a punch bowl of store-bought eggnog, spiked of course.
At those Christmas parties we often had a white elephant gift exchange, where you bring the cheesiest present you can think of, like a Chia Pet, wrapped. Everyone draws a number. The person with number one is the first to choose a present. As everyone watches, he opens it. Then the person with number two can either open a new present, or take number one’s present from him. And so on down the line. It always made for many laughs, especially the Christmas where we did a sex toy white elephant exchange. For some reason I was a do‑it-yourselfer from the start. It wasn’t so much a reaction to the fully catered, fully staffed parties I grew up with so much as it was my way of being a homemaker. To watch me in the kitchen, you’d think that my mom had cooked the family dinner every night, which was not the case, although she’s an excellent cook. No matter, I was determined to do it all.
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I had to have people over. It all came about very logically. It’s no fun to cook for yourself. And my friends were my family. When I used up all the obvious holidays, I needed more excuses to entertain, so I cast a wider net. I had premiere parties for every TV movie I was in — and in my twenties that was four times a year. (You know, the traditional Watch Me Get Stabbed By a Jealous Classmate Party, Watch Me Try to Remember Who Killed My Boyfriend Party, and Watch Me Stab My Boyfriend Party.)
But it still wasn’t enough. So even though I hate football, one year I decided to host a Super Bowl party. About twenty people came over for chili and cornbread. (I had grown up eating chili at Chasen’s, and so was fond of it and wanted to make my own. Coming to love chili at a place like Chasen’s is a little like saying that the pool at the Four Seasons made you fall in love with swimming, but that was my reality.) It was such a success that I came to have a Super Bowl party every year. As the years went by, I branched out. I color-coordinated napkins and treats with whichever teams were playing. This was particularly challenging since I didn’t know which side to root for, and if I represented both, certain guests were sure to object. Besides, football colors are pretty ghastly and including all four successfully was near impossible. When it came down to it, what choice did I really have? I simply picked the team with the prettier color combination. Why was I having annual Super Bowl parties when I don’t give a bean about football? Well, I had awakened the dormant homemaker gene hidden in the fiber of my soul. I was in love with throwing parties. Every aspect of it tapped into some inner compulsion. I loved the planning, the crafting, the cooking, getting deals, running out on the day of the party to make lastminute purchases, and the rush and thrill of getting everything in order just as the guests arrived. Throwing parties was genuinely fulfilling.
From the very beginning, my parties were about experimenting and having fun, not making checklists. What fun is a checklist? It limits you too much. That’s what this book is about—the organic, inspiration-driven party. Sure, a to‑do list can help you remember everything that needs to get done, but we all know that. You don’t need me to show you how to write a list of obvious tasks on a piece of paper. This book is meant to be inspirational, not simply instructional. Even so, I’ll give you my tips and battlefield stories to show you how it’s done (and what not to do — I have plenty of experience with that, too).
Copyright © 2012 Tori Spelling. From the book celebraTORI, published by Gallery Books, an imprint of the Simon & Schuster, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive