What is it like to plan a party for P. Diddy?
He'll have a vision and then we'll sit down and hash through the flow of how that's going to be experienced by the guests. He likes to push the intersection of design and thought and expression in pretty much everything that he does.
What elements of party giving does he focus on?
He focuses on age-old notions of hospitality that have to do with graciousness, taking care of his guests and seeing to their every need. The staff to guest ratio for tonight is what you'd have at a very formal multiple course dinner—three to four times the ratio of staff that you'd normally have at this kind of party.
Is there a theme for tonight?
For his 40th we really focused on the sensual over the overtly sexual, the experiential not the spectacle—though it will be pretty spectacular, too. This was a conscious choice—it's a different note in his entertaining.
You've thrown parties for the Clintons and you're friendly with Obama's chief of protocol, Capricia Penavic Marshall. In terms of entertaining, how do you think the Obamas compare to the Clintons?
I think that both the Clintons and the Obamas have an incredible understanding of the social power of the presidency. How you make that a visitor feel—whether a king or a general or a president-for-life —has a direct impact on how they deal with the issues that day. If you can treat them in a way that creates a bridge of understanding, you're already closer to yes.
What are you doing for Thanksgiving?
I grew up in a farm in Arkansas, so all the people on the farm come over. We all cook and have a huge duck hunt. We also take my parents' Christmas card picture over Thanksgiving—there's usually some insane trek to the site. This year I think we're taking canoes to some little spot in the swampy wetlands of the Cache river.
Do you have any Thanksgiving pet peeves?
Thanksgiving is like a wedding in the sense that there are traditions, but they're traditions that we can change together. I think it's fun to have turkey and stuffing and yams, all of it, but do it your way. We've had traditional roasted turkey, deep fried turkey and once I did a turkey stuffed with oranges and a citrus Asian hoisin sauce—it was fantastic.