Thursday, May 19, 2011

#21 & #84 - a party that combined mystery and a birthday

Over the last six weeks, I've been working to the point of obsession on planning a fabulous party.  Not only did I learn how to mix drinks (and thereby fulfill another of my DayZero goals), I also wrote a murder mystery script for over 40 people.  And, of course, I had to make all of the little arrangements that go along with planning any large party that will be held in a different location.

The bar recipes I learned using homemade flash cards as I walked in the mornings.

Here's photos of what was served at the bar that evening.  I also created two special drinks for the party ... the nonalcoholic Bookworm (look for the martini glass with a gummy worm in the photo cube) and the Sexy Librarian (in a martini glass with a cherry on a drink sword).  At Easter, I took home some drink ingredients and had family members taste test ... their comments led to a finished version of the Bookworm.  The Sexy Librarian took much longer because I wanted to have each ingredient have a symbolic meaning as well as a tasty finished product.  I had several evenings of experimentation before I arrived at a finished product.  There will be a separate post in a few days with the recipes for these two drinks.

I've done several "How to Host a Murder" type mystery parties before this.  I quickly found that writing one takes lots and lots of attention to detail.  My party was centered around the fictional 4D Record company ... headed by a Mr. E.  I started by making a list of all the types of people who might be associated with such a party and tried to come up with humorous pun names to go along with the characters - I got some help on this from my sisters and ended with a list of such characters as:
  • Dee Nile - the first wife who won't admit that she and Mr. E. aren't really still together
  • Del Lirious - the jazz pianist who talks in slang and is a closet anarchist
  • Sadie Word - the rap star whose non-traditional songs feature themes like menopause and household tasks
  • Goldie Digger - Mr. E.'s mistress (and all around party girl) who finances her life through her men
  • Knott A. Clew - the misunderstood songwriter secretly in love with a girl who won't sing his songs
  • Maude Lynn - the emo goth girl singer who is actually brimming with positivity and resorts to listening to conversations on the bus and in grocery stores to find bad situations to sing about
  • Dot Matrix - a graphic artist with reams of critical acclaim who happens to be colorblind
With 50-60 of these mini-sketches in mind, I started assigning characters to guests as they RSVPed.  Then the hard part began ... many, many afternoons and evenings spent writing clues.  Early on, I had the ambitious thought that all characters would get at least 5-6 clues over four rounds.  The number of rounds was finally cut down to three and when I was down to the wire with less than a week to go before the party, I told myself that a minimum of three clues per round was acceptable ... I still ended up writing over 600 individual clues for the evening.

floorplan for 4D records
I wrote the ending stories of the seven big suspects early on.  I also wrote out a minute by minute account of almost 2 hours of time - starting from when the first characters would arrive at the fictional party until when the announcement was made that Mr. E. was dead - detailing where characters were and what the key ones were doing.  I also made a sketch of the 4D Record building that I later used as a basis for a floorplan that guests could refer to during the party.  These three items provided the backbone of the clues.

However, there were also many red herring subplots:  the heroin dealings, the anarchists, bickering among the women associated with Mr. E., a teen star who was adopted, embezzlement and IRS audits, and more.  They all served as distractions from the main plot where Mr. E. was announcing a new charity endeavor by the company - free 24/7 studio access to homeless teen musicians.

Guests at the party had been given their roles in advance ... and many embraced their inner thespian and went to town ...

Of course, I was only the humble bartender ... but I had just as much fun as everyone else.
Claire Voyant, Del Lirious, and Nell N. Void with bartender, Margie Rita - photo from Sara Skelton

There were some great moments of the evening that didn't get caught on film ... his current wife fainting when the announcement was made that Mr. E. was dead, the newly out-of-work bodyguard asking for a drink at the bar, the mistress being called a slut by the current and ex-wifes, the eyebrows going up on the murderer when he read that he was the one who did it!

I had a fabulous time fulfilling these two goals, and I hope that my friends who could attend did as well!


  1. Looks like a great time! I had a big "Mad Hatter's Tea Party ~ Taking Tea With Alice" last year for my 39th and spent so much time and energy on the party that I was almost too exhausted to enjoy it. Hope you still had lots of fun, this looks like a lot of work! :)

    This year I'm sitting back and letting my hubby do the cooking. hee hee

    Happy Birthday!

  2. Oh, what a great slide show of THE social event of the season! Speaking from afar, I must say this was the best party I've never attended!
    If only everyone would listen with such rapt attention to what I have to say........
    Many happy returns, Rachel! You done good and done it with panache!
    Lis (alias Nellie, Mrs. Peeping Tom)

  3. Lis, you were there in voice, if not in body! Thanks for the special call-in clue.

    Leisa, it was lots of work; however, I wasn't exhausted until I got home and had to put cold stuff in my frig. I had help in the morning decorating, lots of help tearing down and getting stuff back to my home (I think the only thing I carried to my car were some balloons and my tote with my camera, etc.), and my niece and her boyfriend were visiting & they were fabulous through the night about just doing things like refilling the cans of pop in the ice baskets.

    It was lots and lots of fun. I enjoy the planning part of things like this. I'm definitely thinking about doing it again - though probably not right away. :)