Starz missed Party Down bad. The show, which ran for two seasons at the end of the aughts, has only grown in critical esteem and fandom as its cast has gone on to bigger things. Co-creator Paul Rudd is the titular Ant-Man now. Adam Scott went from starring in one of TV’s sweetest romances in Parks and Rec to … not that on Severance. Ken Marino played another desperate grasper on The Other Two. But while the cast and crew of Party Down have been upwardly mobile in their careers, the show is about people who stay stagnant. As Kathryn VanArendonk pointed out in her review, Party Down’s revival is only made better by all the time that’s passed. The more stuck these sad sacks are, the funnier the show can be. It is a show particularly suited to this time: As the pandemic and a looming recession crush dreams left and right, it’s nice to be able to laugh with (at?) people who have it even worse.
To understand how much Starz loves Party Down, one need only look at the premiere party the network threw for it on February 22. Starz went balls to the wall with the venue, the catering, and the take-home candy bar. Guests were escorted through a giant house (my friend kept referring to the house as “from Babylon”) to a “smaller” pool house that had multiple chandeliers, a screening room, and an elevator. Champagne flowed, the raw bar never went unstocked, and the whole thing was attended by cater-waiters dressed in Party Down’s iconic pink bow ties. That’s part of what made the event so surreal: This party was too nice for Party Down to cater. Party Down is about fuckups, and this affair was not run by fuckups.
We spoke over Zoom to the Party Down party’s event coordinator and head of catering, as well as a bartender and server who worked the event, because who better to talk to about the travails of a catering crew than an actual catering crew? They talked about how realistic the show is, wedding horror stories, and what’s the best leftover to scarf at the end of the night.
Weston Gonzalez, owner and creative director, Westhaus
How did you get into event planning?
Something that I really enjoyed when I was doing internships in college was creating something in my head and people living in it. I think it’s such a cool, unique experience that we get to do in event production: You take the space, you turn it into something, people get to live in it — they get to experience it in all of the different senses.
How accurate do you think the show is?
There are servers and bartenders who say things like, “I’m doing this on the side. I want to be an actor; I want to be on TV.” It’s a common trope that exists for a reason. I also think there are a lot of people who do this because they really just enjoy the environment, so it’s definitely is a mix of both. The show portrays it in the right way, but it also leans into the stereotypes.
Do you have any advice for people who are feeling nervous about attending a party where they know no one?
Lean into what we’ve created. Go do the photo activation, have a drink, have some food, talk to the staff, and immerse yourself in the environment that we have created.
What’s your favorite leftover to have a bunch of at the end of the night?
I’m a sucker for anything potato-driven.
Helen Cavallo, owner of Food & Bounty catering company
Something I’ve noticed at industry events is that the catering is gorgeous, but everybody is so image conscious and then they don’t eat anything.
I’m making a bit of a generalization, but the people who are like, “Does that have sugar in it?”, by the end of the night, you see them like, “Gobble gobble gobble.” Because they kind of deprived themselves, I guess. By the end of the night, the desserts are cleared. It’s all gonna get hit hard.
Have you seen the show?
I’ve seen the previous seasons, and I have chuckled a lot, because there’s a lot of truth in it. Obviously it’s very embellished, but all of those things do happen where they’re talking about their gig and you’re like, “Hey, guys, that tray needs to go out,” and they’re like, “Yeah, hold on one second.” Or we’ll hire models and they’re gorgeous, and they’re just like, “Do I have to lift that?” and you’re like, “Yeah, you do.” So all those things exist, but whatever. We laugh about it, and it’s good kitchen stories.
The nice thing about these events is they’re seeing who they want to be. They see the director and the producers, and I think it inspires them to think, I’m gonna get there, which is kind of nice. We’ve worked with a lot of people who are doing theater on Broadway, so it’s been really nice to be able to support them financially and to see them make it to where they want to go.
Have you seen people make it?
It’s always a good sign when they’re not available for us anymore. That makes me proud of them. Sometimes I’ll beg them and throw more money at them, and they’re like, “I really can’t. I love you, but I can’t,” and I’m like “Okay, good for you, man.”
Eric Jimenez, bartender, Food & Bounty
Why’d you get into this industry, and why have you stayed in it for so long?
Growing up, I played music, and it’s just flexible if you need a shift covered or you need to pick up some shifts. As I grew up, I started learning more. It’s fun. I have a great time.
Are you still playing music, and if so, what kind?
I produce some and play from time to time. At the moment it’s hip-hop and a little bit of everything. I grew up with Spanish music, so I’m working on a Spanish album.
How do you juggle working in food service and your creative pursuits?
I prioritize the industry because it’s taking great care of me and just use my time off. Sometimes I’ll get home late, and the creativity is there, you know? I’ll pull my computer out and work on music. It’s something that I don’t think I could stop if I wanted to.
Have you ever worked any crazy parties?
One of my friends is an event coordinator on four-story yachts in Newport Beach, and he’d hire me on as a bartender all the time. It was a bunch of weddings. Every wedding, there was a fight, a man overboard, or someone had to get taken off the vessel because they’re just being crazy. I feel like it’s intense when people just get into it amongst family members.
I worked an event once where I was a bartender, but it was nonalcoholic. It was like 400 kids, and they’re little entitled rich kids, and they would just run up the bar and go “BOO!” Hours of this. Jesus Christ. That was fun.
Cameron Bowen, waiter, Food & Bounty
I can see a recording booth behind you. What’s that for?
During the pandemic, everyone had to build these home studios so that we can still work. That’s sort of the new industry standard. So I spend a lot of my time in my closet now.
What kind of voice-over work do you do?
Everything. I’ve been doing it for a long time — 27 years. I’ve done a lot of kids’ television, but these days it’s a lot of dubbing. Netflix is taking all their shows that are in other languages, and they’re dubbing them in English.
Do you do live-action work as well?
I did a lot of it when I was a kid. As I get older, I have a harder time getting into it and playing pretend in the way that I used to. But with voice-overs, it’s a lot easier to believe who you are when you’re just behind a mic and there’s not a camera. Then there’s all the rigmarole of getting into makeup. So I’ll do it, but I don’t really pursue it anymore.
What brought you to L.A.?
I have a very large family, and they were all actors, and we grew up in New York. At some point the idea of pilot season was brought up, so we came out for pilot season in 2002.
One of the questions I was going to ask was what do you want to do after catering, but it seems like you found a good balance of gig-to-gig.
When I lived in New York, I would have little jobs. I would sell merchandise at theaters and do a little bit of catering, but it really depended on how much I was working as an actor. Nowadays, good or bad, I like to keep lots of other jobs because I’m not a nine-to-five actor, you know? Very few people are. And more so than just the money, it’s nice to have something to go to that’s completely separate from what you’re really passionate about — somewhere you enjoy the people that you work with, and you have a job where you’re valuable for something other than a “talent,” you know? And catering is the most consistent job I found that I enjoy.
What do you enjoy about it?
In the restaurant industry, I’ve found that the back of house and the front of house are two different worlds, and they don’t get along very well. With catering, it’s way more cohesive: You’ll have servers who are helping prepare hors d’oeuvres or something, and you’ll have chefs who bring stuff out if the servers are overwhelmed. It feels more communal.
Is there anything in the VO sphere right now that you’re excited about?
There’s a game called Cookie Run, which I just learned has like a hundred million daily users. It’s a Korean app, it comes out in episodes, and I play one of the cookies on that. Believe it or not, as far as fan engagement goes, this has been the biggest thing. I’ve been doing signings and stuff like that. It’s cool because it’s one of the first things that I’ve done as an adult where I’ve done a real character voice. Most of the stuff I’ve done has been versions of myself, whereas with this one, the character is ageless, and he’s a dark wizard cookie.
What do you think of Party Down?
I love it. I think I might have to tell Adam Scott that he’s a really big influence to me, as a caterer.
I remember like seven years ago, I was with a catering company and worked with this guy, and then he went home and Googled me. Then the next time we worked together, he goes, “What are you doing here? I Googled you, you were young Frasier! What are you doing here?” I’m like, “Same thing as you,” because this guy was also an actor.
Have you ever been recognized while working?
I worked the Annie Awards, which is the voice-actor awards, and I saw some of my agents there and some actors I work with intimately. I think in my 20s it would have bothered me more. I think I would have been embarrassed. But now, I’m not embarrassed at all.
What is the most exciting thing to see a big hotel pan full of at the end of the night?
Food & Bounty, all their hors d’oeuvres are incredible. They don’t worry about calories or fat content. They just think of the most delicious thing that they can put in bite-size form. Although you don’t want to end up eating a whole dinner of hors d’oeuvres. But free food is the best tasting anyway.