December 03, 2006
Google's Holiday Party: In Detail
British Airways was probably my favorite. I was living in England at the time and attended their affair in velvet and ridiculously high heels with an old friend who worked for them at the time. The ceiling opened up and down came dancing girls in glitter and pearls encircled by a giant flying flamingo. It was more than extravagant….I felt as if I were seeing a corporate version of Beauty and the Beast and Lion King combined.
I heard about the Google bash later than an “in-the-know” publicist should have and yet, I thought, “why should I be going to this anyway? It is their private corporate party.” Yet, when you’re Google, very little is private – just read ValleyWag on a daily basis.
I ended up going as a FOG (friend of Google) with a Google engineer friend, mostly because I was curious what they could pull off for 10,000+ people -- mostly employees – in a four hour window. It was also intriguing from a corporate culture and historical perspective.
When you attend a corporate event that hosts this many people, you’re suddenly reminded of the sheer magnitude and cost of it all. The crowd was nearly the size of the small American town where I grew up and 90% of them seemed to be under the age of 25. This is perhaps not reality, but certainly my perception. (all night long).
Young girls were suffering in their six inch heels like they always do at these types of events….by 11 pm, some were limping. It is my opinion that this is something you only discover a sustainable alternative for after you hit 30.
While the wine was undrinkable, the food was varied and I was amazed at how well they managed to pull off such a huge affair so seamlessly. Sure, we hit a bottleneck of traffic heading into San Francisco’s Pier 48, of which the Google bash took over both Sheds A and B…..apparently equivalent in size according to one of the show producers. This production team managed to take a giant bare warehouse and turn it into a Disney-like extravaganza with tastes to suit nearly everyone.
I learned that they start decorating the tents on Monday (so basically a five day production), but it only takes 12 or so hours to tear everything down once they clear everything out -- 10,000+ people, blue mini-potties, the coat check, opulent props, atmospheric lighting, furniture, trinkets and decorations that filled each of the themed rooms.
They went Greek this year. Various areas within the tents were sectioned off and mapped against a visual card we were given upon entry. By the end of the night, Aphrodite was my favorite, since there were comfy couches you could hang out and listen to a classical pop orchestra wearing purple wigs.
Adjacent to this stage was the Marie Antoinette and King Louis wig palace (my name for it, not theirs), where people qued up to try on various wigs in bright gay colors. They then took an old fashioned Polaroid photo for you to keep. (I didn’t know they still made Polaroids). The que for this experience was longer than the booze, food and restroom lines combined. We must all be starving for play time.
I marveled at the Australian-accented duo adorned in purple and gold who played dress up with us towards the end of the evening. Part of the Velocity Circus, they had the best sense of humor I have encountered in months. In the same section, couples were cozied up in old fashioned swings --called the swinging garden-- which were draped with flowering plants in old authentic clay pots.
As for me, I walked around from room-to-room taking it all in. Because of the astonishing visual wonder of it all, most people did not stay in one place for long – it was an event designed for creative A.D.D. types, whether they be engineers who were off playing Day-Glo Pick-Up Basketball in the Athena section, tarot card dreamers and psychics hanging out in Morpheus or spiritual followers listening to ethereal melodies and underworld grooves in Hades/Zeus.
You could stop and play a digital on-screen game or ping pong, shoot a game of pool, or take a slide down the large blue blow-up whale rider. Other distractions included sushi rolls, enchiladas, a disco room, the strolling mariachi band, and Spanish Flamenco performances.
Dionysus housed Cantantes Music, the wine cork shooting gallery and the pool table terrace, right around the corner from mermaids, surreal looking pastel fish on the walls and a Reggae band….I talked to them – not all of them spoke English; they were happy, laid back and seemed to live life like life should be lived. I also loved the female lounge jazz singer who sang Frank and other Frank-like favorites. She shared the stage with a Vaudeville band and vibrantly costumed Burlesque dancers.
In the midst of it all, I spotted Sergey in a white lab coat. Shortly thereafter, I thought I noticed a well – yeah, I mean a water-well. Designed with rust and purple shimmery material, a fan blew from the bottom, which gently moved a yellow and orange tie-die strip of material some two feet wide and six feet tall. As it swayed upward and side-to-side simultaneously, I felt as if it was doing an on-stage dance performance and I was its only audience.
Behind me, I could hear violins and thumping simultaneously. Were the shimmering neon green lights below trying to get me in the mood to dance to hip-hop, and the soft petaled roses in a warm ivory sand pot suggesting ballroom? What did not make sense was that this very room served toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, whereas the sushi was in the middle of the pool hall. Yet, it made things interesting.
A few girls clinging to their boyfriends passed me while I hung with the production team for a short stint…..cling as if letting go was the equivalent of being swallowed by sharks. I can’t be that old I remember thinking and yet the energy was less than young, it was youthful to an extreme, beyond any corporate bash I’ve ever attended. People were text messaging me from various parts of the tent which I found both engaging and amusing. I felt fifteen at times, particularly during dress-up with the Velocity Circus guys. Ah yes, to feel fifteen. Not a bad way to end an evening at a corporate holiday bash.
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