Aclassic townhouse in Manhattan’s West Village set the stage for a gorgeously off-kilter holiday get-together. There were no swags of garland or sprigs of mistletoe, tacky sweaters or Christmas carols. Instead, party guests dressed as familiar movie characters, a bathtub served as a bar, and a leopard-clad dachshund scuttled around tipsy guests.
Samuel Masters, head of special projects for fashion designer and fellow Southerner Lela Rose, was the mastermind behind this unorthodox affair, aptly dubbed the Festivus Fête. With the holidays in full swing, Masters wanted to host an event free of the all-too-common spiked-eggnog and Secret Santa clichés. And so he looked to Wes Anderson, among the most stylistically recognizable film directors of our time, as his source of entertaining inspiration.
“I’ve been wanting to have this for a long time,” says Masters. “I loved doing it as a holiday party because everyone is in a festive mood.” Given the director’s reputation for creating character-driven films, guests in costume were an absolute necessity. To ensure that there would be no duplicate personae in attendance, Masters assigned each person a specific part, and nearly all of Anderson’s leading roles made a cameo. The host himself was dressed as the Fantastic Mr. Fox, a young blonde perfectly resembled the enigmatic Margot Tenenbaum, and Moonrise Kingdom’s coonskin-capped scout rubbed elbows with Bill Murray’s character from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
On a chilly Friday night, partygoers in their garb made their way to the door of the brownstone (owned by Masters’s close friend). Upon entering the foyer, guests were whisked into a photo booth lined with Scalamandré’s iconic red zebra wallpaper, which Anderson fans would immediately recognize from the set design of The Royal Tenenbaums. (The pattern also made an appearance in the pink-and-gold invites Masters mailed to 20 of his nearest and dearest.)
Throughout the home, the host took great pains to ensure that the ambiance struck the perfect balance of cozy and grandiose. Towering taper candles and scattered tea lights were nested amid greenery atop the two intricately carved marble fireplaces. Silver tinsel draped the arms of a crystal chandelier, reflecting onto the gold and pink balloons slowly dancing along the ceiling. Opposite a roaring fire, a flickering loop of Anderson’s films were projected onto a bare wall like a piece of performance art, while a playlist of Françoise Hardy, the Kinks, Otis Redding, and Anderson-approved indie tunes wafted out of the open French doors and onto the city sidewalk.
In lieu of a sit-down dinner, Masters arranged a table of rich treats from Marissa Lippert’s Nourish Kitchen + Table. “I love getting my friends together in a home setting because you have more space for conversation than if you were at a big dinner table in a loud restaurant. I wanted everything to be bite-size, so I kept the menu to small pieces that are easy to eat while holding a drink,” says Masters. Platters of deviled quail eggs, beef tenderloin and pomegranate skewers, figs topped with blue cheese, honey, and hazelnuts, and chicken liver and pear crostini wove in and out of mushroom-and-moss woodland-style centerpieces. In a scene reminiscent of Mendl’s Bakery from The Grand Budapest Hotel, a separate table of desserts was laden with canelés and custom-made raspberry religieuse pastries by Dominique Ansel (the infamous SoHo baker behind the cronut).
Like any good host, Masters knew he had to have plenty of booze on hand, and so he did—in the most unlikely of places. A freestanding copper bathtub in the open-air master suite served as the bar, filled with ice and packed with bottles of Veuve Clicquot. Guests sipped their Brut from blush coupes poured by a bartender attired as the chief steward from The Darjeeling Limited. Those looking for a stronger elixir got their fix from a stiff nor’easter cocktail renamed the “Royal Tenebourbon.”
Long after midnight, the last bottle of champagne was drunk and the candles were extinguished. As a parting gift, each attendee was given a West Elm coral-hued glass box filled with daily affirmations. As far as what they said and whether they were directed to the characters played or the guests themselves...? In true Anderson fashion, Masters left us wondering.