Where do caterers find all those fabulous party props, you ask, now that you've decided to put on your own big bash?
Don't tell anyone, but party prop companies used chiefly by professional caterers are also available to the public.
Some firms do it all, from invitations to food, tent to gorilla act. Some lease out the props only, while others make recommendations for subcontracting services of caterers, lighting and music experts. Depending on decor and number of guests, propping a party (decorating fee only) may cost from $200 to $15,000, but you'll probably save 10% to 25%--that portion of the caterer's fee--by dealing directly.
Here are but a few outstanding prop people, along with a description of their services, for your files. Numerous others can be found in neighborhoods throughout the Los Angeles area. When checking sources don't overlook local florists and balloon stores with capabilities for designing and installing party props.
So much for well-kept secrets.
Lucky Entertainment, 10271 Almayo Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 277-9666. Brochure available upon request. Burt Epstein, owner.
Circus, rodeo and carnival props for adult or children's parties are Epstein's forte. You get real tigers, lions, stunt men, knife-throwers, whip-crackers, greased pigs and square-dance callers, if you want them. The Lucky crew will set up props on location and provide all party needs, including food designed for cart service--things like hot dogs, ice cream, pretzels, cotton candy. Some unusual props: life-size artificial cakes and gift packages for people to jump out of. There are gambling games, mechanical rides, animal acts and puppet shows. Robots, magicians, mimes, card and sensational candy sculpture artists are also available. Personalized entertainment is also available for hire. And there is more.
Roschu, 6514 Santa Monica Blvd.; (213) 469-2749. Ask for Frank Piteo or Bill Coffey.
Roschu, celebrating 28 years in business, designs and builds props for rental and makes animal costumes for promotional purposes chiefly for decorators, but will deal with principals, too. They will provide props for Oriental, French, Hollywood, South Seas and other party themes. Roschu also will provide consulting services and welcomes visitors who want to browse before they buy.
L.A. Party Designs, 3368 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 836-5273. Debbi Karrenbrock, president.
Basically a florist and theme decorator, L.A. Party Designs will design and install all the props, find the appropriate caterer and coordinate the entertainment with the theme. For one Hollywood theme party, the company provided neon signs, huge Hollywood letters, look-alike-stars, marquee lights, shimmery curtains, a stage and checkered dance floor. You can have Chinese Fu dogs to herald a Chinese New Year and sword or belly dancers for an Arabian Nights' theme, complete with tent. For a Tex-Mex south-of-the-border theme, there are adobe-wall structures, fountains, carts, huge terra cotta pots with real cactus inside. The company will also prop a party with cooking stations for making burritos, tostadas and fajitas.
Wonderful World of Fantasy, 2869 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 202-7007. Ask for John Lavine.
This firm provides the works: in-house caterers, florists, decorator and prop designers. They think up madcap themes (Tijuana jail, speak-easy, African Queen) and provide the props, decorations, food and entertainment to conform to the theme. For the Tijuana jail party, for instance, Lavine used a prison movie-set location, brought the guests in on prison buses, which were flagged down by bogus police cars. The guests were "booked" at the Tijuana booking station amid federales and bandidos. The food? Tostadas, steak rancheros and albondigas soup, among others.
David Jones, 8591 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 5790 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City; (213) 934-8311 or 659-6347 .
Jones is chiefly a florist who also provides a full-party service, including invitation design, food, music, parking, transportation, tenting and decor. "Our style is simple, clean and not contrived. Most people who come to us know they get a quality look, not just tons of flowers," said Jones. The florist does special prop effects tailored to the occasion.
Crossley's, 7819 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles ; (213) 938-7172. Ask for David Wittry, head designer.
The chief focus is on flowers and decor, but Crossley's will also plan an entire event and recommend (but not execute) catering and other party services.
American Eagle Productions, 340 W. 131 St., Los Angeles; (213) 321-1793. Ask for Janet Elkins, vice president and general manager.
American Eagle's 18,000-square-foot shop is filled with designers, artists and craftsmen who custom design props for special events. The company, which specializes in corporate conventions in hotels, will design and install decorations and provide appropriate entertainment, acts, theme parties and game show events. In re-creating the "golden era of Hollywood" for one party theme, the company brought in celebrity look-alikes, a custom-made movie marquee and antique autos. It also provides video-operating equipment with technicians for those who want to participate in their own screen test or rock videos.
RWB Party Props, 128 S. Cypress St., Orange; (714) 538-8629. Ask for Lori or Harlan.
Strictly rentals here. Props for theme parties are housed in a 70,000-square-foot warehouse and browsers are welcome. The company can provide sets for a Mexican town, complete with adobe and mission facades and fountains.