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Creative Christmas Carries Price Tag

December 01, 1989|EVAN CUMMINGS | Evan Cummings is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Want to give a fabulous holiday soiree but you're stumped on how to make it a memorable occasion? Creative ideas--and the people behind them--are available for fees that range from reasonable to outrageous.

If, after going over your holiday budget, you find yourself with an extra $3,300, you may want to contact J. Schwartz, a party planner whose Los Angeles-based company, Entertainment Contractor, will furnish a sleigh and live reindeer--and a Santa Claus--to complement your Christmas celebration. And, should you desire real snow for authenticity, Schwartz--who boasts that half his clientele hails from Orange County--can arrange that, too.

And for considerably less (about $225 per hour) the former actor-comedian-mime will send a professional photographer--complete with Dickens-style costumes and backdrops--who will snap party guests and provide "antique" portraits that they can take home as a memento.

Elves--played by little people--are available for $175 per hour.

A bawdy marionette show with a holiday theme--adults only--runs $300.

Ralph Stern, manager of Santa Ana-based Regal Rents, can accommodate large and small events, supplying dance floors, lighted canopies and tents ranging in price from $1,000 to $10,000.

R.W.B. Party Rentals in Orange has been renting out party props for more than a quarter century. Although husband and wife owners Bobby and Lori Babcock specialize in convention and hotel events--they recently outfitted a local hotel with a life-size "Nutcracker Suite" scene, including old-fashioned street lights and a snow-capped mountain backdrop--the company accommodates home parties, too.

Eight-foot wooden soldiers rent for $100 each; eight-foot snowmen, $50 each, and a six-foot stuffed Santa Claus, $40. A hand-painted winter backdrop--30 feet long and 15 feet high--rents for $100. Props are delivered in time for the party and picked up the next day.

For children's parties or less formal events, R.W.B. rents hot dog, popcorn, cotton candy and snow-cone concession carts at $75 for five hours (for $250 they will throw in servers and supplies).

Roscoe-Cottrell, a full-service event planning company, subcontracts everything from party themes and invitation concepts, location scouting and menu planning to party decorating, entertainment and guest transportation. The latest stretch limo runs about $60 per hour. A helicopter with pilot will set you back about $350 per hour.

"We can work with any budget," said Betsy Beatty, marketing director for the Costa Mesa-based company. "Some clients only want us to arrange food and flowers or rent our living Christmas tree." (A person hidden inside a foam tree-like sculpture greets guests--$300 for two hours.) A bickering Santa and Mrs. Claus are another party favorite, Beatty added.

The most unusual request Beatty has received, she said, was from a client who recently asked to rent Rodeo Drive (in Beverly Hills) for a day. "He wants us to close it down so he can bring in out-of-town guests for shopping. We're checking on it now."

For those who wish to blend their culinary and decorating talents with rented goods and services, a classic Christmas party, said Roscoe-Cottrell co-owner Sandy Cottrell, might include a "traditional Christmas goose with all the trimmings, steamed plum pudding with hard sauce and wassail (a traditional English grog)."

For an elegant flair, she also suggests "a buffet table trimmed with gold lame and matching ribbon drapings, pine bough branches wrapped with miniature blinking lights, and lots and lots of candles in old-fashioned candlestick holders. We can furnish fine English china to set it all off, and Dickens-style carolers strolling about throughout the evening."

Or you may want to rent live music through Jolene Anderson-Shubin, founder of Seaside Carolers, a San Clemente-based singing group. For $275 the first hour and $100 each hour thereafter, groups of four, six or eight USC music graduates will sing--a cappella--traditional carols and jazzed-up holiday favorites.

If you're all thumbs when it comes to decorating, lack the extra time--or prefer that someone else handle the job--you may want to call in a holiday designer to deck your halls with boughs of holly.

Don and Barbara Pickler of Yorba Linda started working with specialist Claude Davis 18 months ago during construction of their new home.

Last year, Davis, a designer for Associated Design Studio, a Newport Beach-based firm, worked with existing family decorations and added new ones to create a "Phantom of the Opera" theme for the Pickler family's first holiday season in their new home.

"Black and white masks trimmed with silver, black and white mylar ribbon streamers with the same theme carried out on banisters and fireplace mantles, and silk garlands with matching accents created a dramatic, one-of-a-kind look," he said.

Don Pickler, who is Jewish and does not celebrate Christmas, and wife Barbara, who does, together host two annual holiday parties--one week apart.

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