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Bedazzled Baskets

September 20, 1998|Phuong-Cac Nguyen

Remember how happy you felt as a kid when you clutched that birthday party goody bag full of pencils, Pixy Stixs and fluorescent plastic rulers? But you're over that--right?

Not if you were at the "Rent" season opener at the Ahmanson Theatre last year, when party-goers received a paper bag brimming with a Rodier T-shirt, Laugh Factory passes, Bobbi Brown nail polish, an Absolut Vodka pen and a Donna Karan aromatherapy candle. Or if you were a presenter at this year's Academy Awards, where your basket overflowed with a Tag Heuer watch, Baccarat crystal pendant, $190 "Day of Beauty" gift certificate to Frederick Fekkai's salon and a JBL stereo system. Or if you were a benefactor at the reopening of UCLA's Royce Hall in April, and your tote bag was stuffed with a signed first-edition anthology of three Neil Simon plays and a silver-plated photo frame/calendar.

Where once a souvenir T-shirt would suffice, gift baskets of high quality, to say nothing of quantity, are must-haves for party planners as a method to, in old fashion, thank patrons for coming. "We felt our gifts had to be commensurate with the level of the event," says Alice Tulchin, president of Royce Center Circle. Shawn Ashe, director of special events for the Ahmanson, puts corporate contributions in blunt perspective: "Basically, you try to solicit; you beg and hope they participate."

Which is exactly what Calvin Klein did at the "Pajamarama" AIDS Project L.A. fund-raiser hosted by Playboy this year. In lieu of money, the designer gave signature bags and $200 sunglasses to VIPs. "You could take the most normal person in the world and put them in a room where there's gift bags, and they go crazy," says Jeffrey Bowman, special events promotions coordinator for APLA. "There's a gift bag gene in everybody."

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