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Whatever Works / Mary Micucci

Along Came Mary, and the Party Began

April 12, 1999|CANDACE A. WEDLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Twenty-five years ago, Mary Micucci opened up a little business in L.A. called Along Came Mary Productions. What started small--a bartender and waitress service--moved on to catering and then blossomed into a full-fledged production company, staging themed parties for Hollywood.

The event-planning part of the business, to mention just some of the details, includes: food, beverages, flatware, china, crystal, linens, chairs, tables, flowers, lighting, music, transportation for guests, parking permits and, of course, staging themes for movie premieres.

Besides the movie studios, Micucci's clientele includes Harrison Ford and Barbra Streisand. (Yes, Micucci planned that wedding.) She also does parties for the Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and MTV Video Music Awards. It took eight months to plan the Emmys' 50th anniversary party last year--a little sit-down dinner for 2,500 at the Shrine Auditorium.

Part of the reason Micucci enjoys Hollywood's repeat business is because she does not repeat her clients' business. Not that the tabloids don't try to get her to talk, said Micucci during an interview in her office within a 15,000-square-foot space (including a kitchen) on Pico Boulevard near Hauser Boulevard.

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Question: How did you wind up in this business?

Answer: Three months after I graduated from college [Cal State Los Angeles], and not a clue what I was going to do with the rest of my life, I started an all-female bartending and waitressing service. I had no idea it was the perfect place and time.

Q: How did you drum up business?

A: I worked my way through college waitressing and bartending. So, through people I had met in college and at these restaurants, little doors started to open.

Q: How did the catering part grow into these elaborate productions that your company produces?

A: In the mid- and late '70s, the entertainment industry began to use parties as a way to market and promote their music, new movies. That's really where it started for me--in the movie entertainment industry, doing movie premieres. I could see that the more I suggested, there was nobody there to do it for them. Then the themes started. I mean, they call me the "theme queen."

Q: Describe some of the themes you've done for movie premieres.

A: When we did "Braveheart" [1995], we had 16 bagpipers, an entire Renaissance troupe of improvisational actors, singers and musicians. Everything was under medieval canopies. The food was all cooked in oversized pots in pits. We dressed our servers in the actual costumes that were used in the movie.

"Mission: Impossible" [1996], it took a week to install that party. That was 2,000 people. We had a helicopter flown in to be part of the prop and a dance floor built that looked exactly like a helicopter pad. We produced one of the backdrops to look like the London Bridge. The food was all European. The staff was dressed in the "Mission: Impossible" style.

Q: After doing this job all day long, when you go home, do you want to go into the kitchen?

A: I love to eat and I love beautiful and delicious food, but I don't really like to cook. It's too stressful. I don't think cooking is relaxing. Experiencing new cuisine to me is one of the purest and truest joys in life.

Q: Then you don't mind being catered to at home?

A: Absolutely. I love someone to fluff up my house and to clean my house. Now if I have dinner parties at my house, they're catered by Along Came Mary.

Q: I don't blame you. Otherwise, it's too much.

A: It really is. I have a 13-year-old daughter, and it's very important to me that we have dinner every night together. We talk and problem-solve and look forward to planning vacations.

Q: Why do you think you've stayed in business for so long, especially in Hollywood?

A: I know what my clients expect. One of the reasons for my success is that I do not ignore anything they say or the importance of every single one of these events no matter how many times we've done it. Every single element of every single event matters, and with that comes a little craziness. There's a level of trust and respect and good business practice that goes along with every single event we do, no matter who it is.

Q: How did you keep the Streisand wedding a secret?

A: We just did. I mean, they knew that we would and we did. That's part of the trust, I think, that we have established in this industry all these years.

Q: Is there any celebrity that you feel comfortable talking about?

A: If you're looking specifically for a celebrity connection, well, Martha Stewart. It was fun to have Martha Stewart at one of my Emmy parties ... she asked for some recipes.

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Whatever Works runs every Monday. Send e-mail to socalliving@latimes.com.

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