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Well, it gives new meaning to 'light-fingered'

Dan Klemuk's unique table lamps just keep disappearing. Hmm.

May 18, 2003|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

She looked a little like Lady Liberty, ferrying the lamp in the darkness.

But this was no beacon for the masses. This was a gala-goer heading into the night with a table topper -- namely, one of 70 bistro lamps used to create a nightclubby ambience at a recent Copacabana-themed tribute to Barry Manilow.

Warned not to take the light fixture that was part of a rose centerpiece, "She said, 'OK, I'm taking it anyway!' " says the lamp's designer, Dan Klemuk, owner of the Greenbriar, an L.A. party-planning firm. Then she was off to the Beverly Hilton Hotel parking lot, where one of Klemuk's assistants spotted her with the battery-operated lamp and screamed, "That belongs to me!" She returned it.

It has happened before. In fact, of the 250 waterproof lights Klemuk adapted from as many 6-volt camping lamps more than a decade ago, 70 remain. "One or two are taken per party, and one night, more than 20 disappeared," Klemuk says. Losing them to enthusiastic partygoers has become so commonplace that he no longer leaves them overnight, to be collected with other props.

To be fair, guests can become confused about what they are permitted to take from a gala, says Klemuk, designer of parties for clients that include the Los Angeles Music Center, Los Angeles Opera, the Thalians and the Society of Singers. The removal of floral centerpieces, for example, is usually encouraged. "There's nothing worse than having a whole room full of flowers that you have to throw away," he says. But his precious lamps -- uh-uh.

Klemuk dreamed them up as a party accent to help create the look of a classic nightclub. "The old clubs had these table lamps with shades that created a feeling of intimacy," he says. "Even with 10 people seated for dinner, a bistro lamp can make you feel like you're at a table for two." As versatile as they are in demand -- Klemuk has used them at dozens of parties -- the lamps can look Victorian or Asian-style.

The company that manufactured the camping lamp no longer makes the item, Klemuk says. "I can't make any more. I need to hold on to what I've got, or someday I won't have enough." Meanwhile, if you find yourself in a ballroom designed like a nightclub, look for him standing guard at the exit.

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