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Style & Culture | SMALL HOURS

Bacchanalia gets branded

Once a reflection of its host's perfection, the L.A. mansion soiree has become, oh so sadly, a party to commerce.

March 26, 2006|James Verini | Special to The Times

"I have to get back to the roulette table," was her only answer to my request to search her headgear for robins' eggs.

BARAJAS, a big, gregarious man who moved to L.A. in 1990 from Caracas, where he sold suits for a living, has built a reputation as one of L.A.'s more interesting party throwers and devoted decadents. The parties at his mansion, a Spanish Colonial in Beachwood Canyon, are well known. They are also, like the mansion parties of old, hard to get invited to. So as Flaunt, which he started in 1997, has gained a following -- in no small part due to the parties -- Barajas has had to outsource.

"As you grow your business you're going to associate more and more with people you work with," Barajas, who speaks as a social macher should, with devilish laughter and profane asides, said of the corporate presence. "But I hate logos and throwing it in people's face."

Thinking about this for a moment, he added, "At Oscar time you have to, of course."

Of course.

He found the Flaunt house, a Palladian knockoff on a hilltop near Mulholland Drive, through Sunset Locations, a film and TV locations firm that has broken into the booming Mansion McParty rental market. They also handled the Soho House and W houses. Sunset would not say how much the Flaunt house cost, but they did say it was at the high end of their property "library," which ranges from $5,000 to $35,000 per day.

Incidentally, Barajas is already busy with Flaunt's Fourth of July party, to take place on the Paramount lot. He intends to fill the famous ocean set with water and do a beach party.

Some celebrities did show up at the Flaunt house, but the appearance that caused the most excitement was put in by Shaun White, the skateboarder and snowboarder, fresh off his gold medal performance in Turin.

It was a deeply heartening sight, a testament to the egalitarian values of the Mansion McParty. Had he not spent his youth in the noble pursuit of, like, totally gnarly halfpipes, it's likely that White, a gawky 19-year-old with freckles and long red hair, would have a hard time getting into a Chuck E. Cheese.

At the Flaunt house, he was leading around a buxom woman in a miniskirt and trailing photographers.

"I was like, 'Dude, can I wear your medal?' " said an Orange County woman beside herself with joy after White had produced his gold medal from his jacket pocket and allowed her to try it on. "And he was like, 'Totally!' "

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