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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023


WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter When a Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. executive wanted to make a smashing entrance to a VIP event a couple of years ago, Extraordinary Events had just the solution. It arranged for the executive to crash through a sound-stage wall in the bus from the movie “Speed,” delivering him onstage before the astonished guests. Founded in 1988, Sherman Oaks-based Extraordinary Events produces parties, conferences and product launches around the world. Its events range from intimate soirees for a dozen people lasting a few hours to huge blowouts for thousands of people extending several days. With events having themes like “Tropical Madness,” “Baywatch” or “Animal House,” the company has a reputation for giving guests something to remember. “Extraordinary Events comes up with very creative party ideas and is good at working within whatever budget I have,” said Laurie Petersen, director of PGA golf and tournament programs for Tenet Healthcare Corp. “Other party companies I’ve dealt with tend to come up with ideas that I would think of, which isn’t saying much.” It’s word of mouth that has helped place Extraordinary Events on the fast track, with projected 1998 revenues of $7 million to $8 million, roughly double 1997’s level. Andrea Michaels, president and owner of the company, said she has to be creative to maintain the company’s reputation. “Many of the people at the parties we prepare have been to a lot of elaborate events,” said Michaels. “We have to think of or find innovative things that will surprise people.” For instance, when Pepsi Cola International held a bottlers conference in Palm Springs in 1993, Extraordinary Events constructed a 1950s-style city complete with a walk-in gas station, two diners, a full-size drive-in theater, a night club and other roadside buildings. During an event for Nissan Motor Corp. USA, the company staged a party for 10,000 people at a Universal City sound stage, complete with an original four-hour Las Vegas-style floorshow. The company has also produced events for First Lady Hillary Clinton and former presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. To come up with ideas, Michaels constantly monitors theme parks and events produced by her competitors. For example, she discovered that some Asian theme parks are projecting laser and video images onto waterfalls, creating dramatic visual effects. “That’s something that’s never been used at a corporate event, and we’re trying right now to integrate that into a product launch event,” Michaels said. Some of the company’s ideas are less involved, but are no less creative. During one dinner event the company produced at an Anaheim theater for 100 executives of Decatur, Ill.-based Mueller Co., guests were brought in and seated only to realize that, as the curtain was raised, the guests were actually the ones on stage. As they watched, however, actors in the theater’s seating area began performing scenes from Andrew Lloyd Weber musicals, with Evita singing from the balcony and Che Guevara responding in song from an aisle below. Roller skaters performing a scene from “Starlight Express” skated between dinner tables. “I had people come up to me and say they usually don’t enjoy theater, but they were completely enthralled with the show,” said Bob Abbott, a spokesman for Mueller, which makes natural gas and water products, including fire hydrants. Ultimately, the goal is to make partygoers experience something emotional, Michaels said. “A good event is one where people have not just had a good time but an experience that stays with them,” Michaels said. “For the client company, this can result in improved bonding and knowledge among employees, and improved sales.” Extraordinary Events’ competitors in the $20 billion special events industry run the gamut from small to huge, said Lisa Vested, group publisher of Special Events magazine, a trade publication. However, Michaels is an “industry peer” because of her company’s creativity and track record, Vested said. “Merv Griffin Productions is one of the larger companies in the events industry, but I would guess that Extraordinary Events would walk away with the business” in a bid for an event production contract, Vested said. Michaels organizes events with her full-time staff of seven people in Sherman Oaks. She also has two-person offices in Orlando and Las Vegas, and a one-person office in Houston. She hires the production staff and talent on a per-project basis. The Extraordinary Events headquarters office is piled high with promotional videos sent by entertainers pitching themselves as possible acts for parties and events, including some from such big names as Billy Crystal, Garry Shandling, Helen Reddy and Tony Orlando. Al Jarreau was the featured performer at an event the company produced in Nevis, West Indies for Ford Motor Co. The company arranged a four-day event on the island for about 100 VIPs and their spouses. It featured a dinner party aboard a 274-foot yacht belonging to the former admiral of the British Navy and a gala in a tent that was decked out with chandeliers. Michaels founded her company a decade ago after 12 years working for another company that organized party and corporate events. That initial involvement began as a part-time job in 1973 when Michaels, then a young divorced mother attending UCLA, answered an ad that touted a job in the entertainment field. It turned out to be a part-time job typing and filing for an event planning firm. Eventually the owner expanded Michaels’ responsibilities to include booking acts, and then organizing events with increasingly elaborate themes. In 1988, Michaels decided to branch out on her own. “I knew that there was much more in the industry to do, and I wanted to be part of it,” said Michaels.

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