Passport to the World NYE vs. NYE Ball 2009

Westin St. Frances 6.jpgWestin St. Frances 35.jpgPassport to the World NYE vs. NYE Ball 2009
The Westin St. Francis and Sir Francis Drake Hotel

December 31, 2008

Notes by Crystal Akins

Photos by Crystal Akins and Hardy Wilson

Better than: Standing outside and watching the fireworks in the cold -- but at least that's free.

On New Year's Eve, the Westin St. Francis hosted the city's largest balloon drop, which was echoed at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel's party (on a smaller scale) when the clock struck midnight.

If your pockets were deep enough to shell out anywhere from $100 to $250 (depending on how late and lazy you were in buying your ticket), Passport to the World offered ticket buyers a grandiose and classy party. Absorbing six different rooms at the Westin St. Francis, including the Grand Ballroom, the shindig sold out for good reason. Each room was themed with a different continent, while 11 DJs and two live bands kept spirits high all night. Still not enough entertainment? Geishas on stilts, a fashion show (that honestly could have used better models), and live paintings were also among the festivities.


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"I think it's something that everyone can relate to," said A-List Promoter Albert Chen. "It's cool to produce rooms that can be different and not have double themes."

The Eiffel Tower, one enormous golden Buddha, and even a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge were some of the eye-catching monuments.

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Thirsty? The ticket price at Passport thankfully also included a hosted bar, and if you were a VIP attendee, you were afforded a table that included champagne among other treats and balcony access.

Notable DJ spinning on the balconies in the European themed room: Kudra from London who appropriately played Daft Punk's "Around the World."

Party Pitfalls: This party sold 4,000 tickets, which meant the main floor was saturated with bodies. Trying to get from one room to another meant elbows in the face, trainwrecks, and a lot of excuse mes. But really, what do you expect when you squeeze that many people into one venue? Also, trying to navigate your way through the different levels and rooms after a few drinks got somewhat difficult -- even with a map.

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As Passport rang in the new year, 3,000 balloons of varying sizes and colors doused the sea of attendees and a huge dance party ensued until around 2 a.m. For such an extravagant production, it's not surprising it took three promotion companies to pull it off (A-List, Sebastien Entertainment, and Tony Presents).

Just up the block at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, the New Year's Eve Ball 2009 hosted a slightly younger crowd is in its seventh year with six consecutive sell outs. Occupying the Empire Ballroom, tickets sold for $135 a head while promoter Justin Roja donated a portion of the proceeds go to a foundation he created in honor of the Dave Pooh Madden Foundation. (The money will help families and children with bone cancer.)

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This party, unlike Passport, was much more intimate, served hors D'oeurves, had one rather good DJ and just a couple of rooms. The upsides to a smaller party are not losing friends, shorter bathroom and drink lines. Oh, and cheaper tickets.

Party Pitfalls: Having to walk up four flights of stairs in your heels because the elevators took forever.

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Overall, depending on what you were looking for, something extravagant or something intimate, both parties fared pretty well with no major meltdowns.


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