Metro Detoit’s Three Wise Men of Entertaining
Between the three of us – Tom Schoenith, Nino Cutraro and me – there are well over 100 years of entertaining experience. That’s a pretty strong indication that we most likely know what we’re talking about when it comes to showing people a good time.
I’ve known both Tom and Nino for decades. They each have their own unique style of entertaining, and I’ve learned a lot watching them make party magic. I consider them both to be masters at what they do.
Schoenith and his family have owned Detroit’s iconic Roostertail for over 50 years. They have entertained royalty, presidents, celebrities and captains of industry, not to forget the multitudes of Metro Detroiters who, over the years, have attended proms, weddings, birthdays, bah mitzvahs and holiday parties at the celebrated riverfront mecca.
Cutraro, whose “real job” is owner of M and N General Contracting, has been the driving force behind a number of wildly popular Metro Detroit nightspots and restaurants, including La Notte, Taboo, Intermezzo and currently, Bella Piatti in Birmingham.
Bennett: I routinely attend about 300 parties a year, in addition to hosting at least six parties annually myself. Because of my job as a Society Columnist for The Detroit News, I’ve learned what works and what sinks.
Here are some quick tips from the three of us on being a perfect host.
One of the most memorable parties you’ve ever hosted?
Schoenith: “My Great Gatsby 70th birthday celebration. Ha! It took us 70 years to get it right? It was an unlimited budget and we pulled out all the stops – young people splashing in a swimming pool in the parking lot, cocktails offered in authentic coca cola glassware to guests waiting for valet to take their cars, burlesque dancers performing on an overhead catwalk. We were the first in town to do a Gatsby-themed party, and everybody has something in there closet that’s appropriate to wear to a perfect summer costume party.”
Cutraro: “A party at Taboo that was a taping for an HBO special. It was one of those once in a lifetime moments that I will never forget. By invitation only, about 300 people showed up with performances from Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Joe Cocker, Wilson Pickett and Robert Palmer. Everyone stuck around after the performances and partied all night.”
Bennett: “My birthday party under a luxurious tent (complete with fireplaces and crystal chandeliers) at the Bloomfield Hills estate of my very dear friend, the late Lil Erdeljan. The party was called, “Chuck’s Chicks,” hosted by some of my favorite girls, who served Champagne, chocolate and caviar to an intimate group of about 50 close friends. It was followed the next day by a winter white party at The Roostertail. GM loaned me a white Escalade to drive, an inordinate amount of guests were dressed in winter white, the Roostertail was decorated to the hilt in white, and Mother Nature added her touch, a fresh snow with huge white snowflakes.”
What makes a good party?
Schoenith: “Divide everything equally. Don’t overdo one item or another – food, décor, drinks. Everything should get equal attention.”
Cutraro: “Energy. Somehow create energy in all aspects of your party – the drinks, the people, the venue and the atmosphere.”
Bennett: “I like to implement elements of surprise – big or small—at all of my events. That can be done in everything from the food to the people.”
What makes a good host?
Schoenith: “My wife, Diane, and I always join the party, and we always try to do things to break the ice for our guests. People are nervous when the first enter a party. Get a drink in their hand; have the kids answer the door with something fun or cute to say; put ice skaters out in front of your home; have a reel of photos that include your guests on display on a screen when guests enter.”
Cutraro: “I’m a people person. I like to make my guests feel close, like best friends or family. My wife and I try to make a connection with everyone who comes into Bella Piatti or any of my establishments or home. I talk to them. I listen to them. I try to be sure they understand how happy I am to see them.”
Bennett: “I try to engage each guest in something to make their experience more pleasurable. I introduce people who have like interests; point out an appetizer that I think will especially delight, or offer a drink that someone in particular might expressly enjoy. And most importantly, I do things that I think are fun at parties, because if you’re not having fun at your party, most likely, your guests aren’t either.