How to Party

ith an impending New Year’s Eve, it would seem unlikely to take party advice from an aging boomer. But hold on. Boomers invented parties. They were in mud, but they were fun nonetheless.

I pride myself on producing parties. Not with decorations, themes or exotic locations, but with a few tools I keep in the trunk of my car.

Before revealing The Secret Party Tools, let us define “party” by determining first what isn’t a party.

A party is not a collection of milling, besweatered people tangentially linked through weak social contacts guaranteed to bore you into metamorphic rock. Said rock is created by slow, grinding, unrelenting weight over endless eons.

Secondly, a party is not the swapping of trite observations concerning the following: weather, Christmas decorations, Dancing With the Stars, your life in Christ, Josh Groban, pet cancer, Mary Kay Cosmetics or other pyramid selling programs.

Also, a party is not a place to avoid discussions of sex, politics or religion. Indeed it is a place where it should be fostered and encouraged, with the caveat that no one take any opinion personally and that any guest can declare your opinion as stupid without loss of friendship.

Which gets to a key party component: personnel. To make a successful party, you must surround yourself with people you can insult. It is not a party if you must be falsely polite to people you don’t know for an entire evening. I am most happy when I can utter to a male attendee, “Try to pick a sweater that makes you look fatter.” And he responds smoothly, “Thank you. I envy any man who needs no sweater to accomplish the same.”

I also like parties where I can say to another guy, “Your wife is hot.” And he thanks me and offers me his drink.

But what makes a great party?

Two things: singing and dancing. If you are at a party where there is no singing and dancing, it isn’t a party. It is a get-together.Why singing and dancing as criteria? First, it is release. You talk casually at work. But you don’t sing and dance.

Secondly, singing and dancing unveil who you are more than any words you might speak. Song and dance either reveal or release inhibition. Willingness to sing and dance is also a statement: “I like you to the extent that I will be a fool before you.”

But now to the crux of the affair. How do you make your guests do it?

Well, a little alcohol never hurts. But to reach critical party mass much more than booze is needed.

First, lighting. No one, especially dorky white people, will sing or dance when the lights are full. Plus, research has shown that for each watt decreased, guests lose one year of age.

Secondly, no party ever went tribal with cheap speakers. In order to achieve orbit, guests must experience music by immersion; great music loudly played. Turning the speakers up is also a fine way to cull the party herd. The delicate and repressed will head right to the car.

Finally, there is The Party Secret. And that secret is this: the music must be right throughout the night! It must be managed. If done correctly, singing will occur. If done by a maestro, both singing and dancing will burst forth, and thus you have achieved Full Party.In the trunk of my car lies a tool set designed as a launch mechanism for gatherings that long to become a party. In this kit is a first-rate iPod boom box, the appropriate cables, an extension cord and an eighty-gig iPod with eight thousand songs.

It is the selection of songs that will make a party sing, and in some cases, dance.

These rules quickly: Start slowly with evocative songs, strong on melody and lyrics appropriate to the age group in attendance. Play songs that trigger memories of first dates, road trips, college parties, etc. Singing should break forth spontaneously.

Read the room. When ready, add groove. This is not accomplished with white country artists. Make the first songs easy to move to. Gauge the first dancers. Give them the songs they need. Once folks dance, keep them dancing. Never clear the floor, even if “American Pie” is requested. Subtly truncate songs that aren’t working. Read the room constantly, with the next song ready to go.

Finally, push the music with the best grooves to get all on the floor. As Chuck Berry once said, “You gotta make all the girls move their hips.” Once that has occurred men will follow and you will achieve Full Party.

And the greatest benefit of Full Party? It is too loud to discuss Mary Kay Cosmetics or cat tumors.

In fact, if you’re lucky, you don’t have to talk to anyone.

Happy New Year.

Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Comments? Questions? Write