Shortly after being sworn in as president, Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, were whisked to 10 separate inaugural balls before finishing in the wee hours of the morning back at the White House. The 10 parties the Obamas attended were just a small sampling of the nearly 100 balls and galas taking place in and around Washington, D.C., last week.
If Obama had won the Super Bowl, however, he and Michelle might have been back home in time to catch the Tonight Show.
While the current economic climate didn't dampen the party atmosphere around our nation's capital during the inauguration, it has nearly wiped out the infamous party scene that's become as synonymous with the Super Bowl as the commercials, halftime show and, oh yeah, the game.
Sure, there will be plenty of parties but much fewer than before. The tried and true heavyweights of the Super Bowl party scene have been knocked out by a weakened economy that's made it impossible for many to attract sponsors and others to justify throwing a lavish shindig in the midst of layoffs and downsizing.
Since 2001, Playboy and Maxim have battled for Super Bowl party superiority with one over-the-top party after another. It's been the party equivalent of the Lakers and the Celtics in the '80s or the Cowboys and the 49ers in the '90s -- there may be other competitors, but any conversation of a champion began and ended with two men's magazines. In the past two years, Sports Illustrated, Victoria's Secret and CAA have held Super Bowl parties that rivaled that of Playboy and Maxim in terms of star quality and exclusivity.
Of those five, only Maxim is throwing a party in Tampa. Playboy, which popularized the over-the-top, lavish, mega Super Bowl party with its first soiree in 1999, bowed out this year as its stock has dropped 90 percent in the past year. Similarly, SI has cut 40 newsroom jobs as Time Inc. has reduced its worldwide staff by 600. Other familiar events that have been canceled include the Penthouse Party and Gridiron Glamour, a fashion show and party organized by Holly Robinson Peete to benefit the HollyRod Foundation for the past 10 years.
While Maxim will be holding its party, it will be a far more scaled back affair compared with recent years, when Maxim overtook an entire hotel and staged musical acts such as Fergie, Akon and T-Pain. This year's Maxim party is taking place Friday night at The Ritz Ybor, a popular Tampa dancehall, with DJ AM and DJ Vice on the ones and twos.
"We opted for a smaller venue this year, so it is more exclusive," said Glenn Rosenbloom, Co-CEO of the Alpha Media Group, which publishes Maxim. "We weighed our options in light of the economy, but in the end decided to move forward. The Maxim party is very much part of our DNA. Our readers love football, our advertisers love football and this is the ultimate football weekend."
One party that doesn't seem to be affected by the current economic climate is ESPN The Magazine's "NEXT Big Weekend" shindig. If anything, it might be the biggest Super Bowl party its ever thrown and looks to be the odds on favorite to be the best of the weekend. ESPN will convert the parking lot located at 202 South Morgan St. in Tampa into a club under a one-of-a-kind 22,000 square foot quad-saddle tent. Friday night, Wyclef is performing while Sam Ronson (Lindsay Lohan's girl) is DJing for an exclusive, invite-only crowd. On Saturday, Sean Kingston performs at the same venue for an afternoon public tailgate.
"The thought of cancelling was not a consideration," said Steven Binder, Vice President, Publishing Director and Sales for ESPN The Magazine. "Marketers look to ESPN to showcase their brands at Super Bowl and our party is 100 percent sponsor generated. We are always sensitive as to what is going on with the economy so our event Saturday is a free event for all sports fans and we are expecting more than 150 athletes at Friday's event."
The party void left by the likes of Playboy and SI have opened the door for several familiar faces to throw their own parties during the week. Reggie Bush and Ray Lewis will be hosting Moves magazine's third annual Super Bowl party on Wednesday night at The Venue. Bush's girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, will be hosting the sixth annual Leather & Laces party with Carmen Electra and Jenny McCarthy on Friday night at Jackson's. "I hope both parties are great," said Bush with a smile. "But hopefully I'll have a better party than hers."
Meanwhile Diddy, Deion Sanders and Winky Wright are teaming up to host "The Good Life Experience," three separate parties on Thursday, Friday and Saturday produced by Wright's new promotional company, Pound 4 Pound Events at The Venue. That facility will play host to more parties than any other club in the area. "I knew I needed to get the biggest and best names for my event, and no one throws a party better than Diddy, no one is a bigger entertainer in football history than 'Prime Time' and you know about me," said Wright, who lives in St. Petersburg. "We figured if we were going to have an event in our hometown we needed to make it the best."
There will be several other interesting celebrity pairings during the week as organizers try to attract as many fans as possible to pay from $50 to $1,000 for tickets. Michael Strahan and Kevin Costner will be hosting the "Saturday Night Spectacular" party, while Kevin "Johnny Drama" Dillon will be hosting a party Friday night with Khloe Kardashian at the Hard Rock.
While the party scene in Tampa this week might not be as crazy as it's been in past years, organizers of parties that are sitting this one out seem confident that it will be a one-year hiatus and that things will return back to their crazy, over-the-top ways next year when the Super Bowl returns to South Beach.
"We explored all our possible options up until the last moment, from hosting a smaller party to working with partners, but in the end, nothing worked for us and we didn't want to compromise the integrity or reputation of Playboy," said Playboy spokeswoman Lauren Melone. "We certainly hope to be partying in Miami in 2010."
Check SI.com's Super Blog regularly for more dispatches from Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.