From Kings To College Kids: The Most Massive Parties Ever Thrown
You think you and your friends throw some good parties? These people will make your most epic rager look like an afternoon of tea and scones with grandma.
Here are the 17 most legendary parties ever thrown. Enjoy! And make sure to check out the sources for even more.
It began as a normal peaceful day on October 17th, 1814 in St. Giles, London. However, trouble had been brewing behind the scenes for quite a while and soon the day would become known as the great London Beer Flood. Industrialization and a rapidly growing London population had led to a sharp rise in the city's production of beer (which was cleaner and safer than water at the time). Beer Barons had begun popping up over the city in fierce competition with each other, and Sir Henry Meux was determined to outdo them all. He created a brewing vat so large that 200 guests could dine inside of it, then filled it with porter liquor. The vat burst and the whole structure began to go, releasing almost 1.5 million litres of beer (approx. 7.5 million frothy pints) flooding into the streets.
The massive tsunami of beer caused at least seven drownings, and total chaos broke out. Attempts to rescue those drowning in beer were thwarted when thousands of people instead started to drink from the streets. An entire neighbourhood became intoxicated and had to make a trip to the hospital soaking in beer. Then the hospital patients began to riot thinking they'd been cheated out of free beer.
Meux was never charged, as the court ruled the flood was an act of God. Probably Dionysus to be specific.
Imagine one of the most powerful Empires on Earth and all the massive wealth and power at its disposal, being run by a spoiled, narcissistic hedonist with the sole desire of throwing parties. Well thats exactly what happened when Nero became Emperor of Rome in 37CE. After the great fire of 64CE destroyed a good portion of Rome, Nero finally had the real estate that he needed to build the party crib of his dreams. Completely ignoring the starving citizens, or the entire empire that he was supposed to be running, Nero took up to possibly 300 acres to build the Domus Aurea (The Golden House.)
In order to entertain himself and his rich friends, he built a vast compound of artificial lakes, manufactured groves and exotic gardens. The winding pathways between the festivities were reportedly kept lit at night by setting Christians on fire.
At the centre was a massive domed building with over 300 rooms, plated with gold on the outside and decorated on the inside with ivory, diamonds and solid marble. Engineering marvels allowed entire rooms to rotate while guests were inside, and there were floors that could catch the light of the sun and project it into other rooms. Historian Suetonius wrote that all the dining rooms had ceilings of fretted ivory, the panels of which could slide back and let a rain of flowers, or of perfume from hidden sprinklers, fall on his guests. Oh, and he had a 116 foot tall statue of himself placed just outside the main entrance.
Eventually the Roman people got sick of Neros opulence and staged a revolt. Nero committed suicide rather than be captured and tried, and his party palace was condemned and filled in with dirt. Archaeologists are still finding new rooms complete with frescoes and artifacts that have gone untouched for centuries.
250 gallons of brandy, 125 gallons of wine, 1400 pounds of sugar, 2500 lemons, 20 gallons of lime juice and 5 pounds of nutmeg. Thats the recipe for the largest cocktail ever created in history, served to over 5,000 sailors and officers by Admiral Edward Russell. Out of appreciation for their service, he poured all the ingredients into his gardens fountain and let them drink their fill.
But this wasn't some low-brow grog chugging affair either, this was an Admiral's party after all. Russell set up a tent above the fountain to prevent evaporation and hired bartenders to serve up the cocktail. Unfortunately the walls of the fountain were too high to make regular service easy, so the bartenders had to paddle around the cocktail in canoes. Even for a bunch of sailors, the concoction still took an entire week to finish.
Showing a total lack of social awareness that would give Nero a run for his money. In 1903 while the people were starving and freezing to death, Tsar Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra threw the most infamous Russian party this side of the Bolsheviks. In the Winter Palace of St. Petersburg, the theme of the night was a throwback jam to the 17th century. Everyone dressed in the famously opulent style of the Baroque era, complete with musketeers, rapiers and feathered hats. Priceless artifacts were taken from the Kremlin to become accessories for the party goers. The more famous (and arrogant) guests dressed as famous kings and queens, including Nicholas and Alexandra as Tsar Alexis I and Tsaritsa Maria Miloslavskaya.
At the time Nicholas was worth over $20 Billion dollars, which would equal roughly $300 Billion in modern US dollars. Sparing no expense, the entertainment for the evening was a triple billing of some of the greatest Russian operas ever written, performed by the most famous musicians and dancers of the time. Followed by a dinner so large it spilled across three whole rooms while full orchestras played the music of Handel and Bach. At the end of the night formal photographs were taken of the Russian nobility, who were perhaps too drunk on the night to realize what the real cost of the party would be. It was the last time they would all be assembled together to be photographed before the October Revolution.
Novelist Truman Capote swore up and down that one day he would become so rich and famous he'd throw a party no one would ever forget. The time finally came after the release of his classic 1966 true-crime novel In Cold Blood. Left with enough money and time to finally throw his dream party, Capote spent three months planning his masquerade at New York City's famous Plaza Hotel. The ball had a famously strict black and white theme, which was designed so well it was rumoured to be the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick's use of black and white sets in his films.
Not shy to show off, Capote invited all the elites of the day. Royalty, politicians, movie-stars and many, many writers that Capote personally admired were in attendance. Classic southern fare was served up to the guests, along with 450 bottles of notoriously expensive Taittinger champagne. The part finally raged through the night, but finally started to dwindle at 2:45 in the morning when Frank Sinatra left. Capote begged him to stay, knowing that once the crooner left he would be hounded by hungry reporters outside and in the process drag everyone to the impromptu after party at Jilly's Bar.
The party was apparently so incredible that it has been called the last great moment in New York City's social history.
Paul Poiret was one of the most influential fashion designers of all time. Most well known for his modern dress designs that eliminated corsets in favour of using drapery to accentuate figure. By 1911 he was a celebrated Parisian designer set to release his much hyped fragrance, Perfums de Rosine. His marketing strategy? Poiret was going to throw the best party Paris had seen in a long, long time.
Held at his own villa with a Persian theme, all 300 guests and the house itself were decked in colourful, florid style that would make any Sultan envious. Palm trees, tropical birds and lots and lots of gold decorated wall to wall. Poiret's wife Denise took the place of honour, basking on a sofa in a golden cage suspended over the guest and laughing riotously at the patrons.
Imagine one of the most long awaited parties of all time, celebrated simultaneously around the entire world. With the brutality of WWII over, Victory in Europe and Victory in Japan Day saw millions of people flock to city squares in France, UK, US and Russia. People who attended describe a feeling of overwhelming euphoria in the crowd, a chance to finally let loose and celebrate peace after years of watching the world being torn apart.
The party was so intense that Moscow actually managed to run out of liquor entirely and all the free drinks resulted in a vodka pond forming in the street.
Celebrities are known for throwing incredible parties on their birthday, but the party to top them all remains the Sultan of Bruneis 50th birthday bash in 1996. As one of the last absolute monarchs and among the richest people in the world at the time, the Sultan spent 27.2 million dollars on his 10,000 guests.
Starting with a military march and display before treating them to caviar and champagne. The Sultan didn't even attend the entertainment for the evening, a $16 million dollar concert put on by the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.
Whenever the Pope died, Italy found itself with a strange dual responsibility thanks to its position as the heart of the Catholic world. While there were days of mourning, the process of selecting a new Pope almost always meant a a serious party was in order. Of particular note was the Papal Conclave of 1667, which had come after a series of long and frustrating papal elections starting in 1644. Tired of all the political manipulating from France and Spain, as well as backstabbing between the cardinals, by the time Clement IX was elected Pope it was time to forget all that and get obliterated.
The city of Rome celebrated the elections at the famous La Fontana Dei Leoni. At the foot of the grand stairs designed by Michelangelo himself, the Renaissance revelers replaced the boring old water that the lion statues spouted with wine. Literal fountains of wine available free of charge to anyone who wanted to dunk their goblet in.
Count Etienne de Beaumont and his wife Edith were renowned throughout Europe and America for throwing some of the greatest parties of the roaring twenties. Every summer they would host an extravagant masquerade party at their mansion in Rue Duroc, Paris. The parties were so exciting that frequent guest Raymond Radiguet wrote an actual novel about them entitled Le Bal due Comte dOrgel.
However, in 1924 they decided to kick it up a notch with an odd and outlandish theme. Everyone had to dress up as cars, which were still a fairly recent invention at the time. Pictures of costumes from the Automotive Ball are still circulating to this day, perhaps only topped by Beaumonts other theme party in which guests were required to leave exposed the body part they deemed most interesting.
Coming from the Old Testament, the story of Belshazzar's feast may have been based on the true to life conquering of Babylon by Cyrus the Great.
According to the story, Belshazzar decided to throw a party for a thousand of his lordly friends in the ancient city of Babylon. Dining on treasures from all around the world, Belshazzar and his friends became so drunk on Babylons famous barley beer that they decided it was a good idea to swap their regular fancy chalices for the sacred golden vessels stolen from the conquered Solomons temple. Why? Because he had them, and he could.
Belshazzar's flippant rager came with serious consequences though, as his kingdom was assailed and conquered that night by Cyrus the Great. With all the leaders of the city too drunk to think straight it was an easy fight, and the much more popular Cyrus took control. Hows that for a hangover?
Andrew Jackson ran his campaign as a man of the people. So it wasn't much of a surprise that after running on a populist platform he threw one of the most memorable inauguration parties in American history.
By the morning he made it to the capitol, 10,000 people had come to witness the event, and by the time he reached the White House at noon the crowd had more than doubled. The 21,000 strong crowd broke the ship cable used to keep them at bay and stormed the lawn of the White House to party.
Jackson had no way to calm the rowdy partygoers down, and had to climb out of a window in order to escape the mob. With no options left, someone suggested placing large tubs of punch and liquor outside the White House to get them to move.
Jackson would go on to have many parties at the White House, which probably made life difficult for his security detail.
One of the most anticipated performances of its time, famed composer Igor Stravinsky premiered his ballet Les Noces (The Wedding) at the Thtre de la Gat in Paris on June 13th, 1923. The premiere was such a success that Stravinsky's rich friends Sara and Gerald Murphy decided to throw a massive party to help him celebrate. So on July 1st, they rented a barge on the Seine river and invited all the coolest people of the time. Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jean Cocteau, Cole Porter and the entire troupe of Ballet Russes were in attendance, enjoying the food of five-star French chefs and an endless river of champagne.
Sara Murphy originally planned to decorate the barge with flowers, but since the florists were closed on the day of the party she instead bought a hoard of toys, stuffed animals and dolls. Picasso decided these would look better in a massive abstract pile while Cocteau convinced partygoers that the ship was sinking and a very drunk Stravinsky jumped through the massive laurel wreath before calling the party the greatest night of his life.
Because peace doesn't mean the end of competition, King Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France celebrated the Anglo-French Treaty of 1514 that ended the Hundred Years War by throwing two massive, rival parties. Although theres no record of how much was spent, the 2200 sheep needed are probably a good indicator of how much the party cost in medieval terms.
Endless jousting, melee and archery competitions kept the crowds entertained while hundreds of tents and even temporary castles were constructed for everyone to stay in. The party lasted seventeen days and ended with a wrestling match between the two kings that reportedly made the blood bad enough to start another war just months later.
Just as Watergate became such a symbol of scandal that everything now ends in -gate, Woodstock has become elevated as the party to which all other American generations compare their parties. In 1969 over half a million people came together on a dairy farm in White Lake, New York for three days of peace and music that would forever leave its legacy on American culture.
First hand accounts describe the miles of overwhelming traffic and abandoned cars on the way to the festival, and it became almost physically impossible to get there.
The entertainment was what everyone was coming to see, and the line up of Jimmy Hendrix, The Who and the Grateful Dead among many others remains legendary to this day. Amazingly, despite a lack of proper hygienic supplies or food and water, no riots broke out among the huge crowd. And only two deaths were recorded at the festival, one from a tractor accident and another from an accidental overdose.
Thousands of iconic photos of Woodstock exist, but perhaps the most famous are those taken during the steady rainstorms that left everyone playing together in the mud.
An annual party since 1924 that only gets better every year. La Sagra DellUva in Marino, Italy celebrates the defeat of the Ottoman navy by local hero Marcantonio Colonna. Patrons like to dress in the Renaissance garb of Colonna's sailors while attending jousting matches and eating ripened grapes hung from fountains. Every balcony door and terrace is strung with garlands of flowers while local shops and restaraunt's hand out free food to partygoers.
The festival lasts from the dawn of one morning to the next, but the event that everyone waits eagerly for happens right at dusk. When the sun hits the horizon the water is drained from the towns Fontana Dei Quattro Mori and replaced with sweet white wine to be enjoyed by everybody. Spending $250,000 on the wine alone, the resulting week long hangover is cured the next Sunday with the well timed donut festival.
While Neros personal pleasure palace might have been impressive, it might have lasted longer if he didn't make everyone feel like there was an amazing party they weren't invited to. In contrast, keeping the public happy was the point of the famous Roman Colosseum. A ten year project completed in 80CE, at the time it was unmatched in scope and complexity. With over 50,000 seats, a covered dome and an intricate engineering system that delivered the entertainment to the stage.
When it was first opened, the celebrations lasted a hundred straight days. A hundred days of liquor, orgies and lots and lots of murder.
In total 9000 animals were killed, and 2000 gladiators died in the opening ceremonies alone. These numbers don't even include the water events staged in the Naumachia outside the stadium. An event in which entire mock naval battles were staged in a giant flooded pool complete with fake shipwrecks for obstacles.
Given how many vivid descriptions of the Colosseums opening survived, its unlikely that a party this intense will be topped for a long, long time.