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The Number One Secret to Throwing a Great Party

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First appeared on Food Riot, by Wini Moranville

"What a great party!" a guest said recently as she left my house.

"Of course it was a great party," I said. "You were here."

And I meant it. That person had ignited the evening with unexpected candor, and suddenly, everyone had something interesting to say. I might have made a great meal, but she made the party.

So, you want to throw a great party? Start working on the guest list. All the great wine and food in the world can result in the dullest of times with the wrong mix of people. After years of throwing parties (and I've gotten progressively better at it), I've come up with this checklist of the kinds of people I like in my mix. Generally, my door is wide open to all kinds, but I also like to lard the evening with a few gems.

1. Invite the bombshell: A little sexual tension and lots of flirting can charge the room with just the right energy. Besides, nobody will notice if the tenderloin is overcooked if they've got their eyes on the knockout at the table.

2. Don't invite somebody's boss: Sure, there are exceptions (that is, if the higher-up is a particularly decent person), but generally, the underlings are going to be spending the entire night on their very best behavior. And who wants that?

3. Invite a great talker or two: You know who they are and yes, sometimes, you'd wish they'd shut up. But the great story-teller or punster/joke-teller can always be counted on to re-charge the conversation during those awkward moments that every party has.

4. Invite that someone who sometimes goes over the edge: I'm not talking about out-and-out drunks and mean-spirited provocateurs. But there's that person who, through candor, openness, and a devil-may-care attitude, tends to loosen everyone up.

5. Invite some wild cards: There are parties in town I've stopped going to simply because I always see the same people at them. It's not that I don't like those people, it's just that the parties are getting staid and predictable. If yours are too, bring in some fresh faces. In fact, back when I only had about 200 Twitter followers -- most of them random people in town -- I invited all of them to a Bastille Day party, whether I knew them or not. A few utter strangers showed up at my door and turned a few heads -- and that's always a good thing.

One more piece of advice: As John Steinbeck wrote in Cannery Row, "The nature of parties has been imperfectly studied. It is, however, generally understood that a party has a pathology, that it is a kind of an individual and that it is likely to be a very perverse individual. And it is also generally understood that a party hardly ever goes the way it is planned or intended."

That's to say that once you've gathered the people, hang back and let the party take its own course.

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