JES GORDON: Ultra Party Planner
Native New Yorker Jes Gordon embodies the ideal standard one would have of a celebrity event planner: hip, fun, exuberant and open.
Words: Vanessa Denis
Images: Courtesy of Jes Gordon
Having written her first book Party Like A Rock Star, a guide to throwing celebrity inspired parties, Jes Gordon proves that she is the true rock star of event planning. “It’s really weird” Jes confides. “I’ve been doing weddings, literally since I was 16 years old, so it’s kind of like it’s in my blood and because of that personal connection I think I fell in love with this industry.”
In 1992 at age 16, Jes was the Events and Décor Director for NYC’s famous Tavern on the Green, the youngest director to hold the position. From there she began to throw private parties for A-list clients she amassed along the way including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Jessica Parker and Madonna. But after grinding successfully for four years, Jes made a timely decision to leave Tavern in order to launch her own event planning company, jesGORDON/properFUN. Since, her company has grown exponentially, operating on both coasts with offices in New York and Los Angeles. And Jes, ever the entrepreneur, was recently tapped to serve as host of Bravo’s Rocco’s Dinner Party reality show, where she helps competing chefs create the ultimate dinner party. Business is good to say the least.
“Yeah, it’s awesome,” she says about being fully immersed in the event planning business. For Jes it’s about creating a memorable experience, not just throwing a mundane party that cool people attend. Each event she curates becomes a part of her, so she approaches each project with passion and gives much attention to detail. “I uncover what people actually want, but are scared to say. It definitely takes a really long time,” Jes says of her very personal way of getting to know her client. Like when she’s producing a wedding, a questionnaire completed by the bride is required and that’s not all. “Sometimes I’ll just insist on going to their apartment—just literally seeing what their environment is like. It helps me uncover what they [would want to] see at their wedding.” She continues, explaining why a home visit can sometimes be crucial to uncovering her client’s real needs. “You kind of watch them in their surroundings with their guard down and not in their work clothes.”
It has been 20 years since Jes started in this business, but her passion for the job never wanes. Listening to countless rock albums or scouring Twitter are just two parts of her winning combination that keeps her imagination stirred. “I learned a really long time ago, [that] if I was going into weddings, they were not going to be Jes Gordon weddings, they were going be my clients’ weddings,” she said emphatically. Learning the ins and outs of her clients’ personalities including their likes and dislikes, is what sparks the ideas that set Jes on the path of creating. “It [the inspiration] is definitely up to my clients.” She continues, ”If I get to know my clients and take the time to do that, then I can pull something out of them that will help make their wedding exclusively their own and that’s the exciting part.”
It’s not only about the bride. Jes also tends to her celebrity clients in the same way, maybe even more so. “A lot of the time when celebrities such as Puff Daddy are throwing like a big club event, it’s just out of control,” she explains. Not to say that you should never attend a Diddy party, because if you get an invite, go. It’s sure to be an experience of a lifetime. But emphasizing what a difference a minor tweak in the planning process can make to the end result, the big event, she continues. “There’s not a lot of personal touch there [which there should be more of]. It’s their [the celebrity's] people that plan a lot of their events or their PR agencies. It’s not like Puff Daddy is sitting in his living room drawing up schematics of what he wants his party to look like at all.”
While she’s tackled events for other celebrity clients like Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, she surprised us when she carefully revealed which A-lister she thinks gives the best party consistently. “I have to say across the board, I’ve been watching Elton John do a lot of Aids Foundation [where he is the chief fundraiser] parties for many, many years. I’ve watched him throw galas in times of very tough economic climates verses very lush economic climates, even with people other than me,” Jes says candidly. “It’s just the intimacy of these events—they’re not thousands of people [in attendance], they’re [only] a few hundred people. [And] they usually involve him performing, which is very special and a wonderful aspect to the event.”
It’s quite evident that Jes Gordon loves her job and wouldn’t trade it to do something else. “I’m very lucky, when I was becoming this, my friends weren’t—it was back in the day before it was a real trendy thing to be,” Gordon says. “And now I can say I’m definitely the envy of a lot of people [because] it’s [an industry] filled with a lot of rockstars.” One of which being herself. Bubbly, personable and just as excited to talk about event planning as she would have been when she started in the industry as a teen, Jes is looking forward to out-doing herself with each of her events.
Images courtesy of Jes Gordon.