Office Parties Jollier This Year

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Rich individuals, she thinks, feel freer to spend. "There was a period when everyone was holding back, no matter how much money they had." Each day's news brought new reason to worry about the economy or the stock market. Now, things seem to have leveled off. "Now they say: I think I can manage. Let's go forward and have some fun."

A year ago, says Kaye, somebody booking a children's party would decide they could do without a photographer. "They'd say, I can bring my camera and photograph it myself. Now they want a photographer. They want a videographer. They want personalized party favors, a face-painter for the kids, a balloon artist, a magician."

In San Francisco, designer Ken Fulk agrees with Kaye: People—the rich included—are more apt to spend and to have fun.

"People are more willing to be exuberant," he says. "Before, there was a lot of second-guessing: people asking, 'With the state of the world, does this seem appropriate?'"

Exuberance, he says, is one reason clients seek Fulk out. His website opens with a quote from Oscar Wilde: "Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative."

Fulk, who the New York Times says "bridges the divide between San Francisco's entrenched dynasties and the newly minted technology millionaires," in March threw a lavish bash whose show-stopper was performance artist Dita von Teese, stripped to her underpants and riding a mechanical bull.

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