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Sunday, February 3, 2008
Updated: February 5, 12:31 PM ET
For hottest party in desert, follow the bunnies

By Jemele Hill
Page 2 columnist

PHOENIX/SCOTTSDALE/CHANDLER, Ariz. -- So, my Super Bowl party experience began like any other: Me and ESPN.com fantasy guru Matthew Berry in Ben Roethlisberger's VIP suite watching two girls inspect one another for tonsillitis.

This is a "family Web site," so I'll stop the story there and just sum up the Super Bowl XLII party experience.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin)
The hottest man on the party scene in Phoenix goes by one name: McLovin'.
First, text messaging has ruined parties. People don't stand around and try to maintain their gorgeousness. They stand around texting. It has led to fewer conversations and not enough dancing. Beautiful women are being ignored. Hookups are down. I really hope Sprint, Nextel, Verizon and AT&T are proud of themselves for torpedoing the great American party.

Until we solve that problem, Page 2 brings you the always-anticipated Super party breakdown -- with a little "help" from this year's presidential candidates.

Playboy Desert Oasis and Resort
Why that title? Because "most fantabulous party of Super Bowl week" was too lengthy.

Location: Rawhide Pavilion at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, a 52,000-square-foot facility Playboy successfully turned into one, big, playful bedroom.

Performer: Common was the host, with special guest DJ Nick Cannon.

Celebrities we saw: Christopher Mintz-Plasse ("McLovin" from "Superbad"), Gabrielle Union, Regina King, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Tiki Barber, Michael Clarke Duncan, Takeo Spikes, Chester Taylor, Franco Harris, Scott Porter ("Friday Night Lights"), Chris Perry, Tom Arnold, Rick Mahorn, Ty Law, Reggie Wayne, Vernon Davis, Grady Sizemore, Larry David and, of course, Hugh Hefner and "The Girls Next Door."

Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn't spot: Honestly, this party was so ridiculous that Page 2 couldn't muster up the outrage to care about who didn't show up. Still, we never saw Rick Fox, Amare Stoudemire or Alyssa Milano, who all were supposed to attend.

Food factor: For those who could focus on the food, there was cotton candy, macaroni and cheese bites, mini burgers, beef Wellington and more than two dozen bite-sized items.

Best party clothes: Gotta give it up to the bunnies in body paint. It redefined art.

Worst party clothes: Tom Arnold looked like he'd never heard of that invention called the iron.

Awkward moment of the night: I give it to myself for almost giving Regina King a concussion when we accidentally bumped heads. And speaking of King, Michael Smith of "Around The Horn" was too shy to approach the actress best known for her roles as Cuba Gooding Jr.'s wife in "Jerry Maguire" and "Brenda" on the sitcom "227." Turns out, King is a big fan of "ATH." King's people approached Smith for an introduction, and let's just say we've never seen Smith get that excited about debating Woody Paige.

What would John McCain say? "Glory is not a conceit. It is not a decoration for valor."

Final grade: As a dear friend who attended the party put it: "This is the best party I've ever been to in my [expletive] life." Page 2 couldn't possibly cover the 60-plus parties that occurred throughout Super Bowl week, but we have a hard time believing any of them could compete with Playboy.

Cannon, who starred in "Drumline," was superb, and he made all the men jealous when he was ambushed by Playboy bunnies in the DJ booth. As good as Cannon was, the place absolutely exploded when "McLovin" took the microphone. If not for the Arizona liquor laws, no one would have ever left.

Alyssa Milano
Our correspondent didn't spot Alyssa Milano at the Playboy bash, but she was indeed there -- and looking rather fetching.
Hef believes parties go south when they have "too many dudes," so Playboy bused in coeds from the University of Arizona to make sure the female-to-male ratio was lopsided.

Playboy continues to set the gold standard. For the second straight year, it rates No. 1 on our list, garnering a Mary Lou Retton-esque perfect 10.

Maxim magazine Super Bowl Party at Stone Rose at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
Why that title? Because the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a five-diamond resort (paging Danny Ocean) that features the TPC course, which was home to this week's PGA event, the FBR Open. When you've got a gorgeous, sprawling venue of that quality, you put it in the title. The Stone Rose lounge is the resort's new hot spot owned by Rande Gerber, who's better known to Page 2 readers as Cindy Crawford's hubby.

Location: On the outskirts of Scottsdale, about 10 miles from the craziness down in the Old Town district. We give major points for the abundance of space (it was easy to navigate) and the multi-floor approach to the venue. The pool area was adjacent to holes No. 9 and 18 on the TPC course, which provided a terrific backdrop.

Performer: Akon with T-Pain.

Celebrities we saw: Ryan Seacrest, Stacy Keibler, Tom Arnold, Emmitt Smith, Carson Palmer, Braylon Edwards, Ronnie Lott, Reggie Bush, Kim Kardashian, Shannon Sharpe, Tony Gonzalez, Jared Allen, Matt Leinart, Warren Moon, Ludacris (double-dipping on the party scene shortly after his performance at the ESPN The Magazine party), Terrell Davis and Steve Young.

Celebrites who were confirmed, but we didn't spot: Cindy Crawford (damn!), Adam Sandler, P. Diddy, Steve Nash, Nick Lachey, Vanessa Minnillio, Chuck Lidell and David Spade.

Food factor: It was gone by the time we came through the doors shortly after midnight -- but we're told the Stone Rose chef served up a nice assortment of ahi tuna kakoda and some savory shrimp banderillas escalivida.

Best party clothes: Jackets and anything leather. As temperatures dipped down into the mid-40s, warmth became just as important as style. Anyone with a coat was drawing looks of envy. We'll give party organizers credit for having the most heat lamps we saw on the Arizona party scene and for the fire pits in the VIP area. (But why so many VIP areas? It seemed everywhere we turned at this party, we bumped into another bouncer or velvet rope.)

Worst party clothes: It was easy to spot all those ladies in short, tight dresses -- they were gathered around those heat lamps "like moths to the flame," as Janet would say.

Awkward moment of the night: Several "gentlemen" grew frustrated with the lines for the port-a-potties and just decided to ... um, "find relief" in the direction of hole No. 9. Fellas, this is a PGA venue!

Hugh Hefner and Girlfriends
Hef and "The Girls Next Door" earn another A-plus with the party of the week.
What would Hillary say: "The fine-looking, attractive clientele at this party proves our health care system is starting to work."

Final grade: A well-planned event, which would've been even hotter if the weather had cooperated. As usual, Maxim's party is a 25-year-old single man's fantasy, with many more women than men on hand. We give it a 7.5.

ESPN The Magazine's NEXT VIP party
Why that title? It was for athletes and celebrities only, capitalizing on the NEXT concept.

Location: Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts. ESPN set up an enormous outdoor tent and several smaller tents to house the 800 guests who attended.

Performer: Ludacris, with surprise guest Ciara.

Celebrities we saw: LaDainian Tomlinson, Jake Delhomme, David Wesley, Chad Johnson, Keisha Knight-Pulliam (yes, "Rudy" from the "Cosby Show"!), Jamal Anderson, Willie McGinest. The party tent was so massive that many of them were difficult to spot.

Celebs who were confirmed, but we didn't spot: Too many to name. ESPN had more than 500 athletes confirmed.

Food factor: Got to give ESPN major dap for keeping it simple with chicken tenders and French fries, possibly the best drunk food on the planet.

Best party clothes: Ciara wore the highest heels humanly possible.

Worst party clothes: The corporate atmosphere prevented any egregious fashion errors.

Overheard: Numerous complaints about the chill. ESPN committed a faux pas by not having heaters inside the main VIP tent (strangely, they were all outside the tent).

Awkward moment of the night: Seeing about a quarter of the partygoers leave once Ludacris and Ciara finished up.

What would Barack Obama say? That the chill came from Hillary.

Final grade: Exclusive, but not snooty. Ludacris and Ciara combined for one of the best acts we saw at any of the Super Bowl parties. The pair took the party to 90 mph, particularly when Ciara gave Ludacris a lap dance that made several men in attendance very thankful they had a cameraphone. Also, it was brilliant of ESPN party planners to make this a VIP event only, meaning no area was off limits. Now, the not-so good: The party struggled to sustain the momentum built by its high-energy performers. The chilly temperatures also gave guests an excuse to bolt. Make it an 8.

944 Super Village with Velvet Revolver
Why that title? Because 944 is the name of the magazine that threw the party, Super is the name of the Bowl, Village is ... well, you can't have any kind of global sporting event without something being called Village, and Velvet Revolver is quite simply one of the best band names around.

Kourtney and Chloe Kardashian with Oompa Loompas
Kardashians and Oompah-loompahs together? Sounds like a hot party.
Location: Scottsdale Waterfront at Stetson Canal.

Celebrities we saw: In order to get a prime spot for Scott, Slash, Duff and Matt, we inched our way up front and bypassed the row of "cabanas" where any celebrities in attendance were probably camouflaged.

Celebrities confirmed, but we didn't spot: Snoop Dogg, Jenny McCarthy, Ryan Seacrest, Stacy Keibler and Cindy Crawford.

Food factor: Scantily clad ladies with trays of sushi. Other than that, is Red Bull food?

Best party clothes: Larry David in a blue sweater, large sportcoat and ill-fitting khakis with tennis shoes. It was the perfect complement to the overabundance of Affliction T-shirts on aging hipsters.

Worst party clothes: Juliette Lewis' purple spandex pants that looked even purpler on stage as she and her band, The Licks, opened for VR.

Overheard: Scott Weiland saying, "Start a moshpit in those ballroom gowns!" Larry David saying, "I just want to be far away from the band. Like outside."

Awkward moment of the night: An overenthusiastic partygoer with his sweater wrapped around his neck in a chokehold by a bouncer, being forcibly dragged out of the VIP tent.

What would Ron Paul say? I could get us out of Iraq faster than it's taking to get to the front of the stage!

Final grade: 944 said it was planning one of the most ambitious events in Super Bowl history and it came awfully close with four nights of parties with the likes of Velvet Revolver, 50 Cent, Wyclef Jean, Fall Out Boy and Paul Oakenfold. The VIP tent got a little claustrophobic late during VR's set, but the open bars were never far away. The large number of people made spotting celebs difficult, but a supergroup draws super-sexy party people and this night was no different. Overall rating: 8.

Penthouse Desire SuperParty
Why that title? It's Penthouse. A great amount of desire is necessary.

Location: "The Venue" of Scottsdale. Inside, there was a weird marriage of the wild, wild West, strip clubs and a casino. In one back room, some of the Penthouse's finest did a little pole dancing, and in another separate area, partygoers could play craps and roulette for prizes using fake money.

Performer: Snoop Dogg. But for the second straight year, Page 2 missed Snoop's performance to bolt to another gig.

Celebrities we saw: Things were slow when we were there. The only person we spotted was Romany Malco ("Jay" from "The 40-Year-Old Virgin").

Celebrities who confirmed, but we didn't spot: Reportedly, this was one of the toughest tickets in town, and even Jason Sehorn and Matt Leinart were having a tough time begging their way in.

Food factor: The flavorful beef was a big hit. They also had potato skins, meatballs and a variety of different appetizers that we were offered at every turn.

Best party clothes: The Penthouse Pets were nicely attired, meeting the expectations of gawkers everywhere.

Worst party clothes: Lots of older men making tragic fashion mistakes, including one with a lemon yellow suit that must have been stolen from Dean Martin's closet.

Overheard: Drooling noises.

Awkward moment of the night: The dirty old man factor was in full effect. One older gentleman attempted to ballroom dance with a Penthouse Pet, and we were all worse off for seeing it.

What would John Edwards say? You pay what I pay for haircuts to get into this party.

Final grade: Kudos to Penthouse for providing an unusual but outstanding warm-up act prior to host Snoop Dogg's taking the stage. Performance artist David Garibaldi wowed the crowd by producing instant paintings of Beyonce and Snoop, all to the tune of their music. Solid, but not spectacular. A 7.25.

EA Sports Madden Bowl
Why that title? Straight from the video-game maker who brought game heads the best football game of all time (Aside from Tecmo Bowl, of course).

Location: Downton Scottsdale's Martini Ranch, an intimate, multilevel club with patios on both floors.

Celebrities we saw: The quarterbacks owned the joint. Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb, Matt Leinart, Joe Montana, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Hasselbeck all were there. Also, Willis McGahee, Dontrelle Willis, Braylon Edwards, Jamal Anderson, Chad Johnson, Marshall Faulk, Dennis Rodman.

Celebs who confirmed, but we didn't spot: There were so many athletes, we can't imagine that anyone didn't show up.

Food factor: Who needs food when ESPN "NFL Live" host/party emcee Trey Wingo is singing, "Ballin'"?!

Best party clothes: Many folks were styling. Keyshawn Johnson pulled off the "Masterpiece Theatre" look with an elegant, dark velvet jacket. Braylon Edwards was similar, rocking the ascot and blazer.

Worst party clothes: Nearly everyone was on their best fashion behavior.

Overheard: McNabb saying he wanted out of Philly. Gotcha.

Awkward moment of the night: Chad Johnson in full mack mode on Keisha Knight-Pulliam. By the way, those two were seen cozied up at a few events throughout the week, including ESPN's Next party. ... Also, Roethlisberger gave a hopeful young woman a pretty impressive stiff arm with the help of some timely text messaging.

What would Fred Thompson say? That even the usually stoic "Jack McCoy" would have enjoyed himself.

Final grade: The party started off slow, which is to be expected when the party's theme is built around watching other people play video games. That changed once the Madden competition ended -- McGahee won, by the way -- and the party got timely spillover from the P. Diddy concert bash around the corner. McNabb showed he's not just cool in the pocket, but on the dance floor, too, where he put a millennium twist on some 1980s moves. A party that began as a 4 impressively moved to a respectable 7 by night's end.

Leigh Steinberg's Super Bowl party
Why that title? It bears the name of the superagent who was the inspiration behind the movie "Jerry Maguire."

Location: Desert Botanical Garden in Scottsdale. The fabulous mountain backdrop and lush scenery merged wonderfully with this eco-themed party.

Celebrities we saw: Steinberg, of course. Also, Warren Moon, John Salley, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Jerry Tarkanian.

Celebs who were confirmed, but we didn't spot: Keep in mind this wasn't a celebrity-driven party, but more for the lesser-known movers and shakers.

Food factor: The delectable sushi, ice cream and bratwurst were real winners.

Best/worst party clothes: Not many fashion extremists here, considering the strong, professional vibe.

Overheard: Mostly business talk. This was a very well-behaved affair.

Awkward moment of the night: A kid approached ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com writer LZ Granderson with a football and a Sharpie, thinking he was Larry Fitzgerald.

What would Ralph Nader say? He would definitely approve of the theme and the gift bags Steinberg gave to all his guests, which included energy-saving light bulbs and other eco-friendly products.

Final grade: Steinberg's party was a nice change of pace from typically frenetic Super Bowl parties. Guests could get massages and enjoy an oxygen bar. For those requiring something with more edge, there also was a flight simulator. An 8.

B.I.O (By Invitation Only), brought to you by urban2u.com
Why that title? Exclusivity sells.

Location: Axis-Radius nightclub, downtown Scottsdale, a sprawling venue with a glass-enclosed VIP suite.

Celebrities we saw: Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Siragusa, Pamela Anderson, Amare Stoudemire.

Celebs who were confirmed, but we didn't spot: Mary J. Blige was supposed to make an appearance, but we were told by party organizers that jet lag won out. But not to worry -- urban2u, which coordinated this party, also was behind the high-profile Floyd "Money" Mayweather weekend Super Bowl festivities at the posh Wrigley Mansion. Tons of celebs partied there, including Blige and the Black Eyed Peas.

Food factor: Unless you count the limes in the tequila, we didn't see any.

Best party clothes: Roethlisberger represented snappy casual with a black Johnny Cash T-shirt, jeans and white sneakers.

Worst party clothes: Stoudemire must have had a "Krush Groove" flashback. He wore a thick rope chain that would have made any 1980s rapper jealous.

Awkward moment of the night: The show in Roethlisberger's suite we described in the first paragraph.

What would Mitt Romney say? The Mormons do not approve.

Final grade: Roethlisberger's suite was the most happening spot. Fantasy players also would be happy to know Roethlisberger beamed with pride when Matthew Berry told him he was a top-five fantasy performer this season. This was a nice way to start a crazy party week. But points had to be deducted because the men-to-women ratio rivaled Alaska's. At times, more people were in Big Ben's suite than on the dance floor. Overall, a 6.5.

The Marcellus Wiley After Party, co-hosted by Akon
Why that title? Self-explanatory.

Location: Fahrenheit 128, a nondescript club in north Scottsdale.

Celebrities we saw: Jerome Bettis, Ray Lewis, Shawn Springs, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Guy Torre, Dennis Northcutt, LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Phillips, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Larry Fitzgerald.

Celebs who were confirmed, but we didn't spot: At that late hour, it was a free-for-all.

Food factor: A tasty pasta dish with ground beef and sausage, plus potato skins.

Best party clothes: The host, Wiley, was sharp with a peach blazer and linen slacks.

Worst party clothes: Let's just say a few women didn't understand spandex isn't for everyone.

Overheard: Surprisingly, there was some grumbling about the performance of DJ Jazzy Jeff, considered to be a legend.

Awkward moment of the night: Cedric Ceballos is a DJ now?

What would Mike Huckabee say? Were the party borders secure?

Final grade: Major props to Wiley for nabbing DJ Jazzy Jeff for a party that was low in numbers but high in star power. This was one of the few parties we attended where the dance floor was always in use. And nothing more comical than seeing a group of football players in a circle having a "dance-off." A final rating of 6.

Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com. Kevin Jackson and Daniel Dodd contributed to this report.