How We Rate Our “Nights Out”

By: Garrett M. Graff

Every fall, as the social season starts back up, we send our reporters and staff out on the party circuit. To give readers a sense of the various events, we’ve tried to come up with some tongue-in-cheek ratings for our “A Night Out” posts. These are, of course, not completely objective ratings but are an attempt to establish some parity across widely differing events. It’s nearly impossible to score much higher than a 16 on our scale—only a handful of times in two years have we delivered something above that level.

Achieving the full 20 points would be difficult to do at any event other than a White House state dinner.

Here’s how the system works:

Bold Face Names :: A measure not just of how many A-list Washington, New York, and Hollywood celebrities are present but also how big a part of the crowd they represent.

0 = No one you’ve ever heard of. Think an average Adams Morgan bar on a Saturday night in August.
1 = Spouses of semi-famous people and Washington C-list celebrities. No actual famous people.
2 = Well-known local leaders, minor members of Congress, no one who your non-Washington parents or aunt and uncle in Nebraska would recognize.
3 = At least one Cabinet secretary/Supreme Court Justice and/or Hollywood star requiring explanation (“Hill Harper, you know, from CSI”).
4 = Multiple members of both Washington fame and Hollywood/music fame or if no Hollywood, multiple members of the following recognizable group: Senator Majority/Minority Leader, House Speaker/Majority/Minority Leaders, Cabinet secretaries from Defense, State, Justice, Treasury, or more than one Supreme Court justice. If you wouldn’t recognize them on the street, they don’t count for a 4. Note: The President hanging out by himself in a Starbucks is a 4. Ditto for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt dining together at Cafe Milano in an otherwise empty restaurant.
5 = A five cannot be achieved without BOTH of the following: The President of the United States AND at least one Hollywood/music star who requires no “you know” introduction (think Clooney or Bono).

Swankiness :: A measure of how fancy the overall event, from the entrance to the party itself.

0 = Think your dorm room in college the morning after a party.
1 = Think your dorm room in college during a party.
2 = The Park at 14th, Oya, or Indebleu on an average night.
3 = Live music, fancy lighting, and a well-dressed crowd. The only person wearing a t-shirt has a Grammy.
4 = Black tie, searchlights and red carpet out front.
5 = White or black tie, paparazzi, Secret Service at the doors. Champagne fountains, jazz bands, and candelabras are all a plus.

Food/Drink :: No successful party is without delectable eats and endless social libations. This rating reflects just how special and unique these key ingredients are at a given event.
 
0 = Devoid of sustenance.
1 = Popcorn and/or goldfish crackers
2 = Mini burgers and Miller High Life.
3 = Passed hors d’oeuvres, endless refills on drinks
4 = Standard banquet fare; Moet or similar quality liquor. Special-made drinks or chocolate fountain for the event a plus.
5 = Liquor you wouldn’t buy yourself; food you don’t want to eat because it’s too special.

Exclusivity :: Perhaps the most subjective rating of all, this measures something different from “Swankiness.” This measures that “je ne sais quoi,” the general feeling of specialness that you get for being there. From start to finish, invitation to departure, how elite of a gathering does it prove to be?
0 = An average Adams Morgan bar on a Saturday night BEFORE there’s a line to get in.
1 =  An average Adams Morgan bar on a Saturday night AFTER there’s a line to get in.
2 = Smith Point on a normal weekend night. You have to know someone to get on the list but the list itself is pretty wide.
3 = Anything that includes an Evite can’t be ranked higher than a 3. If money is involved, ticket prices in the triple digits.
4 = Printed, mailed invitations. Ticket prices in the four digits.
5 = Bloomberg after-party, Gridiron, Kennedy Center Honors, State Dinner, TomKat’s wedding. If people BEG for an invitation, it’s probably a five.

One note on “Bold Face Names” and “Exclusivity”: These measurements can be adjusted to reflect niche events held by specific groups—for instance, an architect’s small dinner party that includes I.M. Pei and Frank Gehry could still score a high “Bold Face Names” and “Exclusivity” rating.

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