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Thursday, January 31, 2013
Too many parties to choose from

By Kelley L. Carter
Special to espnW

Playboy
Playboy Playmates Tiffany Toth, left, and Jessa Hinton stuff Crown Royal camo care packages for U.S. troops overseas during the Playboy Party presented by Crown Royal.

On the second day of Super Bowl pregaming, we had a choice of any number of events. It was overwhelming to say the least -- and why not? New Orleans is a classic party town that should present former athletes, celebs and VIPs with a plethora of entertainment options.

Before we called it a night, we got to soak up two of the hottest parties in the city, and luckily they did not disappoint.

The Playboy Party: Presented by Crown Royal

Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris was among the famous -- unmasked -- faces spotted at the Playboy Party.

Why that title: The iconic men's magazine teamed up with the whiskey maker to create a sexy, purple-hued masquerade party, New Orleans style.

Where: Jax Brewery Bistro Bar

Performers: Music was by DJs Devin Lucien and Jesse Marco, with a special performance by B.o.B

Celebrities spotted: One of the first people we saw there was actor David Arquette, who was positioned at the bar and greeting partiers with a smile and obliging picture requests. Disney "High School Musical" star Zac Efron was also on hand.

Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn't spot: We're going to assume that because it was the Playboy party, it was crawling with athletes and more famous faces. Truth is, we couldn't tell. One of the nifty things about this party is that anyone who wanted one was given a cool, intricate Mardi Gras mask -- the idea being, you have no real idea who the person you're bumping and grinding up next to is. It was a neat touch.

Overheard: "Hey  do you have Crown Royal?" one partygoer asked a bartender. He clearly was being facetious, and this was hilarious, considering that the party served only cocktails made with the stuff.

Food factor: Playboy always pulls out all the stops when it comes to food. This year's passed-around food menu -- created by James Beard Award-winning chef John Besh -- included mini pork sliders, crab meat and shrimp tacos.

New Orleans rating: Who dat?! And that's mostly because we rather liked the cool who's-behind-that-mask theme that came along with the party. No idea who was pop-locking to Michael Jackson, but it sure was entertaining.

ESPN NEXT Party

Why that title: The event celebrates the new cover model for ESPN the Magazine's NEXT athlete.

Where: Tad Gormley Stadium

Performers: Cee Lo Green and Goodie Mobb

Celebrities spotted: Michael Irvin, Donovan McNabb, Arian Foster, Holly Robinson Peete, Gary Sheffield, Kelly Rowland, Anthony Mackie, Keyshawn Johnson

Celebrities who were confirmed, but we didn't spot: As usual, the magazine's party was crawling with some of the best athletes ever to touch a racket, mitt or ball -- the guest list read like a who's who of anything hot in athletics, and because the entire party truly is VIP, guests had access to their favorite athletes.

Overheard: "I feel like Jay-Z or Kanye West," one guest shouted to a group of friends while posing for a picture in the supercool throne from the hit HBO series "Game of Thrones." We're not entirely sure why that moment made him feel like a rapper &

Food factor: The ESPN party stepped it up a notch, if we do say so ourselves. The food was amazing -- from the edible parmesan crisp spoons that served ricotta cheese and tomato appetizers to the ham and pepper jelly bites to the Dunkin' Donuts mini holes -- the food was designed to soak up all the goodies served at the open bar.

New Orleans rating: Y'heard? Because, well, you likely heard about how great this party was before reading this review. By now, pictures of the event are splattered everywhere and, because the magazine let former Destiny Child singer Kelly Rowland (who also is BFF of Sunday's halftime show, Beyonce) take over its Twitter account, the word was out well before the event staff started flickering the lights and forcing guests to leave.