The Date: Oct. 11, 2007
The Venue: SoHo House, New York
The Crowd: Animal Planet execs and staff, including General Manager Marjorie Kaplan and one hunky "large predator expert"
The Food: No Kalahari truffles but plates full of veggies with three types of hummus for dipping, plus the usual SoHo House trays of mini-burgers and bite-size bits of glazed chicken and tuna. For dessert: sugar cookies frosted with an Andy Warhol-esque rendering of Flower.
The Drinks: A special "Flower Power" cocktail, which was basically sangria on the rocks with a flower instead of fresh fruit, plus plenty of wine and mixed drinks
The Swag: Meerkat madness! Everything from a bottle of Meerkat IPA beer (brewed especially for the occasion) to a Make-A-Wish flower necklace to a season-one DVD. There were also plenty of bath products courtesy of the Body Shop to leave the skin exfoliated, cocoa-scented and Kalahari fresh. Plus, the bag all the goodies came in is totally suitable for our next safari. Now that's what we call a swag bag.
Of all the meerkat memorials Freeloader has attended (you'd be surprised), dare we say we've never had more fun than at the one Animal Planet threw at SoHo House in honor of Flower, the mother of the "Sopranos"-esque brood on the hit show "Meerkat Manor." First off, any memorial service hosted in the Meatpacking District is bound to be a booze-soaked affair -- especially when it's for a rare African animal. So when a glass of "Flower Power" punch was in our hands seconds after our arrival, we felt assured that Flower's wake was going to be anything but a somber affair.
A montage of Flower footage played on a flat-screen TV hanging overhead (thankfully free of the saccharine-yet-humorous music fans chose for their own YouTube tributes) while Freeloader chatted convivially with the show's producer and a man we can only remember being identified as the network's "large predator expert" about what made Flower so special. Apparently Mama Meerkat lived an exceptionally long life for her species but ultimately fell victim to a fatal snake attack. Our other key takeaway: If you're a "large predator expert," not only should you have an encyclopedic knowledge of remedies for all kinds of animal bites, but displaying copious chest hair while expounding that knowledge just adds to your credibility.
Just as we began our second glass of Flower Power punch, it was time to move into the SoHo House screening room for a full-fledged sound-and-video tribute to Flower and family, preceded by a toast to her memory. Freeloader left our flower-scented Kleenex in the other room, so we were ill-equipped for the mistiness that occurred as we relived all the memories from Flower's two seasons of motherly love. Thankfully, there was no snake-attack footage, lest we be tricked into watching a meerkat snuff film. As an added bonus, we were treated to a sneak peek of an upcoming gorilla special in which Natalie Portman and Jack Hanna explore an endangered species of apes in the jungles of Rwanda. Natalie Goodall, anyone?
Our close call with tearshed aside, spirits were more than lively throughout the evening. The only other tonal misstep came when we heard dour alt-country songstress Neko Case start piping in through the speakers, a surefire way to kill the mood of even the rowdiest affair. We're not saying the party should've had a live band (although clearly the Wallflowers or Blossom Dearie would've made for a nice tie-in), but we weren't going to let Animal Planet off the hook for sneaking some legitimately sad music into the party.
Whenever Freeloader gets a little down, a good gift bag can always cheer us up, and the "Meerkat Manor" sack o' beer, DVDs and bath products more than lifted our party spirits. Freeloader already started our morning by showering with meerkat soap, so the memory of Flower is literally under our skin. How's that for meerkat marketing -- or should we say "meerkating"?