Puttin’ on the Ritz


When New Orleans’ own John Havens wanted a party of grand proportions, he knew Thea Pagel Productions could make it happen

setting1.jpgMore than a word, it was the inspiration for Cal a Vie spa owner John Havens’ 50th birthday celebration, put on by Thea Pagel Productions. Cal a Vie, in Southern California, is more than a spa, it’s an oasis that John and his wife, Terri, have made into a breathtaking monument to wellness and life. TPP incorporated Cal a Vie’s striking natural beauty, unparalleled luxury and extraordinary service into a seminal event that fully captured John’s incredible spirit.

As guests arrived at Cal a Vie for the celebration weekend, they were immediately enveloped in color and style. Exquisite flowers, from acclaimed Los Angeles florist to the stars TSF Studios, set an energetic vibe. Guests participated in an open house designed to help them explore the myriad restorative options available to them over the weekend. TPP signature touches were evident throughout the open house, from the interplay of candlelight and natural light in the Meditation Room, to the extravagant linens, pitch-perfect music and beautiful flowers throughout the buffet and bar.

The weekend continued as guests indulged in spa services that were life-affirming and life-changing. A cooking demonstration on Friday morning was held in the stunning new Pavilion. Thea Pagel worked with Executive Chef Steve Pernetti, to transform John’s favorite New Orleans dishes into low-cal, flavorpacked versions. Guests were amazed to see that searing, grilling and seasoning techniques could garner maximum flavor with minimal fat.


The piéce de résistance was a 400-year-old French chapel from Dijon that was reassembled on Cal a Vie’s grounds for use as a meditation center. It provided the backdrop for a Renaissance-inspired banquet that thrilled John’s guests on Friday evening. The White Knight, a Renaissance symbol of purity and wisdom, was a guiding force in the creation of this phenomenal feast. The symbology of the White Knight perfectly captured the effervescent spirit of John Havens and Cal a Vie.

TSF Florist once again used an interplay of color brilliantly in the form of exquisite bouquets of artichokes, green pears, ivy, rosemary, seeded eucalyptus, polo roses, spray roses, green amaranth and white hydrangeas These beautiful displays were made even more dramatic by the arrival of the guests who were clad, along with the serving staff, completely in white. The table setting, created by Thea Pagel Productions, was perfectly entrancing. A beautiful antique salt cellar was placed on the table and John, seated to its right, invoked his status of honor. Rosewater and orange blossom perfumed the air as guests cleansed their hands with scented towels. Candlelight twinkled across the silver domes as guests were wowed by each successive course: delectable soups, succulent roasts, divine desserts. It was truly a feast for the senses.

The end of the meal was merely the beginning of an adventure. In the courtyard, a flock of doves was released and the guests took part in a labyrinth ceremony that focused on positive energy and purification. The labyrinth and its attendant mysteries were detailed in a beautiful hand-bound tome that was presented to guests.

The weekend continued with a formal black-tie dinner, complete with jeweltoned florals, and décor of operatic proportions. Cal a Vie’s grand pavilion patio was transformed into an elegant dining room when TPP added sumptuous floor-length velvet curtains in burnt orange. Baroque table linens and opera provided a graceful passage throughout the fantastic dinner. It was John’s birthday, but his guests witnessed an embarrassment of riches as the doors to the pavilion were thrown open to showcase waiters holding trays of champagne and not one but two tiered passion fruit and Framboise genoise cakes decorated with peacock feathers and a crown.
After birthday toasts, the surprises continued as the Temptations took the stage and rocked the house for the remainder of the evening. John’s joy was evident when he serenaded Terri with one of his all-time favorite songs, “My Girl.”


The good times rolled well into the night. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, indelibly stamped with the professional, stunning and sophisticated mark of Thea Pagel Productions.