This weekend, New Orleans pushes the pause button on two weeks of Mardi Gras revelry for Super Bowl festivities.
That's like stuffing an ice cream sundae in to a French toast muffuletta. It's a rich stew.
From a Beatle to Beyonce, there's a slew of global names invading the Big Easy, but there's one not-yet NFL player who could stir the gossip in every party mix: Manti Te'o. Will the catfished draft prospect show up? And if he does, which party will get him?
"High-profile draft candidates with sponsor commitments will attend (Super Bowl parties), but you won't see a large number of draft candidates," says Carlos Fleming, IMG Vice President who oversees Venus Williams and Cam Newton's off-field business. "Manti's attendance will really depend on his sponsor relationships and where they anticipate using him."
Before the game kicks off in the Super Dome and on CBS Sunday night, here's a preview of the most sought after party invites this weekend.
Renee Puente, Matthew Morrison, Robert Kraft and Maria Menounos at last year's Audi Forum Indianapolis, and a look inside this year's host venue, The Ogden Museum of Art.
Audi Forum Performances by Santigold (Solange Knowles and Diplo on Saturday) Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 8 p.m. - midnight
Trust the people who nailed down space in the very first ad break after kickoff, the highest-rated portion of the game.
Translate that attention to detail to guest list curation, and you see names that are not often on the party circuit, such as Patriots owner and virtual NFL trustee Robert Kraft.
The first-class lounge analog to each Super Bowl weekend's TSA hassle, the luxury brand actually turns up the volume this year. After years in private mansions and hotel penthouses tucked away from the fray with the Kate Hudsons, Jessica Albas and Ashton Kutchers, this year's Audi Forum has live music both nights. Friday, it's Santigold. On Saturday, it's a Don Julio dinner early and a late night with Solange Knowles and Diplo until 4 a.m.
Don't be misled by the posh venue, an art museum. It's named, in part, for an alcoholic beverage magnate.
About their in-game ad spot, it's the first ever "choose your own adventure" Super Bowl ad. Last week, they welcomed online voters to pick an ending to a story that begins with a nerd steering an S6 to the prom before cutting in to kiss the prom queen. To see if the ending is "fist-meets-face", click here.
Playboy Party Presented by Crown Royal Jax Brewery, 11 p.m.
After a steep decline in their once-dominant party prowess over the past decade, the bunny needs a hop in its step. I think they found it.
Instead of bringing on celebrity wranglers, they've partnered with L.A. hotspot Bootsy Bellows to pop up a version of their club inside their own party.
"Our goal is to make Playboy the preeminent party again," Bootsy's owner John Terzian tells TheWrap. "We're being extremely smart about our list."
Terzian's the right guy for this job. He played football at USC in the Caron Palmer era and began his party promoting career in that hyper-social scene. His relationships to sports and "scene" run deep, not to mention his partner in Bootsy's, David Arquette. Arquette is known to entertain clients by playing with a drunken Keith Richards marionette and lending a hand to snap cell phone photos.
"There's a lot of fashion people that go (to Super Bowl), but they got lost in all these big events," Terzian says. They won't get lost on Friday. The pop-up only fits 300 VIPs and has its own separate entrance.
DJ Devin Lucien reps L.A. and DJ Jesse Marco (who just wowed West Coasters at Sundance) is in from New York, covering both social scenes. Locally, they've corralled Lousiana's top food export – Tabasco as a partner. James Beard Award winning Chef John Besh is including it across the evening's menu. While everyone else may dashing the red hangover elixir in their Bloody Marys the next morning, Terzian won't. He'll be back in L.A. by Saturday night to mind the shop on Sunset Boulevard.
The hardest problem may be getting there. Jax Brewery sits where the French Quarter meets the river. ESPN has its production compound next door in a massive parking lot, broadcasting 20 hours a day with thousands of "spirited" SportsCenter audience lurking around. With the smell of "Bunnies in the Bayou" (as Playboy has billed their event), expect a sea of Y chromosomes on the edge of the French Quarter.
Even if nobody can find the right entrance or get in, the Czar of Holmby Hills should be happy. At least everyone will be talking about Playboy, and that's something that hasn't happened since the Carson Palmer era.
Michael Irvin and Tim Tebow meet at ESPN Next 2012, which always has a grand entrance.
ESPN The Magazine's "Next" Event Tad Gormley Stadium, 10 p.m. - 2 a.m. Performers: CeeLo & Goodie Mob
Once upon a time, there was Sports Illustrated. Now, like everything else remotely related to sports, cable and multi-platform content, ESPN is the "worldwide leader." The "NEXT" event is the citywide leader in athletes from all sports this weekend, and the one place that landed last year's big talent "get" -- Tim Tebow.
"Super Bowl week is effectively a sports convention, where numerous influencers are there to network," IMG's Fleming says. "Players are attending parties to support sponsors, network with prospective sponsors and support important media outlets."
This is one of those important media outlets.
On Friday night, they take over the 50,000 square feet of Tad Gormley Stadium, three miles from the quarter, a venue that won location-scouting survivor. Lauren Robinson, ESPN The Magazine's event marketing manager, says she came down to New Orleans "10 or 12 times just to lock the venue."
With more than 1,000 on-air talent and 400 staffers on the ground working in New Orleans, ESPN could have filled nearly all 2,000 guest spots themselves, but they won't. One celebrity talent, though, is almost entirely homegrown -- model and University of Alabama quarterback-girlfriend Katherine Webb.
ESPN had a hand in Webb's "Pippa-Middleton-moment." Commentator Brent Musberger called her out during the BCS National Title game earlier this month, rocketing her to instant fame. Now, the media cycle comes full circle. She's one of the celebrity striders of the red carpet alongside Mark Sanchez, Rob Gronkowski and Kelly Rowland (who takes over the @ESPNMag twitter handle for the night and is rumored to appear beside Beyonce on Sunday.)
Not all the stars at this event are human. One of the top appearances will come from "Iron Throne" from HBO's "Game of Thrones." No word on whose name adorns the reserved sign on "the throne." Personally, I vote to save it for ESPN's Adam Schefter (who had an outstanding season breaking news) or ESPN's Darren Rovell, the king of the sports marketing beat, who could offer instant analysis for event sponsors Coke Zero, Geico and Old Spice.
"Sir Paul, meet Pitbull."
Rolling Stone Live at the Bud Light Hotel The "Bud Light Hotel" aka Wyndham Riverfront Hotel, 9 p.m.
Rolling Stone publisher Matt Mastrangelo will host Sir Paul McCartney at Friday night's concert with Pitbull and Flo Rida, but the Beatle will only be guesting, not gigging.
As a league partner year-round (advertising in almost every commercial break), the Bud Light hotel is a consumer-friendly takeover of an actual Wyndham. It's technically private, but the general public in the form of contest winners and locals who won access through promotions will fill in the room.
Expect a smattering of famous faces courtesy of depressed Green Bay Packers fan and one of Hollywood's top talent liaisons, Pantera Sarah.
Pitbull, a return performer from last year's "hotel," isn't scheduled to perform until 12:45 a.m., so learn the words to his current song, "Don't Stop the Party."
On Sunday before the big game, Rolling Stone reloads with the "Jeep Heroes Tailgate" at Generations Hall. There's a focus on military servicemen and women, who have earned a complimentary invite to the $400/ticket event that still has tickets available.
The Roots and Questlove are both performing during the four-hour pre-party, and it's walking distance from the Super Dome, which may help to explain why all the $8,500 tables were sold out a week in advance.
DirecTV Celebrity Beach Bash Mardi Gras World
This is the premiere place to be on Saturday afternoon.
Only here can you see Joe Montana connecting to Snoop Dogg on a fly-route in a broadcast quality, fully organized, celebrity sand football game. Plus, the sidelines and viewing lounge are littered with media moguls and executives (perhaps a Jerry Jones or Mark Cuban, whose AXS TV is a co-host).
"I always want to be with Joe Montana's team, because Joe and I have a rhythm," returning player Maria Menounos tells TheWrap. "He's got a real good pass. Doug Flutie throws way too hard for me -- that's a bullet that's going to go right through my body."
Others donning the blue-and-white jerseys and competing for "looks" in the huddle include Josh Hutcherson, Olympian Lolo Jones, Ian Somerhalder, SI Swimsuit models Chrissy Teigen, Ryan Kwanten, and NFL Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Warren Moon.
Although DirecTV used to pay talent to play and invest in celebrity wranglers, now they have an incoming business and get to be choosy. "We may pick up someone's airfare or tickets, but that's about it," DirecTV SVP Jon Gieselman tells TheWrap.
As a new draft pick, the same PMKBNC team that handles the Emmys is now on board. This addition will help the already strong, but under-flexed potential for this event that "zigs" where everyone else "zags."
Justin Timberlake Performance at DirecTV Super Saturday Night Benefit for Shriner's Hospital, Mardi Gras World
Let's do a quick review. Two years ago in Dallas, Usher headlined this exact same party before turning in a surprise performance the next night in the Black Eyed Peas Super Bowl halftime show. This year, the game's back on CBS, where Timberlake once promised to "have you naked by the end of this song." If you're thinking history could repeat itself, think again.
All camps involved in DirecTV's big Saturday night have made it clear that (a) Janet Jackson will not be joining Timberlake at his first concert in almost five years, and (b) Timberlake will not be popping up in the Super Bowl halftime show the next day.
It took more than eight years for the U.S. Supreme Court to finally silence the argument over CBS' $550,000 fine for airing the Timberlake-Jackson "wardrobe malfunction." (CBS eventually got out of it for good, just last June.)
Timberlake's Saturday night should be national-tragedy-telethon level good, albeit without the death or destruction. All the money goes to Shriner's Hospital, something Timberlake has done well before.
At a previous Shriner's benefit concert in Las Vegas, Timberlake's friends who joined him on stage (most for duets) included Rihanna, 50 Cent, Adam Levine, Lionel Richie, Leona Lewis, and will.i.am. It was one of the top three concerts this jaded-by-concerts party columnist has ever been to.
"You're not going to see a collection of celebrities, athletes and media executives in one place as you will at the afternoon and evening event," DirecTV SVP Jon Gieselman tells TheWrap. "We're turning 100s of people away every day."
How do we know DirecTV is smart? It's not just their Sunday Ticket. After double pumping their venue on Saturday, they will be hosting the Baltimore Raven's postgame party on Sunday night. DirecTV did the same thing for the Patriots in Indianapolis last year, which is best remembered for Patriot Rob Gronkowski dancing shirtless on his injured ankle in defeat.
"New Orleans" + "Party" = Exactly this. The Elms Mansion and GQ VP & Publisher Chris Mitchell with Brooklyn Decker at GQ's 2012 Super Bowl Event.
GQ Elms Mansion, 9 p.m.
"How often do you get to see Lil Wayne perform in a historic New Orleans mansion?" asks GQ.
The Conde Nast gentlemen are the only ones to root down in a big way on the grounds of an archetypal image of the big easy – a St. Charles Avenue mansion. Only a few blocks uptown from the Quarter's bacchanalia, the 500-person festivities on the streetcar line will go "until everyone leaves," according to a GQ insider.
Bonus points are in order for booking area code 504's own hometown hero and alien-savant Lil Wayne to perform. "Lil Wayne has been featured on the cover of GQ, so we're obviously huge fans of his and couldn't be more excited that he's performing," Mitchell tells TheWrap.
Because their name's plastered on the side of the Super Dome, Mercedes-Benz should have been completely comfortable doing absolutely nothing all weekend. But it didn't. You'll know you're top shelf if you score one of its hosted cars for the night. (Kate Upton ha's got one with her name on it.) The house used to be the German consulate, which fits nicely with German brew Becks Sapphire, a sponsor alongside LaCoste.
The requisite Beyonce connection? She covers GQ's February issue.
CBS and its top broadcast talent like Neil Patrick Harris, Daniel Dae Kim, Lucy Liu and Craig Ferguson will gather with top advertisers at a closed-door party.
Michael Bay and JP Morgan host a Saturday night philanthropic dinner in an estate on upper St. Charles Avenue. A portion of proceeds goes to ex-Saints player Steve Gleason's ALS-MS center, and anybody who has watched his tearjerking true story on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" (a recent PGA winner) knows that whatever it costs, it's worth it.
On the masthead, NOLA chef Donald Link is in the kitchen. For transportation to the uptown estate, is there any automotive sponsor more "on-brand" for Bay than Lamborghini? Vroom.
In case someone spills a hurricane on your shirt, Express is monogramming new dress shirts at their 1MX shirt shop. Their welcome happy hour on Thursday in the Quarter is one of the only events actually deep in the walking-only heart of the quarter.
Above ground, keep your eyes open for astronauts in space suits floating around red carpets promoting Axe's "win a trip to space," promotion debuting in a third quarter super bowl ad.
The Maxim Party soliders on Saturday night, expecting 50 Cent, Troy Aikman, Guy Fieri, and fellow food battler Adam Richman at the always-young, always-feisty, Patron-hosted party at Second Line Studios.
All of these events are private and by invitation only. Don't try buying brokered tickets. Every event producer I spoke to said their event does not sell tickets. DirecTV stated it bluntly: They are fraudulent and won't be honored.
Le Bons Temps Rouler!
Elms Mansion photo courtesy of ElmsMansion.com. All other photos by Getty Images.