Tony Brewer reigns as the undisputed king of props. And when it comes to creating scenic backdrops for lavish charity balls throughout Atlanta, he's the one scheming, dreaming and designing the moods to support the causes.
A giant Eiffel Tower reproduction greets you when enter his 15,00-square-foot Grant Park warehouse. Nearby leans the Tower of Pisa, right next to the Statue of Liberty, all from balls of the past. Then, crammed in just about every inch of usable space, come the giant palm tree flats, chandeliers, picket fences, Palladian windows, park benches, pagodas, red-velvet lounge furniture, tropical island scenery, richly textured drapes, and assorted vases and urns.
"Fear keeps us on our toes," declares Tony, whose firm, Tony Brewer & Company, infuses color and life into Atlanta top-society weddings, private celebrations, and corporate events. "My job is to create a mood or ambiance using decorative props, lighting, and flowers. Most people don't realize, though, the planning, building, painting and ordering that goes into something like this."
A man on a mission, Tony moves from task to task, spending countless hours hammering out details - selecting fabrics, for example, to drape over tables and chairs or to hang from the ceilings. The theme might be tied to a tropical island, a 1920's cigar lounge, or a Southern plantation of old. Once its decided, he hires talented artists to bring his vision to life.
As as rule, Tony expects things to go wrong. "Sometimes it's people not showing up to work, other times it's something breaking at the last minute or the fact that we can't get into a room to set up because a prior engagement is running late," he comments. He also worries about far-away things, such as current weather in Holland because all the flowers for an upcoming event will be shipped from there.
The unexpected is expected. Like the time Tony planned several events around fabric he was to receive from a factory in Taiwan. "When I heard Taiwan was hit by an earthquake, I was a wreck, thinking I was going to have to redesign three entire parties," he grimly recalls. "As luck would have it , the materials were sent before the quake struck, and I was back in business.
As stressful as the planning, shipping and setup can be, there's nothing quite like the thrilled look on clients' faces when he unveils their room with a view. "I want people to walk in and say 'Wow!'" Tony responds.
And these wows come from folks accustomed to dazzle. "Opra Winfrey was really excited about an event we did at Spelman College," Tony brags. As was Bill Cosby, although TV's famous funny man couldn't resist pulling Tony's leg at first. "When I did the event decoration for the opening of the Cosby Building on Spelman's campus, former president Johnetta Cole introduced me to Bill, letting him know I had created the environment. My jaw just dropped when he said, 'This is just awful.' Once he started laughing, I knew everything was okay."
Everything is more than just okay. Tony's work reaches beyond Georgia. For example, he threw together the 1996 Clinton/Gore Victory Party in Little Rock. "We only had seven days to put it all together, and that included driving to Little Rock," he says. "I was actually borrowing things from department stores there because, unlike Atlanta, you can't rent everything you need in Little rock." Despite various levels of Secret Service agents, Tony and company left with a Presidential seal of approval.
Not bad credentials for a guy who fled his family's construction business in Mississippi at age 19 with little more than his car and a pocketful of dreams. "I didn't know a soul when I moved here in '79," he says. A Snellville florist helped Tony launch his early career as a floral and wedding designer.
Although the pay was low, Tony loved working with flowers, "I was always making things from twigs and sticks and such when I was a kid." he says with a grin. "In fact, I had the coolest playhouse, the one everyone wanted to see." Though he initially intended to work primarily with floral arrangements, Tony's talent with special props and themes quickly earned him a name in event design.
If you ask Tony about a favorite ball, chances are he'll cite the annual Beastly Feast. A couple of years ago, he not only decorated the event, but he also chaired the organizing committee (the ball raised $1.25 million and celebrated the arrival of Zoo Atlanta's new pandas).
That explains why Hillary Clinton invited him to Washington to talk about the importance of community involvement. I can't help it." he says. "I just think everyone should get involved. True, it's difficult because every group wants help and thinks their cause is the greatest. But, basically, I believe you have to give in order to get. "And, of course, all the while he's having a ball.
In a city known for its extravagant fundraisers, Tony Brewer is famous for pulling out all the stops with his legendary attention to lavish detail. His party credits, and the causes they support, include the following.
Northside Ball, Northside Hospital
The Beastly Feast, Zoo Atlanta
Crystall Ball, Arthritis Foundation
High Museum of Art Wine Auction Gala
High Museum of Art
Mercy Monaco, St. Joseph's Mercy Foundation
The Timeless Affair, Fernbank Museum
of Natural History
Veneralia Ball, Michael C. Carlos Museum
Atlanta Symphony Ball, Atlanta Symphony
In addition to these major events Tony Brewer & Company also arranges
weddings, bar mitzvahs, corporate functions and other gatherings. For more information Call (404) 627-1666.
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