The Party That Ruined My Reputation

Nick Gray | December 12th, 2023 (Volume 2)
Nick Gray, author of the 2-Hour Cocktail Party, recounts his passion for hosting parties, a journey that started as a means to meet new people. He details a memorable event in 2009 where he experimented with unique ideas like juggling lessons and trust falls, which unfortunately led to a negative press article. Despite this setback, Gray continued hosting parties, leading to significant friendships, business partnerships and the writing of his best selling book.


Hello. My name is Nick Gray. I think I’ve hosted more parties than anybody that I know. I’m obsessed with hosting parties. This is a party that I hosted in Phoenix. I’ve been hosting parties for 14 years to try to learn how to help people, make friends as fast as possible with a bunch of strangers. And I’ve talked about the story of writing my book, but tonight I’m going to talk about one particular party that I threw that while in the moment felt amazing. It ultimately ruined my reputation for years to come. Let me set the stage though.

I moved in my late twenties to New York City. And in my early twenties, I didn’t have a social life. I was laser focused on growing a business, and I worked seven days a week, probably 90 hours a week. I had no social life. I did not date, I didn’t do anything. I decided I’d go to New York and I would try to meet people and I would go to networking events and parties, and I would try to meet people. The problem was is that I would go to these networking events and I would not meet anybody. I would go to parties and I would stand along the side waiting for someone to talk to me, and I’d go home feeling like a loser. I decided to host my own parties.

And I’d invite random people that I just met at the grocery store. Okay, this is baby Nick, over on the right, I’d invite random people like this woman, Deborah that is next to me that I met at Whole Foods. And I was like, “Your dress is nice. Do you want to come to my party?” And she said, yes. And she and her husband came and we made great friends. I’m still in touch with her. This is not rocket science, okay? The idea of hosting parties and inviting strangers, that’s common. But what I did was I took every single trick that I possibly had, and I tried them all. And the thing is I happened to try them in 2009 at this one particular party. At that one party, I did everything I was thinking about. I had people juggling. I said, why not teach people how to juggle? Great way to make friends. We had a juice bar. We had a woman making homemade ice cream. We had birthday hats. I also invited four different women that I all had a crush on, and that was the worst idea, obviously.

And then there’s me there with my notepad, and I’m like meticulously taking notes. Now, one thing that we happened to do that night is I thought, oh, wouldn’t it be cool at a party to build trust? What do you do to build trust? You do trust falls. Have you heard of trust falls where you stand at a table and you fall back into a crowd? And so that is what we did at the party. It’s like, just look at the looks on these people’s faces. They are so excited to do this. And it was actually really cool. The problem was that that night I had invited a photographer who shot for this gossip magazine or gossip website, and you can imagine this guy usually photographs boring art gallery openings and real estate parties.

Well, he submitted all these photos to my party that looked like this, and the editor was like, is this a kid’s birthday party? Is this what is happening? And they wrote a huge headline that haunted me for years to come. It said, “Do not join Nick Gray’s cult. Do not go to his party.” There’s all these weird things that he does, and they were sort of gently roasting me. And yet the problem was that if you ever search for my name on the internet, this was the first article that came up with all these weird photos of me doing weird things at parties. I’d meet people, they’d be like, “Oh yeah, your party sounds cool.” And then I would never hear back from them.

Now, I didn’t stop hosting parties. I continued to experiment with these new ideas of how to mash people together and as soon as possible, help them to make new friends. And along the way, I met people who changed my life. People like this woman, Mallory, who became my roommate, and one of my best friends, the woman behind her, her name is Kristen. We ended up doing business together. And then this guy, Jonathan, who I was in his wedding a couple weeks ago, that was 14 years ago. I truly believe that parties can help you meet new people. And I’m really interested in that.

I think that all relationships start at the acquaintance stage, and you never know who you could meet at a party. I think if hosting weird parties like this makes me a cult leader, then sign me up. Thank you.

Nick Gray
Author, party host and serial entrepreneur most known as the founder of Museum Hack.