Takeaways from the Rose Bowl’s Party of the Century

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Sporting Tribune co-founder Chris Mattmann offers his three key takeaways from a Rose Bowl party that was 100 years in the making.

The Rose Bowl is 100 years old? That’s what I was thinking when I got the call to attend the Rose Bowl’s “Party of the Century”, an iconic 1920s era themed event celebrating the first 100 years of the Rose Bowl and setting the stage for the next generation of stewardship for this historic stadium and landmark. After having been canceled a few times due to the pandemic, you could sense that its organizers, in particular Brian Brantley, the Director of Major Gifts at the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation, were both excited and relieved to move forward with hosting the event whose goals were to raise money for the second century of preservation, protection and enhancement of the Stadium. Here are three of my key takeaways from the event.

The Iconic Theme of 1920s era pomp and circumstance

The instructions provided to guests suggested “Cocktail Attire” and “Roaring 20’s” style garb, and the guests did not disappoint. Beginning with arrival in a roundabout adorned with archetypal cars front and center of the Rose Bowl’s Gate A (Honda Gate) that looked straight out of the movie Dick Tracy all that was missing from the star studded event was Warren Beatty (is it time for a reboot?). Top hats, cigarette holders, spectacles, I saw it all, including several pop up bars around the front of the actual stadium, with craft cocktails of the era (Manhattan, anyone?). A full on red carpet complete with interviews and local media guided guests to party festivities on the field, but before heading there you had to stop by the VIP “Speakeasy”, set up in the home team UCLA locker room. The Speakeasy was themed to the 1920s era, complete with a jazz band, and barrel stands where you could mingle with other party attendees, catch some music, and pretend you too had just come out of the Prohibition era. I took in the scenery and walked around to observe historic Rose Bowl moments framed in perfect context on the wall. One in particular related to burnt orange and Cardinal and Gold, I’ll get to in a moment.

Approximately 10 minutes before the guests were to be seated on the field, the Speakeasy was standing room only and you could bump into any manner of iconic Sports star and local or national Public Figure. My only thought was that it wasn’t just the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation or its organizers that were happy the party was popping, it was everyone here who has undergone a lot of the past 24 months and who needed some personal connection.

Star Studded Affair

When I accepted the invitation to attend someone mentioned there would be approximately thirty celebrities in attendance, I would estimate that there were at least double that number. I noticed some of them in the Speakeasy, athletes and sports icons, state and local politicians, and musicians and artists and entertainers. Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Fifth District Representative Kathryn Barger was gracious enough to take pictures with several attendees and to co-sponsor the event. Keyshawn Johnson and Bill Walton posed along with friends and also some fans during the mingling shortly before attendees took their seats for the events. Kevin Connolly was a sweetheart when I ran up to him and asked him if he remembered me buying him a drink at an airport bar in 2014. Dr. Jen Welter, the first female NFL coach and Rose Bowl Institute Advisory Board member, impressed guests with her iconic styling, important social and philanthropy work, and with her quick wit. Chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and Burbank Congressman Adam Schiff scurried out of the red carpet and tunnel shortly before the musical performance and dancing started. ESPN’s Holly Rowe was the Master of Ceremonies and did a splendid job hosting the event. Pasadena’s Mayor Victor Gordo helped run the Silent Auction and provided some inspiration for the Rose Bowl’s next century as Pasadena’s key stadium and event venue.

One moment stuck with me though. Ask anyone that knows me about both the greatest and most disappointing moments in College Football and they’ll tell you that I struggle seeing burnt orange colored uniforms. In my heart I feel like I have never really recovered from the 2006 Rose Bowl however each year it gets a bit easier. The architect of Texas’s masterclass in  arguably the greatest college football game I’ve ever seen, Vince Young, was in attendance and an impressive man, who I made my peace with. He was humble, gracious and an overall very likable person. Our time in the Speakeasy spoke greatly to his character and I guess knowing that there are amazing humans and real people wearing these uniforms will make seeing burnt orange a bit more palatable for me as the years go on.

Matt Mauser and the Pete Jacobs Band playing Sinatra

If you haven’t heard of Matt Mauser, I recommend watching his America’s Got Talent (AGT) audition and trying to do so while keeping a dry eye. Matt and his three beautiful children had to suffer through something most of us should never have to – the death of his wife and the mother of their children in an extremely public way. Christina Mauser was one of the nine passengers aboard Kobe Bryant’s helicopter when it tragically crashed January 26, 2020 killing all on board. Mauser’s death was international news since she was Kobe Bryant’s assistant coach at the famous Mamba Academy, but Matt’s story since that tragic date in January 2020 has been one of grit, determination, and as he states in his AGT audition, defined by the purpose of not letting the grief “define” his family going forward. I’d say Matt is doing a commendable job of that if his performance headlining along with the Pete Jacobs Band, singing Sinatra songs and conjuring up what it felt like to listen to Ol’ Blue Eyes.

The performance capped the Silent Auction to benefit the next century of Rose Bowl operations and included a dance floor and immaculate set up on the Rose Bowl’s hallowed field. Dancing and swinging the night away with the rest of the guests on the same field for all those iconic moments and watching Matt and the band headline the event’s closing hours were special moments and that brought me a ton of smiles knowing what he has been through and what he will continue to go through raising three children as a single father. I also felt the same as the four AGT judges who were extremely moved by Matt’s heart and soul shining through in this music.

Wrapping up a once in a Century Party

I left the night energized and complete and feeling even more connected to the 100 year old stadium in my backyard, the center of so many important and iconic moments in college football. The sturdy swag bags included a commemorative wine bottle and program documenting the event one hundred years in the making. I thought it was a great touch to have food trucks lining the exits for a late night snack. I do admit to having a few fantastic sliders and a chicken sandwich (or two?), emblematic of the great food truck local fare in the Pasadena area – seriously check out the Pasadena food truck scene if you haven’t already! With the roaring 1920s theme inspiring the VIPs and attendees, the parallels between socialites of that time and their desire for connection after being cooped up during a World War seemed to mirror our own path after roaring out of our homes after two distant years battling against a once in a century pandemic. The future is bright for the next century of the Rose Bowl’s operations!


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