PalmSprings.com Spotlight: An Interview with Larry Abel

Larry Abel
Larry Abel

Larry Abel started producing events when, as a teenager, he organized his high school prom. After receiving his business degree from the University of Oklahoma, he began his career in marketing, sales and finance, where he rose to be Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing for the Ethel M. Chocolates division of Mars, Inc. In 2000, he received Mars, Inc.’s highest award for Marketing Excellence.

Bringing his background in marketing and creative design to the world of event production, Larry founded his own company in 2004. He’s produced a number of high-profile events, including the 2010 Entertainment Tonight / People Magazine Emmy Party, the People Grammy Party hosted by Beyoncé, the Entertainment Weekly Fashion Week Party, the Entertainment Weekly Upfront Party, the Entertainment Weekly Opening Night Party at the Sundance Film Festival, the InStyle Party at the Golden Globes, and Elle Women in Hollywood Awards. His work has garnered numerous awards, including a 2010 Bizbash Chicago Event Style Award for Best Centerpiece. You may have seen Larry on Oprah in 2010, when he recreated her entire set out of pure Godiva Chocolate!

 Along with his partner, Raymond McCallister, Larry has a portfolio of Palm Springs-based companies including Raymond | Lawrence,  Party Lab Palm Springs, and Socialize Palm Springs.

Larry, what a fascinating person you are! I love that your career spans organizing your high school prom all the way to producing the InStyle Party at the Golden Globes! Did you always know you wanted to be in the arenas  of marketing, design and event production? 

When I was in the third grade, I can remember going through my mother’s cookbooks and party planning books and begging to put together a luau for the family. I always used to make special placecards for the family holiday meals–each one themed, so I guess it’s always been in my DNA.

I love it! I bet you had the most stylish lemonade stand on the block! 

Well, I did make sure that it had a nice tablecloth and that all the glasses matched!

Touche! And, Larry, how did you get your start in business?  

I began creating experiences around the brands I worked on at Mars, Inc. for Hollywood events. Other brands saw my work and suggested that I start a business whereby I worked for numerous different brands.

And you’re not only in marketing and event production, but a designer of furniture and housewares as well. Your product designs have been featured in national retailers Neiman Marcus, Henri Bendel, Bloomingdales and Fred Segal, and have appeared in Elle Decor, NYC Spaces, and Palm Springs Life. What has been your design favorite project to-date and why? 

I think my favorite design project-to-date has been our holiday line for ASI Art Style Innovation–from the innovative Christmas trees to the Midcentury ornaments inspired by my grandmother’s tree. The trees were featured on the TODAY Show last holiday season and the ornaments have been featured in Woman’s Day Magazine.

One of your newest endeavors is Raymond | Lawrence, a progressive retail marketplace in Palm Springs, hosting a group of established retail merchants and a revolving series of “pop-up” shops. Please tell us a little more about that.  

We call it a “retail incubator” where we have curated about 26 pop-up stores from around the country to bring retailers to Palm Springs and let them, with little risk, see how they can do in this market. We work with them on their collections, design of their space and overall aesthetic. We have two stores that will be branching out on their own in the coming months, proving that the concept works!

Raymond McCallister and Larry Abel
Raymond McCallister and Larry Abel

Along with your partner, Raymond McCallister, you also recently acquired Party Lab Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley’s destination store for inspired party creations, located downtown Palm Springs. Party Lab joins your portfolio of companies and will complement Socialize Palm Springs. Please tell us a little about both Socialize Palm Springs and Party Lab Palm Springs and how they work synergistically.  

Socialize Palm Springs is a division of Abel McCallister Designs, focusing on charitable and social occasions in the Coachella Valley. If you want to have all the details handled from start to finish, we have the expertise, resources and staff to make your day memorable. However, if you want to do it yourself, we will provide you with all the tools necessary to put together a fabulous event as well as offer tips and ideas along the way. We consider Socialize the “couture line” and Party Lab the “everyday line.”

What a great concept! Larry, where are you from originally? 

I’m from a small town in Oklahoma, Paul’s Valley.

What is it about Palm Springs that led you to make your home here? 

My partner, in business and life, Raymond McCallister, and I purchased a vacation home here to “get away from it all.” We thought it would be an easy escape from our homes in LA and NYC. However, once here, we realized it’s a lovely place, rich with history and filled with warm, great people. So we decided, why not open a business or two here so we can spend even more time…and not wait until we retire. And well, the rest is history!

Larry, when you’re not busy producing award-winning events or designing prized furniture and housewares, how do you spend your free time? 

I’m a Disney nut! I just spent yesterday touring the Walt Disney exhibit at the Reagan Library with my oldest daughter, and love to get to Disneyland when I can. I also love great dinners with friends, movies and the theatre!

What would a typical weekend look like for you?  

Early cocktails with friends on a Friday night, followed by dinner… Stopping by the stores and interacting with customers on Saturday… Then late night swims under the beautiful Palm Springs stars.

And what is it that you most love about Palm Springs? 

I love waking up and looking through the palm trees at the majestic mountains–so close you feel like you can touch them. It’s very calming.

It is indeed! Larry, thanks so much for chatting with me today. We all wish you the best of continued success with all your endeavors!

NOTE: Larry’s next big event is producing Palm Springs’ 75th birthday! He is generously donating his time and creative vision to curate this important milestone. Our city is turning 75 on April 20, 2013 and the entire Coachella Valley and beyond is invited to celebrate the city’s legendary past and bright future at a FREE to the community fun-filled 75th anniversary party and fireworks spectacular at historic O’Donnell Golf Club called “Thanks for the Memories! Palm Springs through the Decades.”

The 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. event, presented by the City of Palm Springs, P.S. Resorts, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and community leaders Harold Matzner and Jim Houston, will feature a magnificent showcase exhibition highlighting the legendary history and diverse culture of Palm Springs through the decades from 1938 to the city’s current renaissance. The City also wishes to thank “75th Anniversary Angels” Jackie Autry, Helene Galen and Donna MacMillan for their support.

In addition, the party will include delicious food and beverages from well known restaurants, musical performances from every decade brought to you by the McCallum and Palm Canyon theatres along with entertainers from all over the Coachella Valley. There will also be fun photo booths, a Kids Zone, carnival games and much more!

“This party will go down in history as one to remember!” says Larry Abel. And we couldn’t agree more!

About Kate Buckley

Kate Buckley is a brand strategist, premium domain broker and consultant, interviewer, storyteller, visual artist, and award-winning poet & writer. She’s worked in media and marketing since 1997, holds an MFA in Creative Writing, and is the author of A Wild Region (Moon Tide Press) and Follow Me Down (Tebot Bach). A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her awards include a Gabeheart Prize and the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize. She was most recently shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. A ninth-generation Kentuckian, she’s made her home in Southern California since 1998.

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