American Scandals, Vandals, and Icons:
A Party in the USA
For a Presidents Day You’ll Want to Celebrate
By Cathleen Freedman
Kendall Jenner in the 2014 Pepsi Commercial Captures America's Heart on the Dance Floor. From right to left: Snooki, Julia Fox, and Dwayne the Rock Johnson watch on.
For Presidents Day Weekend in 2022, we hosted an American Scandals, Vandals, and Icons party. You can, too.
"What America needs now, is a drink."
-Franklin D. Roosevelt
on the ratification of
the 21st Amendment
It rolls off the tongue. “American Scandals, Vandals, and Icons.” After our October Masquerade Ball and our December All-Holiday Holiday Party, my roommates and I began planning our third fete. We kept repeating the theme name as if it were self-explanatory. “We’re hosting an American Scandals, Vandals, and Icons party. Duh!” But what exactly does that mean? And how do you throw one?
First, establish the dress code for your guests. They can choose an American scandal or vandal or icon. If they dressed up as Martha Stewart, they could be all three!
Just in case they’re still unclear about what qualifies as an American scandal, vandal, or icon, you can send them this Pinterest board for inspiration. Visit it here.
What is an American Scandals, Vandals, and Icons party?
"It's a party in the USA."
American Icon, 2013 MTV Scandal, and (with a wrecking ball) Vandal
The party was hosted by the Green M&M, Emily in Paris, Hugh Hefner, Wendy Williams as the Statue of Liberty, and one of the Kendall Jenners in the 2014 Pepsi commercial.
The Guest List:
Here are a few of the attendees from our party. It was incredible to see which costumes were duplicates (Britney Spears, Selena Quintanilla, and Kendall Jenner in the 2014 Pepsi commercial) and which scandals/vandals/icons were largely absent (no JFKs or Marilyn Monroes.)
-Ruth Bader Ginsberg
-The entire Batman (2022) cast, including the soundtrack (someone in the group wore a Nirvana shirt)
-The Chicago Fire
-Olivia Jade and Aunt Becky
-Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra
-Julia Fox (The literal Julia Fox watched our IG story!)
-Ashtray from Euphoria
-The Friends cast
-Dwayne the Rock Johnson
-Rosie the Riveter
-Serena van der Woodsen
-Ariana Grande circa Pete Davidson
-Selena Quintanilla (Queen of Tejano Music)
Batman Cast, Nirvana Soundtrack, and Emily in Paris--in the Oval Office
How do you even decorate for American Scandals, Vandals, and Icons? We asked ourselves this question several times during our apartment meetings. Finally, we figured out the formula.
The entry room was Stars and Stripes with old Hollywood glamour. (This may be a bit generous for a college apartment, but hear me out.) We covered the walls with a giant American flag and as many $1 vinyl records as I could carry from the 72nd Westsider Records Store. Sydni and I used push pins to stick them on and properly space them out. Liza’s dad brought us a great Elvis Presley poster, and I found a Rudolph Valentino poster on Etsy. (He was the first American Casanova figure.) This is also where we kept the Declaration of Independence/guest book. There was a music speaker crisis before the party started, but once we secured another set from our kind neighbors, we played [this] playlist.
We also got to reuse the Nicki Minaj American flag from our last party, along with the stars we used at every party before. These came from my high school dance when I was Student Council President! As national treasure Cole Porter said, never throw anything away!
The walls of the food/bar were adorned with a collage of US presidents and bizarre tweets from American figures. My bedroom was converted into the Oval Office with an Oval Office photo backdrop and US president quotes for props. (I left the Oval Office up on the wall for months after the party.) My bedroom led into the backyard, which we turned into Area 51. We had blow-up aliens, glow sticks, and a UFO tent.
The basement represented urban decay and American vices. It was stocked with beer, chocolate poker, and candy cigarettes. On the walls, we had celebrity mugshots and “Florida Man” headlines. You're just going to have to take my word for it. I tried finding pictures of the basement, but it looks like there are none.
Before the party even began, guests entered our apartment and signed a copy of the Declaration of Independence with quill pens. (I like the idea of having something for people to do when they walk into a party! Don’t place your Declaration of Independence right by the door, though, or else people will congregate in an awkward area. Instead, place it on the other side of the room. Then, people can survey the space, too. I'm sure the Continental Congress also thought about feng shui like this.)
Later in the night, we gathered guests into the living room for a speech from former US President, Abraham Lincoln! (The Green M&M put on a beard and top hat for the occasion.) But before Mr. President could finish saying “Four score and seven years ago,” Hugh Hefner emerged from a closed door with a Nerf gun. Lincoln then yelled, “Oh no! I’ve got… SHOTS!” Then, the Statue of Liberty paraded through the crowd with patriotic shots like a club bottle service girl. I’ve never witnessed something so brazenly American before in my life.
In the backyard (AKA Area 51), there was a creative reinterpretation of the moon landing to the tune of Katy Perry’s “ET.” Hosts Sean and Sydni emerged from the basement wearing astronaut helmets with the American flag in hand. They placed the flag into a potted plant and put on a show that will go down in history.
Sean (one of the Kendall Jenners in the 2014 Pepsi Commercial) led guests in an Abby Lee Miller-style pyramid of pop culture moments. At the bottom, Ted Cruz. At the top, Maddie Ziegler. Always.
Michael Jackson held his baby out the window again.
That was our American Scandals, Vandals, and Icons party. I caution you to really enunciate when you say the title out loud because according to one commenter on this TikTok, they thought we hosted an American SANDALS, Vandals, and Icons party. That'd be fun, too.
It was a party that will go down in history. Let us know how yours goes and which American scandals, vandals, and icons attend.