The party was spectacular. Not a detail overlooked. One guest, in particular, was so impressed that she requested her host reveal the name of his event planner.
"What's his name?" she prodded. "I need his number."
The party host was Tyler Perry, celebrating the opening of his new studio facility. His inquisitive friend was Oprah Winfrey. The party planner was Tony Conway.
"I would not even think about hosting an event unless Tony Conway and Legendary Events were involved," Perry writes in the foreword for Conway's new book, titled "Legendary Events," just like his company. It's due out soon; check Amazon for updates.
"Tony has handled dinners in my home, including one honoring President Barack Obama, a secret wedding proposal that I helped a friend pull off and the repast for my dear late mother's funeral, to name a few," Perry's foreword adds.
Conway, who operates the Estate and Flourish venues in Buckhead, could have filled his book with tale after tale of celebrity encounters. A few years ago, we personally witnessed his finesse at a party where the guest list included Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Chick-fil-A founder Dan Cathy, and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. (They all enjoyed the fabulous spread.)
But in keeping with his humble nature, Conway chose to make his clients and colleagues the focus. Page after sumptuous page captures a myriad of celebrations and salutes the hard-working hands who help make Legendary Events the go-to firm for all sorts of soirees.
"It's really about celebrating our 20th anniversary," Conway said. "I really wanted to pay homage to my team, my village."
The first crowds Conway fed were the field workers on his great-grandparents' farm in Weinert, Texas, about 250 miles northwest of Dallas. He got his first paying job by doctoring his birth certificate, and once contrived to bartend during an Ike and Tina Turner concert, even though he was underage. That may explain his forgiving nature when an uninvited guest dressed like a waiter to try to crash a local private New Year's Eve party that Madonna attended. (Instead of dialing 911, Conway helped the interloper find the exit.)
He learned the power of hard work early on.
"I remember my great-grandfather saying, 'We're going to hoe cotton,'" he recalled. "I said, 'I'm not doing that. The hoe's too big for me.'"
The old man snapped the tool over his knee and handed the shortened implement to 7-year-old Tony. "He used the other end to give me a spanking," Conway chuckled.
He first shared that story nearly a decade ago, and we've been pestering him to write a book ever since. Others have, too.
"People have asked me forever about doing a book," he said.
It took months to winnow down the best images from about 30,000 and the result, like any event Conway coordinates, is perfection.
"It starts with that first impression. The sounds, the smells, what it looks like," he said, listing the essential elements of a successful event. "Wow factors along the way."
His advice to gala committees: take care of your guests, but don't overwhelm them. (Think: more bartenders, fewer auction items.)
"Let's just have a great time," is his overall credo.
As for his business, moving forward is about getting better, not necessarily bigger. And maybe another book? We'll see, Conway says: "I never rest on my laurels."