|Stanlee R. Gatti|
|Born||October 28, 1955
Raton, New Mexico
|Parents||Ann and Larry Gatti|
Stanlee Ray Gatti (born 1955) is one of the best-known event planners in the U.S. He is among the first Americans to practice event design as visual art. He has been called San Francisco's "resident creative genius".
Background and childhood
Gatti is the second youngest of five children born to immigrant parents in the small mining town of Raton, New Mexico. His father Larry, a former coal miner born in Arpino, Italy (birthplace of Cicero), became a master craftsman in the United States, and built the family house himself. His mother Ann was born in Montenegro, Serbia, and was a socially-active housewife.
An inquisitive child, Gatti would often explore his father's workshop. He roamed the grounds surrounding his home, collecting soil to mix in mud pots for paint. He learned piano, saxophone, and drums, and was interested in local Native American music and culture. He studied dance in elementary school, and ran a flower shop by age ten.
Education and early career
Gatti studied music, physical education and art at the University of Northern Colorado in the 1970s, then architecture and art history at the University of Oregon. After college he briefly returned home to coordinate events at the local country club, and worked as a department store window dresser. He worked at a plant store in Aspen, Colorado for several months then, inspired by a dream and a chance meeting with a group of drifters, he moved to San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood. He began as a florist at the St. Francis Hotel hotel in 1978, advancing quickly to Hospitality Manager, a room service post created for him.
In 1985 Gatti's boss at the St. Francis asked him to set up a table for group of self-described ladies who lunch planning a 75th anniversary opening gala for the San Francisco Symphony. In a hurry, he bought a flower-patterned bedsheet from Macy's across the street, borrowed a tablecloth and napkins from housekeeping, and arranged some sweet peas on top. One of the women, California Culinary Academy founder Danielle Carlisle, reportedly exclaimed "Who did this?" Impressed, the women hired him to design the entire event. In his first professional effort, he stirred up the traditionally staid Symphony crowd with unusually bold colors and designs. By next morning he was receiving calls from San Francisco socialites who wanted to hire him for themselves. Within three months he left the hotel to start his own design firm, Stanlee R. Gatti Designs.
Success came quickly. A "great sniffer of power" and friend to "both beauty and bum, bastard and banker," he soon jointed the ranks of San Francisco's social elite, not only creating events but attending, hosting, throwing parties and having parties thrown for him. According to his mother, "He never meets a stranger." In 1998 a columnist deemed him one of the three most powerful people in San Francisco.
In 1996 Mayor Willie Brown, by then a personal friend, appointed Gatti President of the San Francisco Arts Commission, an important agency that manages a set aside of two percent of all city spending on public works. Gatti used the position to push the boundaries of San Francisco's famously conservative taste in public art. His best-received initiatives were installations by Vito Acconci, Ned Kahn, Robert Arneson, and Bill Viola. Gatti brought ten Keith Haring sculptures to San Francisco, one of which remains at the Moscone Center. However, Gatti generated as much controversy as admiration. He jokingly proposed to mount a 30-foot Louise Bourgeois spider atop San Francisco City Hall. A more serious proposal to install a giant peace symbol by Tony Labat in Golden Gate Park ran afoul of neighborhood activists and was subsequently rejected by the Commission. In 1999, an already-approved commission for Buster Simpson to create a giant naked foot for the end of Market Street was criticized by the public, mocked by the head San Francisco Chronicle art critic, and ultimately de-funded by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Gatti resigned from the Commission unexpectedly in 2004.
Gatti has cultivated close friendships with people from all walks of life, but especially the women of San Francisco's moneyed social circle. He was best man at the wedding of former mayor Gavin Newsom to his former wife Kimberly Guilfoyle, and designed his subsequent wedding to Jennifer Siebel. Other high-profile friends, living and deceased, include David Blaine, Robin Williams, Elton John, Jason Lewis, Danielle Steel, Peter Magowan, Joni Mitchell, Grace Slick (who introduced him to psychic Carol Simone), Jo Schuman and Steve Silver, Ann and Gordon Getty, and Herb Caen.
An often anonymous philanthropist, Gatti quietly funded the Rigo 23 mural "Sky/Ground" on San Francisco's St. Regis Museum Tower, contributed $50,000 towards the Haring installations, and intended to secretly pay for the Golden Gate Park peace symbol. Gatti is reportedly an insomniac and workaholic, who stays awake long into the night and drinks
five twelve espressos every morning. A former chain smoker of American Spirit cigarettes, he carries his ashes away because he dislikes dirty ash trays. Although he works events that serve meat, he himself is a vegetarian. He currently lives in San Francisco's Twin Peaks.
Friends and colleagues praise Gatti's "genius" for creative design. He is among few American designers who approach event planning as a visual art form as much as a business service. Along with New York's Robert Isabell he is "one of the most venerated event designers in the country." The creative process is spontaneous and focuses heavily on color. He follows color trends in fashion (his favorite is green), but in event design, he explains, "I do not know what the trends are because I set the trends." A florist by background, he usually designs elaborate floral displays for events, yet sometimes excludes them entirely. "Everyone expects flowers, especially from me", he explains. "I don’t ever really want to be pegged into a corner.".[better source needed]
Stanlee R. Gatti Designs
Gatti's company Stanlee R. Gatti Designs produces high profile weddings, parties, fundraisers, and other events in San Francisco and elsewhere. Leaving to others details such as transportation, security, and catering, he concentrates on the aesthetic experience. His work involves fabrication and installation of decorations, interior design, tents and other temporary structures, lighting, flowers, costumes, table settings and dressing. Some are mis-en-scene installations, such as simulating a forest inside a tent (including a black night sky, floor mulch, live fir trees, and cold temperature) to celebrate the turn-over of San Francisco's Presidio to the National Park Service, or a cubist theme to honor a biographer of Pablo Picasso.
Working without project proposals or detailed budgets out of three warehouses in San Francisco, Gatti and his staff of 55 employees produce ten events per week. Half are weddings. Projects range from single-table floral designs to large charity events for thousands of guests. Gatti has been known to run large charity events at a loss, personally funding shortfalls, changes and fixes when important to an event's success.
- Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, "Stanlee's Brain", 2006
- Conservatory of Flowers, "One: An Earth Installation", 2007.
- City of San Francisco, approximately 100 events including inauguration of Mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom
- San Francisco Symphony, various projects including 75th anniversary gala (1987), season openings, and Black and White Ball
- Fairmont Hotel, luncheon for Mikhail Gorbachev, 1990
- Giorgio Armani, fashion show, 1997
- Matrix Fillmore nightclub, San Francisco, designer and partner, 2002.
- InStyle Magazine, Sir Elton John's Oscar party, 2003 and 2004
- Fleur de Lys Restaurant, Las Vegas, Nevada, interior design, 2004
- Jack Falstaff Restaurant, San Francisco, California, interior design, 2004 
- Lucasarts, Letterman Digital Arts Center grand opening, 2005.
- People magazine, Screen Actors Guild awards and post-award party, 2004 through 2007.
- Charles Koch, birthday dinner, 2005
- Gordon Getty, birthday party, 2003, 2006 2007, and 2009
- American Conservatory Theater, 40th Anniversary event, 2007
- SFMOMA, Modern Ball, 2007 and other projects
- California College of the Arts, Threads Gala, 2007
- Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, engagement at AT&T Park, 2013
- Danielle Steel and Tom Perkins, 1996
- Susie Russell and Mark Buell, 1996
- Summer Tompkins and Brooks Walker, 1997
- George P. Shultz and Charlotte Mailliard, 1997
- Arista Records, 25th Anniversary gala, 1999
- Lara Hedberg and Christopher Deam, 2001
- Christy Turlington and Edward Burns, 2003
- Gavin Newsom and Jennifer Siebel, 2008
- Vanessa Traina and Max Snow, 2012
Gatti has undertaken significant projects for San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, SFJAZZ, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, de Young Museum, San Francisco Art Institute, the San Francisco Zoo, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schwab, Peter Magowan, and Dede Wilsey.
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- Hamlin, Jesse (July 14, 2004). "Arts czar Stanlee Gatti has left his mark on the city. Whether you like it is another matter.". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-06-09.
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- Richford, Rhonda (April 2005). "It's Ladies Night". Instyle Magazine.
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- Bigelow, Catherine (December 24, 2006). "Swells". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-06-09.
- "Eye scoop". Women's Wear Daily. 2007-12-20.
- Catherine Bigelow (2009-12-16). "Guests of Gettys aglow". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Janet Duca Norton (April 24, 2007). "Celebrating its 40th anniversary, ACT stages a party for the ages". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- Bigelow,Catherine (May 6, 2007). "Swells". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- Leah Garchik (October 22, 2013). "How Kanye West planned proposal to Kim Kardashian". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Sardar, Zahid (January 21, 2001). "Spaceship Xanadu". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-06-09.