They did P. Diddy's Black & White Ball on New Year's Eve at the Shore Club in South Beach, brought Pat Benatar to New Orleans for Roche Pharmaceuticals, flew Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina into a corporate meeting on a giant spaceship, and staged a Hollywood gala complete with red carpet, limos, and six-foot-tall gold Oscar statuettes for a bar mitzvah titled "Seth's Premiere." Nothing is too off the wall or over the top. If you've got the bucks -- it costs $25,000 and up for a private bash like Seth's to as much as a million for a multiday corporate extravaganza -- they'll make it happen. M.E. Productions rakes in over $9 million a year orchestrating events. Packed inside its 35,000-square-foot warehouse facing I-95, cubicles and work stations seem carved in a conglomerate rock bed of props: a mermaid with golden hair falling past her butt, a faux verdigris Statue of Liberty, ferocious Tiki gods, the head of a huge snarling dragon, and a giant hamburger the size of a bean-bag chair. Of course, there are trends in this business like any other. Business theater director Deidre Underwood says she's thinking simple these days. Dot-coms pushed Underwood's world to extreme heights. Everybody's done the lighting-the-stage-on-fire thing, she says. She would rather see a single spotlight and a blazing speech. Staying ahead of the trends, this year she's talking speech coaches.
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