This is the way 007 would have wanted it. When guests stroll into the Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort’s inaugural “En Noire: A Casino Royale Masquerade” on October 21, they’ll glide down a red carpet into a 13,422-square-foot ballroom sheathed in deep reds and midnight blacks along with 24-karat accents worthy of Mr. Auric Goldfinger himself.
There will be bartenders shaking—not stirring—Belvedere vodka martinis. Green-felt gaming tables will fan out across the room, each checkered with stacks of colorful chips. There will be poker, craps, roulette, and blackjack at every turn as well as a gleaming DB11 Aston Martin parked in the center of the action, just in case a quick getaway is in order.
The aim of the En Noire benefit is to provide an opportunity for some well-intentioned, pre-Halloween role playing—to pretend, if only for an evening, that you are Her Majesty’s finest double-o agent, or one the series’ immortal leading ladies.
There’s only one prerequisite for anyone wishing to slip into this grand $125-a-ticket Ian Fleming fantasia. And that’s the dress code. If you’re going to play James Bond or a Bond girl, you’re going to have to dress like one. Black-tie tuxes. Elegant gowns. And if you’re feeling a little daring, a carefully chosen Venetian masquerade mask to match.
Once you’ve followed those orders the rest of the evening has been designed to feel like you’ve slipped into a live-action version of one of Bond’s famous title sequences.
There will be action everywhere. Imagine giant six-foot-tall posters, in the shape of playing cards, each stamped with the silhouettes of all the actors who played Bond. Goldfinger girls will stroll the room, striking poses for memorable photo ops. Butlers will carry hors d’oeuvres. Acrobats will spin, twirl, and swing from the rafters. And beneath a Bond-worthy white spotlight, singer Erin Boheme, a Michael Buble discovery, will soulfully belt out some of the film series’ most memorable songs, including For Your Eyes Only, Goldeneye, and Skyfall.
“We wanted to find a way to allow people to feel like they’ve escaped into a different world,” says Jeannette Lemrise, the director of marketing for the Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort. “In some ways, I think the tagline of the event says it all: Look good. Be bad. And blame it on us.”
The staging of this ambitious fundraiser is a natural progression for Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort under new general manager Steven Ellingsen, who has committed himself to rehabilitating the hotel’s once-staid image since arriving in April 2016.
Thanks to experience working with prestigious Ritz-Carlton properties, the DuPont Hotel and the Whitehall Hotel downtown, Ellingsen was committed to establishing the Hilton Oak Brook Hills as an elegant retreat for locals and Chicagoans alike.
Since his arrival, the hotel has thrown elaborate backyard-themed Father’s Day barbecues and a glittering Rat Pack-inspired New Years Eve bash, complete with a 12-piece orchestra, midnight balloon drop, VIP lounges, and a “hangover brunch” the next morning.
It was Ellingsen’s personal love for James Bond— who symbolizes precisely the same blend of tradition and sophistication he wants the hotel wants to project—that inspired the event. But Ellingsen was equally committed to ensuring there was an extra layer of exclusivity for those who wanted it, which is why the hotel is offering special VIP packages that allow ticket-holders to enter the party an hour early and enjoy conversations with Erin Boheme and Johnny Imerman, president to Imerman Angels.
Imerman will be at the event, in part because proceeds will benefit his nonprofit—Imerman Angels, which is committed to providing free one-on-one support to cancer fighters, survivors, and caretakers around the world. Since 2003, Imerman has been pairing up those suffering with cancer with “mentor angels” who have endured many for the same trials, tribulations, and struggles they are currently experiencing.
It’s a cause, as Bond himself would surely agree, that’s worth fighting for. Or in this case, partying for.
“En Noir: A Casino Royale Masquerade,” goes from 7 to 11 p.m. on October 21. Tickets are available through EventBrite for $125 (adults 21 and older only) and $175 for VIP. All guests will receive a $10 starter gambling chip. Discounted hotel rooms are also available. Visit oakbrookhillsresort.com for details.