Stay-at-home New Yorkers force the cancellation of Millennium Eve gala

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The Independent Online
THEY HAVE been advertising it furiously for months - a giant New Year's Eve bash at New York's huge Javits Convention Center to celebrate the coming of the millennium with performances by a parade of stars from Sting to Tom Jones, Chuck Berry and Aretha Franklin. But not furiously enough, apparently.

This is another case of millennium hype falling flat. Promoters of Celebration 2000 thought there were people out there willing to dig deep for tickets, which ranged in price from $1,000 to $2,500 (pounds 1,550). But lack of demand forced the cancellation of the party this week.

Steve Leber, the producer of the event and a well-known figure in the music industry, had been planning it for three years. He had arranged to carpet all 25 acres of the Javits Center to make it more comfortable and to bring as many as 2,000 of the ticket holders to the complex by limousine. Also billed to perform were Andrea Bocelli, Enrique Iglesias and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

Mr Leber acknowledged that fewer people seem bent on partying this 31 December than he had anticipated. "We had the right idea. We just didn't know the mood of the people and how they would stay home," he said. In recent polls, 70 per cent of Americans said they plan to be at home on New Year's Eve. "If 70 per cent wanted to go out, the Javits would have sold out," Mr Leber added.

He is looking for an alternative venue to stage at least a scaled-down version of his concert, possibly across the Hudson in New Jersey. Sting is among those still ready to perform for Mr Leber although Tom Jones will no longer be on the bill.

New York City, however, still expects a giant influx of visitors to spend New Year's Eve around Times Square and watch the traditional dropping of the ball on the Square at midnight. Celebrations on Times Square will span 24 hours, with events to mark the arrival of the millennium in every time zone around the globe.

And not everyone has given up hope that some of those visitors will spend monstrous sums to make sure they have fun. The New York Palace Hotel on Madison Avenue is offering millennium four-day packages, with limousine service, fine dining and unlimited champagne all thrown in for the modest sum of $100,000.