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What if they threw a millennium and nobody came? Style goes in search of the event.

New Year's Nada


Good morning. The time is 00:00:00 01/01/00.

On the other side of a bright second-floor City Hall office window, Birdie Jamison kisses Calvin as the kids, their board games strewn on the carpet and their bellies aching of sparkling cider, stare blearily at flicker flash magic Times Square on television.

The city manager and others are here "just in case." Just in case something happens. You know: Y2K.

But here's the irony: There is nothing happening New Year's Eve; not here, not anywhere. Oh, that's not to say there will be nothing going on; only that it will not be anything new, special, millennial.

Good morning. The time is 00:00:01 01/01/00.

In city hotels the buffet bands cringe Auld Lang Syne. Around town ripped-off restaurantgoers grimace over imitation champagne. Free fireworks and furious party-favor noises ascend high above the hopping-cold happy crowd on Brown's Island. In the Fan bartenders pretend not to notice their clocks. In the Richmond Centre a gala for Special Olympics Virginia roars as youngish couples embrace. And in the Richmond Coliseum, at the Temple of Judah's "Watch Night" service, there is pious expectant silence.

Except for that last event, New Year's Eve 1999 in Richmond looks and sounds like New Year's Eve 1998 — only less so: the same parties, public and private; but fewer, considering a few cancellations and closures.

And there is no one event, will be no one mass millennial memory.

How can this be, this night of nights, this most magic of moments? Some say: that's just Richmond — those who could, left; went to New York, London, Paris, Rome, Jerusalem, the International Date Line off New Zealand even. That's just Richmond — what did you expect, community spirit? That's just Richmond — Richmond does not do New Year's Eve; Richmonders do, the way they do everything: as alone as possible.

But, for once, we are not alone in our aloneness.

There is nothing going on New Year's Eve, anywhere.

The national "we" have avoided marking the occasion as assiduously as the local. "Where are all the Y2K movies?" an incredulous Entertainment Weekly demands, as People laments the cancellation of Celebration 2000 (Sting, Aretha Franklin, others, in New York City) and other New Year's Eve gigs nationwide, from Jewel to Ray Charles.

Remember Prince? Remember "1999" ("Two thousand zero zero party's over oops out of time/So tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999")?

Even he won't. Only his previously recorded image will play — on pay-per-view.

There is one event in which "we" all can participate, but that is watching Peter Jennings stay up 22 hours on the ABC News "Millennium Watch," watching midnight slowly envelop the globe, braving the invisible eclipse. (Dick Clark will be granted a few minutes, also, when great Gotham seethes into 2000-ness.).

Why haven't you made plans yet? Or, why are you dissatisfied with the plans you have made?

Why is that you feel you must do something, but that there is nothing you must do?

Dr. Mary Ellen Olbrisch, who is smart and very nice and will not be afraid to fly to a family gathering in Chicago, says: "I don't know."

She is an associate professor of psychiatry at MCV Hospitals at Virginia Commonwealth University, and has thought about this a little, both as an academic and a therapist. "I have actually seen Y2K anxiety already, but ... I'm sure that will all be gone by the third [of January] or something," she jokes. "Everybody always has sort of something about New Year's anyway — it's, what, supposedly the biggest date night of the year?"

Aye, the biggest of the millennium.

Or is it? Party poopers remind us it's not really the night before the twenty-first century. But that is a mere banal technicality, like, "it's not the heat, it's the humidity." So what if it's only the night before you have to start crossing out and writing "20" above the little "19" on the "19___" on your checks? The odometer is rolling over.

And while Olbrisch says there's anxiety among some people about what will happen at midnight — Y2K and all that — "that's mostly people who are anxious all the time, and so this is something they can be anxious about. There's not a huge, widespread sense of panic, though." Curious unease, rather. "People will do what they always do ... maybe even a little more extreme than usual," but nothing unusual.

Isn't that unusual?

"Nobody's doing anything spectacular," says Dave Weaver, entertainment director at Mulligan's Sports Grille in Innsbrook. That includes his booking of veteran R&B rocker Delbert McClinton, whom Weaver expects to draw an audience of about 800: "Everybody's got their own crowd they're going after."

But some are going after nobody. Popular restaurants, such as Europa, and clubs, such as Twisters, will be closed — their owners giving employees and themselves the night off.

And nobody's going after everyone. Is there an everyone, anymore? Was there ever?

Here, maybe; at "The Grand Millennium Celebration" — at Colonial Downs, of all places, the New Kent horse track routinely described as troubled, failing, doomed.

Never mind that. "The Grand Millennium Celebration" probably will be the area's biggest New Year's Eve party. "The Grand Millennium Celebration" will offer four hours of fun with three floors of live entertainment (rock, country, DJ). It will be black-tie optional. It will provide party favors and "heavy" surf-and-turf hors d'oeuvres and at midnight champagne and fireworks. "The Grand Millennium Celebration" will cost $75 per person. For $25 more, one can take a shuttle from and to parking sites in Williamsburg, Newport News and Richmond. For a lot more, one can rent a "Sky Suite," for groups of two to four dozen, and a private bartender. There is a hotel package also. Twenty-five hundred guests can be accommodated at "The Grand Millennium Celebration."

Five hundred have signed up.

Good morning. The time is 00:00:02 01/01/00.

The city presumably not having plunged into chaos, City Manager Calvin Jamison and his wife, Birdie, will be looking forward to Tuesday, which is Jan. 4, when in New Orleans they will enjoy the Sugar Bowl, as they have done the past six years. His alma mater and her former employer, Virginia Tech, will make it particularly enjoyable if its team beats Florida State's, but that is somewhat less certain.

In Richmond, people will start talking about (or at least hearing about) "U2K — Metro Richmond Unite." Remember U2K? Look it up on the city's Web site: "U2K (Unity 2000), the theme for Richmond's first year of the new millennium, encourages all groups, neighborhoods, organizations and people in the Richmond community to offer one event or program during the year to celebrate unity — the unity of races, nationalities, ethnic groups, city and suburb."

Mayor Tim Kaine announced the concept June 28. He said: "A few months ago, I began thinking about what we could do to celebrate the new millennium. I first focused narrowly on what kind of New Year's Eve party we might have (and stay tuned for more information on that!) but, ultimately, I became convinced that we ought to do more."

More would be

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