Yes, we've all been to them; and even worse, we've all had them. An intervention? No, thank god--a bad party. Bad lighting, not enough beer, Dave Matthews on the stereo, the host running around like a wacko giving everyone an anxiety attack ("do you need another drink, did you try the bruschetta"), boring guests, bad furniture configurations, no food, etc. Any of these subtleties can take your special night and grind it out like a cigarette. Don't fall victim. Leave your friends exclaiming, "Man, you throw the best fucking parties!" Then reply cooly, "I know." Because after you read the Mercury's "Dope Party Guide," you will.

Date: First, check the music advertisements in your local weekly before you pick a date. You don't want your crappy party going on while all of your friends are at the Fucking Champs show (where in reality, you'd rather be yourself). In this case, everyone might show up at two in the morning, but you'll already have drank yourself into a depressed oblivion. (Also, make sure that hottie is going to be in town, otherwise you'll ending up having to screw someone way less attractive.)

Invites: I've realized that the best way to get your party guests to do what you want is to tell them what to do. Send out an informative email and copy a cute handbill. Go to shows and, while the band is playing, hand it to hot people. That way, you don't have to explain yourself, you procure hot guests, and the recipients feel special. Make sure it includes a definite time (Crazy Party, 10 pm), any instructions for the guests (don't wear underpants, bring a bottle of liquor), and any entertainment (DJ Hamburguesa, Elliott Smith). This will make your party seem like an event that can't be missed. The power of the invite dawned on me when I was recently at a friend's birthday party. Because he had specified, everyone showed up on time (avoiding those two hours of drag time between 10 pm and midnight) and tons of people brought gifts and beer. Amazing.

Precautions: No matter how crusty they are, invite your neighbors (don't bother if they're crazy meth heads--they'll show up regardless). If they're real grumps, tell them it's your friend's coming-out-of-a-coma party so they'll feel like real assheads for calling the cops. Giving them your phone number is risky, because they might call every time you drop a fork for the rest of eternity. Plus, it's going to take bigger balls for them to put on their slippers and trudge over.

Keep rock bands to reasonable hours, DJs in the basement, and put a sign on the inside of the door that says, "Keep Door Shut." Be real friendly to the cops when they arrive; that way, they won't discover all your friends snorting rails in the basement and take everyone to jail. That's a real bad party. Also, tell people to smoke in the backyard, not the house.

Booze: Buy booze and tell people to bring booze. They'll inevitably wait until the last minute and then bring beer--but at least they'll feel bad and bring a lot. Your magic ratio is 3: 2: 1. Three parts vodka, two parts gin or bourbon, one part tequila or rum. Tequila and rum are disgusting, though, so if you want to skip them, go ahead. Two two-liters of tonic, Coke, whatever, per handle of booze. Limes. Also, buy a couple liters of juice. Juice makes people feel healthy while they're poisoning themselves. In emergency situations, you can still get beer anywhere, and party guests will usually go buy it for you.

Decorations: If you're going all out, rent a helium tank, put balloons on the ceiling, and let the strings hang down for a swoony, prom-like effect. Another great idea is using your Polaroid to take party photos and posting them on the walls. Then, when people get bored, they'll have something to look at.

Lighting: Make sure to avoid overhead or fluorescent lighting. It makes people look ugly, no one will get laid, and your reputation will suffer.

Food: Unless your party centers around food, just buy chips and pretzels. By the time people eat them, they'll be too drunk to taste, so don't spend any extra money on organic rice crisps or mango salsa. Bags of chips on the counter. They'll all be gone by morning.

Feng Shui: First, you need an interesting space in which to throw your party. It need not be a factory or loft (though that helps). You just need something different than the kind of environment the average person lives and works in all day. To achieve this in your home, push furniture into intimate corners and get rid of big coffee tables. Kids need space to mingle, and often feel self-conscious sitting on the couch in the middle of a bunch of standing people. Then again, they will need places to sit when they make out or pass out.

Music: See pg 11

Party Time: At party start-time, be ready to go. You have to make the early guests feel welcome and not be stressing out about your bean dip or hair-do. Also, avoid getting shitfaced until the end. Implement the (other) 3: 2: 1 plan to stay on your toes--one drink, three glasses of water; one drink, two glasses; one drink, one glass. That's a good base, and then drink as casually as you wish. Designate a person to stay awake until the end to prevent your records from getting stolen.

The EnD: A recent party I attended ended like this: It was 4 am, and the host yelled, "Anyone have any coke? No? Well then everybody get out!" If you're not that assertive, then maybe you should stock up on blow.