After HBO screened the Martin Scorsese-directed pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire in NYC ahead of this Sunday’s opening show, the pay channel threw a full frills bash that evoked another era. It was the first showbiz party I’ve attended in a long while where somebody spent real money in a time when many premieres seem one step away from a cash bar. Not the case at HBO. Guests marveled how the Rockefeller Center skating rink was transformed into a Prohibition era New Jersey boardwalk. Everyone was breaking the law by drinking at a replica bar that must have been 40 feet long. And I counted three endless steam-table serving stations heaped with lobster tails, king crab legs, steak and other posh nosh. I overhead one guest ask an HBO executive how the pay channel could make such a pricey series and host such a lavish affair to launch it. “28 million subscribers at $10 a month.”

Series stars like Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt and Shea Whigham held court until late into the night at an array of rooms. Stars from other HBO shows, like Sex and the City‘s Chris Noth and Oz‘s Chuck Zito, were omnipresent. I came across a back room filled with many cast members from The Sopranos, including James Gandolfini and series creator David Chase as well as A.J. (Robert Iler), Janice (Aida Turturro), Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) and actors who played a lot of second-tier wiseguys. They were there to support exec producer Terence Winter, a made man from his Sopranos days. My first reaction is to realize how much I miss that series, and the second to appreciate how these actors are still welcomed by HBO. Nice to see some companies remembering this is showbiz which on occasion still requires a show of decadent excess.