The following story was shared to us by Treb Heining, CBA, founder of Glass House Balloon
and the inventor of the balloon arch.
Starting in 1970 when I first put four balloons on a paper clip and packed a garland, I “played” with my idea of balloon columns at events for family and friends. All the work was done with air – no helium – using 5” or 9” latex and just packing random colors. The positive reaction to this simple balloon column idea started me thinking and dreaming that a successful business could be created doing just balloon décor. With the encouragement of my dear friend, Dave Klein, (inventor of the Jelly Belly jelly bean) BalloonArt By Treb, Inc. was born in the Spring of 1979.
I contacted a few caterers and had done 3 or 4 small jobs in the Bel Air and Valley areas of Los Angeles before getting the call that would change everything.
The catering company was Renta Yenta – Lila Greene and Toby Brown. They called me for what they said was a “special” birthday party being planned for Friday July 6th, 1979 in Malibu. They were very secretive about the details at first but then, as the event got closer, had to give me more information because they were requesting custom imprinted balloons.
I finally learned that the party was for Cher’s son - Elijah Blue –celebrating his third birthday. It was to be held on Cher’s tennis court and Lila and Toby only wanted a few 5” balloons as accents on the umbrella poles in the patio area along with some printed balloons on strings to pass out to the kids. I asked if it was okay to do something special on the tennis court area and they agreed. Budget wasn’t even discussed and like all our jobs in the early days, we just showed up with a ton of balloons and did as much as we could before the event started – making it up as we went along.
It was a Noon time party and I remember asking them how early we could arrive – finally negotiating a 7AM start time. We arrived in the dark that morning with a crew of 5: Brian Schrack, Tria Heining, Whitman Heining, Rochelle Johnson and myself.
I remember being very nervous both about making noise that early and also the pressure to do something that would make a huge impression. We were shown the garage area (right off the tennis court) where we did all the balloon inflation.
After surveying the tennis court, rigging points etc., I decided we would do two long garlands across the tennis court and then do big bunches of balloons tied to the tennis court net. This was in addition to the 5” and printed balloons that were requested.
The Very First Balloon Arch - July 6, 1979
Treb and crew posing with Cher at her Malibu home
July 6, 1979
As the morning wore on, I realized that we would have time to do something else and we had used only a little helium out of the large tank we brought along. Looking at the two long columns we had completed, it seemed that they needed to be joined somehow in the center. The idea came to me to use all blue balloons (Elijah Blue) and fill them with helium instead of just air to connect the two long columns of balloons.
The first balloon arch was born.
As with all our early work, we used huge quantities of balloons which always made a big impression. I had been experimenting with different types of line to use to build the columns but had yet to settle into using monofilament or Dacron. For the Cher job, we brought along heavy wire because I wanted to make the long columns of balloons as straight and flat as possible. We ran the wire from point to point first – making it very tight. The clusters of balloons were then brought out from the garage and put up on the already strung wire lines one at a time. Funny to even think about this now days but we were carving out a new business/industry and systems were created and refined on each new job we undertook.
The reaction to what we did on the tennis court that morning was overwhelming. I know it is hard to imagine now what it must have been like but simply put – people had just never seen quantities of balloons like this, arranged so perfectly.
I had the foresight to invite along a good friend of my Dad’s, Bruce Lemmer, who was a professional photographer. He snapped pictures all morning giving us this precious slice of history including a few with Cher who was “over the moon” with this incredible display. Bruce went on to photograph hundreds of our events over the years – traveling with our crews and documenting the many firsts we had and also teaching me enormous amounts about photography including how to organize portfolios and slide shows.
We rode the “balloon arch train” for many years being the only company in the world doing work like this. When other balloon delivery companies did finally start to copy us in the early eighties, it was the “string-of-pearl” type arches rather than solid pack as no one know how we were accomplishing the “packed” look. It was just a few events later that the spiral pattern was invented but that is another story all together…