Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Costume Institute Balls. From the Sublime to the Redundant.

What happened to the PARTY of the year?????

That soiree of truly magnificent proportion has morphed into an over priced, un-appetizing deb ball for the crass and ignominious. Watching the swells, swollen and decidedly UN-swan like emerge from their black Suburbans and stretch white Hummers took me on a nostalgia trip from glamourous days thence. I honestly don't dwell in the past when the present is so jammed with excitement, change, innovations in science,society,fashion, fun and cell phones. But that party was the benchmark of each successive year. The raising of the style bar, as it were. It was the barometer for the state of chic.Perhaps it was just a fever dream , something that wasn't real only seemed so. The cool of that event was writ LARGE in every ones collective consciousness. Now, one needs to call in a specialist, most likely a Crassiologist, to take the temperature of this shindig . To get a proper reading of this thing, he wouldn't be helped by using these up to the minute computerized thermometers. No ear inserted or temple testing job could possibly get an accurate reading. This procedure calls for the good old fashioned ,tried and true, never off by so much as a 10th of a degree mercury laden little glass rod..
When the GAUNTLET is peopled with celebutants, both would-be, won't-be,used to be and never-be's, add in Musicians, Stars and starlets (out on day passes from too many rehab institutions worth naming) one witnesses a stew never meant to see the light of day, let alone a cameras' flash. I was always told by my mother it was not nice to stare at dead bodies, car wrecks on the side of the road or the truly insane. She thought it ill mannered , disrespectful and unseemly. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to thank god you were less F****** than these other unfortunates. This fetid dish being served up was like a stew with a most unsavory smell. Kind of like vegetables gone bad. It is a jolt to the senses when you see the Chairperson of the evening, Anna Wintour,actually looking her age .This year, without a thread of irony, she looked outfitted to pay homage to that recently deceased patroness and philanthropic LIONESS of this great town, Brooke Astor. The thought was sweet but the reality of such a risky choice fell short of the mark. Ok, so someone needs to pick up that Diadem and run with it, but that's what we have Ivana Trump who-ever for...or Jayne Wrightsman, also not so warm or cuddly. A bad dress choice does not a pillar of society make. Bea Schaeffer, looked appropriately over-dressed. One can only imagine her and Hamish Bowles fighting over who would get to wear that ruffled, train wreck of a gown. I hear Bea is a tough cookie. The apple rarely falls far from the shopping bag.
So again we have some key players who failed to inspire. Beyond them was a roster of tabloid ruffage that too clearly resembled hash: the corned beef variety. There's an old joke that goes: What do you get when you have a hot tub filled with lepers? .....STEW. Well, that night was a bling- filled can of B List DINTY MOORE.
There was a time when the event was hosted by such luminaries as Ms.Vreeland, Pat Buckley, Mica Ertegun, Chessy Raynor and Annette de la Renta. Babes like Lynn Wyatt,Deeda Blair, Slinky Carolyne Roehm Kravis,and beautious mannequins such as Iman, Carla Bruni,Linda, Christy,Shalom, etc. When these girls descended the grand staircase after dinner there was a moment of silence. Glamour, chic, beauty, style ,everything was in the HOUSE. There were no phalanxes of beefy security, cordoned off VIP sections or defined have/have-not areas. Everyone just mingled.People left that evening feeling like they'd experienced a truly NEW YORK moment.
I remember a really sweet Tom Ford fresh off his Gucci success, shaking hands with everybody and humbly accepting congratulations from absolutely everyone there. He looked like the proud Bar Mitzvah boy just after getting through his 45 minute journey to manhood.
Crazy things could happen too. Some fortuitous and others were just down right FABULOUS.
One glittering night near evening's end, my date and I glided into the wing which houses the Temple of Dendur. The first cluster we saw was Pat Buckley, that years' Chairperson, with a gaggle of walkers. With the ubiquitous cigarette dangling from those clever lips, she was the epitome of high voltage cool. A posse of walkers were so busy hanging on her every word, they must have lost track of their Poodles. Pat had done her job and was letting her freak flag fly.
She looked up from her circle and smiled. Next thing we knew she took a step towards us and called over a waiter to bring us a couple of flutes of champagne. We stood rooted not knowing what to say or do beyond a "thanks, great party Mrs. Buckley". Then she says to Bernie, my date, "Honey you are the loveliest woman here this evening. And you're wearing a divine dress. Who designed it?" That was a truly fantastic moment.(I'd done the dress. ) Believe me , her charm ,manners and grace along with countless priceless treasures are buried deep in the basement of that venerable institution,never again to see the light of day or night.
The most fortuitous moment occurred at another years celebration. Bernie and I turned up for drinks and dessert with the rest of the plebes. Mingling and taking in the circus is the point of being there. This particular night an editor from a big magazine was following us around. Finally, the junior editor stopped Bernie and asked who did her dress. She pointed to me and I pointed to my # on a cocktail napkin. The editor wanted to pull some LOOKS for an upcoming cover shoot so who was I to say no? Long story short, I SCORED. Not bad for 150 bucks and no dinner.
Nowadays, that electricity no longer crackles in the air.The BALL comes along with almost a whisper until you read about it the next day. When you look at what the cat dragged in(no;DOG) you're glad you saved the $500 dessert ticket and put it towards 2 seats for the Little Mermaid on Broadway. At least that's amusing and they know how to act.
Maybe the question isn't what happened, but why?

No comments: