We all know that the nights that one does not plan always end up being the most spontaneous and fun. Last night was just that kind of night. Kevin invited me to attend the opening night of the Martha Graham Dance Company's spring performances. I was tuned into this event already since I had seen a picture of Vogue Style Editor, Andre Leon Talley, in Paper Magazine as part of the new season's lineup. This threw me into a fit of hysteria because this man is 7 feet tall and weighs at least three times more than I do. To see him leaping like a gazelle on stage was something I simply could not picture.
Needless to say I was thrilled at the invitation.
Little did I know that this wasn't just an opening night, but a gala event of fickle fashionistas. I meet Kevin at City Center at 6:30 and while I am waiting for him, I see Grace Codddington, Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren, Rachel Feinstein and Oscar de la Renta. Good thing I have on a smart outfit. Ms. Coddington seems to be glancing at my black envelope hat every second she has.
We take our seats and I must gloat that we were sitting in front of Vera. Unfortunately though, we are also sitting right next to Leon Hall who gives dirty old man looks every time we look his way. In front of us sits Sarah Brown, Beauty Director of Vogue, whom I know through work. She is quite fun and her boyfriend, Bob, is a hoot. The reason we are here in the first place is that Kevin was invited by Kiehl's. He works a lot with them on his celebrity clientele. As a thank you, the head of PR, Shannon, invited him for not just the performance but a swank dinner and dancing soiree in the Plaza ballroom afterwards.
I can honestly say that after a night of stars, frocks and elegant food, what takes my breath away the most are the performances. There are four vignettes from the repertoire of Martha Graham and each one is a spectacular display of movement, color, music and the human body. In all my years I have never seen a modern dance recital and I now see how so many artists, movie producers and fashion designers were inspired by the ‘before her time' Graham.
The Owl and the Pussy Cat is the lightest of the four pieces. Andre narrarates the entire piece but he also participates in it too, twirling around in his Ralph Lauren pin striped cape and mimicking the dancers to gain a bit of a bubble from the audience. I do think this is quite an odd setup, fashion guru as part of a modern dance movement, but after reading the playbill I find out that the piece debuted in 1978 and had Liza Minnelli as the narrator, with costumes by Halston.
After the last riveting performance Kevin and I are ready to bail, no matter how lavish the dinner is, but Sarah scolds Kevin for even thinking of doing such a thing. “Kiehl's paid good money for you to eat tonight, and you can't just not show up. You must go!” is the Vogue's curt reply. Right she is too. I didn't realize what an event it was. If we had ditched, we would have looked very bad.
We grab our coats, dash over to the Plaza Ballroom and I feel as if I have entered the pages of Vogue. The belle époque room of gilt and ivory is bedecked with tables set with immense glass vases. Each vase has massive branches of Dogwood trees fanning out from the top so there is a virtual ceiling of flowers above our heads. The tables are set with silver chargers, white china and so much silverware that it has to be stacked on top of each other – very gauche if I may say so, but hey, we are in Yankee territory.
We take our seats in the front of the room, which may sound posh, but unfortunately there is a very loud Jazz band on stage and the entire night is spent yelling at each other.
There is an odd plate of pea soup staring at us when we sit down. We are all polite enough not to touch it until the rest of our party, Leon Hall and his date/houseboy, arrive. After 45 minutes of waiting, Sarah raises her spoon to us all as if saying "Onward Christian Soldiers", and we all dive into our soup. Poor Shannon is distraught that our table is missing two people and she even calls Leon on his cell to make sure everything is OK. He never picks up and never returns her call. T for Tacky! All I have to say is, Thank God we didn't ditch. Can you imagine that massive table with only 4 people around it?
Dinner finally starts around 10 PM. Kevin and I have a nice chat with the President of Kiehl's until the stunning Kimora Lee Simmons floats up to the stage to give a quick announcement. I will relay her speech here:
“Hi everybody, I am Kimora Lee Simmons, chairperson for tonight's event. Hope ya'll are having fun! So be sure to bid in the silent auction because there are lots of great things including gowns by Oscar and Zac! But don't you dare bid on the Manolo's. Those are mine! No, I am serious!
"So we are here to congratulate Andre for his spectacular debut tonight in The Owl and the Pussycat, so lets give him a warm welcome. Yeay!
(Lots of clapping, but no Andre)
"Hello? Where is Andre? Lets give him a warm welcome!
(Some clapping and still no Andre. Someone whispers something into Kimora's ear)
"OK. I guess Andre is not coming up because he is just like that, but if he were here he would say ‘Thank You, you all are Fabulous'! Bye!"
She is such a hoot in her strapless burgundy moiré fishtail dress, dripping in jewels and hair in a perfect chignon.
The rest of the evening goes by in a flash. We are served the standard rubber chicken that is always prepared for groups of 400 or more. Then on to dessert, a contortion of chocolate hovering over a plate of ice cream, very reminiscent of the movements from several of the pieces tonight.
By 11:30 we are all exhausted. It is a lot of work to attend such events, and we all get up at once and head to the door. Shannon once again tries to accommodate all of us and hires cars to take each of us home. But it is raining and blustery outside and the cars are delayed, so we all hop into cabs as poor Shannon is pulling her hair out. Now, she is the one to be exhausted.
As I ride up to 202, I rip open my gift bag and find a lousy Coach key chain, gift certificate to a spa and a lovely sketchbook of Savannah. How wonderful to have a little bit of the South pop out unexpectedly after such a New York night.