It could have been one of those fantasy dinner parties with icons conjured over an ordinary dinner with friends, a wish guest list of individuals so part of the pop cultural fabric yet so disparate in their raison d’etre that there is no way they could end up around one table.
But they did. The table was knee-high and of white ceramic inside the cabana, poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and the only sustenance was the Cointreau-powered cocktails given the liquor company’s sponsorship of the evening. Yet the assembly of guests were as wildly varied as anything anyone could summon: blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren, blonde photographer Ellen Von Unwerth, blonde (for tonight) drag star Raja, fire-redhead and editorial legend Annie Flanders and fellow ginger head Linda Ramone.
Also within whisper distance inside our cabana was Jeffrey Deitch, Paris-based journalist and my date for the evening Dana Thomas, musician Tim Skold and his wife Erin Skold, and designers Jeremy Scott, Douglas Little, Shpetim Zero. and Michael Schmidt. Michael custom created jewelry for the new act premiering this evening by Dita Von Teese at the head of the legendary hotel pool outside our striped canvas cave.
A new act demands entirely new costumes and props and Dita and her gang of artisans did not disappoint. Her long-time collaborators seem to only deliver ever more dazzling elements with each act: the sumptuous jewel-colored feather fans by Catherine D’Lish, friend and fellow burlesque performer and a woman whose costume talents are beyond; purple-satin heeled sandals by Christian Louboutin that were covered in Swarovski crystals down to the orchids by a local cobbler; and Michael’s blinding earrings and bracelets.
A first, however, was the costume collaboration between Dita and Jenny Packham, the London-based designer whose elegant confections are the stuff dreams are made of, at least the dreams of a glamour gal. Jenny channeled the 1940s down-South America-way-stylings of Rita Hayworth and Carmen Miranda for the performance, which opened with Dita dancing with a white tux-clad gent. All very cinematic.
The eight-piece performance ensemble comprised of a beaded headpiece, a bolero jacket, a long skirt, a sarong, a beaded corset, and a sheer bralet and panty decorated with an orchid.
Jenny also created a look for Dita to wear pre- and post-performance, snow white with a colorfully delicate beaded design, all of it, from fit to flounce in the grand manner of old Hollywood gowns.
Also part of the evening’s entertainment was a dusk show with Frank Sinatra-like crooner Luca Ellis and the synchronized swimming troupe Aqualillies, . What an absolutely perfect pairing, particularly given the storied setting of the palm-tree surrounded pool area of the rosy Beverly Hills Hotel.
The event, in fact, launches the seven-week “Poolside Series,” part of the Pink Palace’s ongoing centennial. The series actually gets going tonight with vintage bar cart service and live performances aside from the Aqualillies weekly splash. Best of all, the launch event and on-going series benefit Project Angel Food, the nonprofit that cooks and delivers meals to men, women and children affected by life-threatening illnesses. Now that is glamorous…
Hundreds of friends and invited fans crowded around the expansive pool for the show. I found myself stage left, with Linda Ramone behind me, equally trying to catch a glimpse with her camera. Behind us standing atop one of the ceramic cabana tables was Miss Mamie! All of 81 (shocking since she looks like she’s in her early 60s) and somehow balancing on her spiked heels with her handsome husband beside her.
Among the throng was Dita’s neighbors Natalie Portman and husband Benjamin Millepied, Monet Mazur, film producer Bryan Rabin, Mary Louise-Parker, Wren designer Melissa Coker, IO Echo‘s Leopold Ross and Joanna Gikis (a former A+R teammate! Ha), nightlife impressario Rich Royal, photographer Scott Nathan and a brigade of beauty stars including hair bigwigs Ken Pave and John Blaine (both, in fact, responsible for some of Dita’s more elaborate hairpieces over the years) and make-up artist Gregory Arlt.
Apres-show I caught up with Marisa Tomei, who I was surprised to see there with a gal named Jennifer Tiexiera who bartended at one of my former bars, Vine, as she was launching her career as a documentary editor. Small world. I also reconnected with designer Sarah Aaronson, the designer behind Edith Palm, whom I championed when I first began at WWD and still have one of her one-off trench coats with buttons that were once typewriter keys. She was there with creative publicist Jessica Trent.
Dita, back in her Jenny Packham gown, joined us in the cabana once her act wrapped. By then, unfortunately, Matthew Rolston, who’d been keeping interior design star Martyn Lawrence-Bullard and writer Merle Ginsberg of The Hollywood Reporter company in the neighboring cabana, had flown the coop.
“I’d love to photograph Dita!” Matthew told me before the show. “We’ve been talking about it for years, and I guess it’s up to me to schedule and make happen.” Do it Matthew.
After chatting with Magda Berliner (and coveting her fringed dress), Dana and I headed to the Polo Lounge for a late supper. Every where we turned, there was someone from the pool party ensconced in a booth or propped at a table (and I do mean propped!) and most all of them dressed to the nines. Even Dita, despite her long day of performing, took a table for 4 outside.
Nico Golfar swept by our table to steal a few french fries from my steak tartare dinner. That’s right, a meal of champions at nearly 11 p.m. Along with a glass of rosé the pale shade of the hotel facade, it couldn’t have been a more perfect nightcap to a magical night. That’s the thing about dreaming up fantasy dinners with a wish guest list: they can come true.