As Gwyneth Paltrow kept a legion of photographers clamoring over there, Anne Hathaway passed another throng of flickering press, arm in arm with the true superstar who merited all of this wildly unfamiliar pomp and circumstance Wednesday evening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Valentino Garavani.
This was the west coast premiere of “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” and the social ladies of the museum’s Costume Council, which hosted the event, didn’t know what hit them. Between the shouting press and the turnout—that included Tom Ford, Rita Wilson, Joan Collins, James Galanos, Kelly Lynch, Arianne Philips, Tracee Ellis Ross, Lisa Eisner and Rachel Zoe, among other of the local fashion vips—the Council had never witnessed such fever at one of their functions.
To boot, several dozen Costume members were shut out because the guest of honor’s guest list tripled in the hours leading up to the screening and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house to accommodate them all. Too bad. The film, which opens today in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and eventually in 25 cities nationwide, is sincerely intoxicating. Mr. Garavani and his partner in life and business Giancarlo Giammetti are captivating personalities who, unintentionally or not, communicate emotional highs and lows with a look or a gesture that keeps viewers desperate for the next scene. Certainly, the drama is due to the deft editing of the 220-plus hours of film shot from June 2005 to July 2007, when the designer is feted with a 45th anniversary party worthy of the Sun King.
Matt Tyrnauer took an assignment for Vanity Fair and decided to become a first-time director and producer to be able to fully tell this tale. The result is a highly entertaining, illuminating cinematic story. My evening mates Desiree Kohan and Raven Kauffman weren’t the only ones in the house tearing up throughout the 96-minute movie.
This trip to the museum was only one of the main events for the designer and his entourage, and the following day, Thursday, the media glow, fandom and decorations continued. Mr. Garavani was inducted in the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style, the 13th in a series that includes Ford, Gianni and Donatella Versace and Giorgio Armani (who was honored first when the ceremony was introduced in 2001 with a celebration of Oscar proportions). Anne Hathaway returned to introduce the designer to the crowd who had assembled at the corner of Dayton Way and Rodeo Drive to mark the unveiling of the plaque.
I skipped the midday occasion, instead opting for the evening book signing at the suggestion of my old friend Carlos Souza, who has worked for Valentino “many lifetimes,” as he likes to jest. I had spent the previous couple of hours interviewing Wanda McDaniel, the executive vice president of global communications for Giorgio Armani and the godmother of red carpet dressing, for my Fred Haymen bio. The two of us teetered over in our heels to Taschen and found the very limited supply of Valentino’s hefty, beautiful tome was sold out. Well, the $70 version was gone. Still on hand was the canvas-covered edition tagged at a whopping $1,800.
Beyond annoying that Taschen hadn't rushed enough from the printer. So we grabbed a Moet and joined bookless pals Katherine Ross, Ann Crawford and Dudley DeZonia and Carlos in watching the scene of groupies. Yes, groupies. When it comes to a designer of his faculty and magnetism, one who can unquestionably claim such a hyperbolic film title with the word “emperor,” we are all reduced to that.
So it should have come as no surprise to find Doug Murphy, the artist behind Plasticgod, patiently awaiting his turn for the designer to ink his copy of the book and a Valentino Plasticgod canvas. But it was. We carry his architect series at A+R, and he's made a name with his rock star portraits. But Valentino? Despite my best attempts to convince Doug to forgo his custom of handing over the second canvas to the subject (would Valentino really get it? I pressed him…to no avail!), I dutifully photographed the cheeky pop artist with the chic haute couturier. Valentino did, by the way, appear to like the quirkiness of such a gift and I caught him at the end of the event ensuring his assistant keep it safe.
At the end of the Champagne hour, I learned that good things come t
o those who wait: dear Carlos somehow scored a single copy and presented it to me. Our pals teased me in envy (I think it was teasing?!). He then pulled me toward Valentino for the inscription. That he scored a copy for me was a valentine of a gesture that meant more than the book itself.
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