It’s hard to forget senior prom. Indeed, Thursday night’s Operation Smile benefit was like a high school reunion cum disco dance for a certain social set. Bebe cocktail dresses and Abercrombie blazers were replaced by Max Azria floor-length gowns and Purple Label tuxes, but the overall vibe remained the same- if your prom happened to be at Cips downtown and featured Vanessa Carlton as a live performer.
There was a certain “je ne sais quoi” in the air, as the event marked the first “official” reappearance by copycat Winona Ryder and Op Smile committee member Paul Johnson Calderon. The striking former stylist and Paper editor (and friend), who had repeatedly referred to the event on Facebook as his triumphant reentry into New York, also publicly claimed to be arriving to the gala on the arms of socialite heavyweights Tinsley Mortimer, (a no-show) and her sister, Dabney Mercer (stunning in Amand Uprichard and David Yurman). Instead, the self proclaimed “Moorish” playboy boogied down with less prominent friends who continue to support him despite the alleged criminal investigation into his over-publicized grand larceny.
Though I admired his poker face (it takes a tough cookie to act natural despite negative press- I should know), guests whispered about his ability to recover from a scandal that shocked even the jaded Beatrice crowd, who at one point flocked to his old West Village apartment for raucous, all night after parties. Indeed, the self-proclaimed belt designer had a hard time striking up conversations despite his overeager air kisses and permanent position by the main bar. Clearly he purchased his ticket before a certain waitress’s purse went missing.
In spite of the deft athletic maneuverings of scores of socials, the 2009 benefit continued to prove to be the familiar meeting ground of old friends and lovers, with massive catching up going on both levels of the massive space. PYTs like Catrinel Ardeus (in Phillip Lim and Dries Van Noten), Sarah Basile (in Alberta Feretti), Jamie Korey (Ungaro), Gillian Hearst-Simonds (Vera Wang) and her sis Lydia Hearst (Ghost), Anisha Lakhani (Top Shop) and CeCe Barfield (Ungaro) debated whether to go to Rose Bar or call it a night while the umm, gayer set, (think Timo Weiland, Wesley Vultaggio, Scott Buccheit, Peter Davis and Derek Lloyd Saathof) wondered if it was worth making the trek to B.East. I don’t remember how the night ended, but I do know I smiled. A lot.
The Operation Smile benefit raised awareness for children suffering from cleft lips and cleft palates. The event raised $1.5 million and proceeds will benefit the children’s medical charity’s efforts in providing free surgery to children and young adults around the world.