It is 8:30 p.m. in Paris, the bewitching hour for the Valentino Haute Couture show. My friend Bruce and I are surrounded by the fashion elite as we await the show. It's like a movie but it's not.
The shows usually start 30 minutes late and like clockwork, the models hit the catwalk at 9:00. I am constantly puzzled by the way models strut like baby giraffe who don't know how to walk. It is an odd juxtaposition to the elegance of their Valentino draperies.
The clothes are light and delicate and the collection and presentation was meant to reflect "powdery shades of desert sand with only the faintest hint of color to evoke the sky over the sahara at certain times of day". It did!. Lots of light and white and one solitary Valentino red, which Bruce wants for his birthday. We don't know what he will do with it.
"Project Runway" judge and Elle Magazine Fashion director Nina Garcia watches and scribbles from the front row. Forty One dresses later, and ten or twelve minutes after it began, Valentino takes the runway to rapturous applause and it is over. People love it, kiss cheeks, and disperse.
The party is at the Ritz Club below the famous hotel. Valentino enters to flashbulbs, air-kisses and acclaim. The celebration begins slowly.
The buffet is served and I am going to state this as a fact and sue me or write me hate mail but it is my experience: the French Butt in Line!
I have never waited in line in France where someone did not jam their way in front of me. The line for this buffet was like an endless stream of fashionistas keeping us stagnant and steaming like never-ending placeholders. Scavengers! By the time we made it to the plates we realized why everyone in fashion is so thin - toast points, smoked salmon, string beans and salad awaited us. We were ravenous.
But Bruce and I are idiots. We keep forgetting where we are - France. Yes they butt in line but they also serve a full dinner around midnight. We'd fought so hard for the first course at 11 that we'd mentally moved on by the time the real deal arrived. The meat looked fantastic and in true European style the party really began to kick in late night.
Valentino and Giammetti are great hosts, they know how to throw a party. The models arrive with their boyfriends. We chat with David Furnish, Mr Elton John, who's diamond ring puts Bruce's to shame. We meet heiresses and Princesses and writers and ambisexual Euros who leave the door ajar. All are presented titles stenched in hyperbole, "the richest heiress in Transylvania" or "the most influential fashion writer of all time." As my friend meets "the hottest actor in French cinema," they arrange either a potential apartment swap or a ruse for a tryst.
I am introduced to a beautiful blond with spectacular (real) boobs and a top that's barely covering them. She's "the biggest TV star in Italy - 11 million people watch her a week". No more description given, or needed, as we begin to engage but we both hear a ticking clock. It's the beginning of "Hung Up". Our eyes meet - we don't speak but we instinctively know we must book it to the dance floor immediatamente. I take her hand and guide her to what is quickly becoming a mob scene as the entire party converges for a mutual disco freak-out.
Dancing with Italy's biggest TV star made me see why she's an Italian Superstar. She owned the dancefloor. By the middle of the song (when the vocals dip for the heavy bass portion) someone had taken off my tie and I'd lassoed her as her top barely maintained it's status as a "top". I contemplated marrying her and moving to Italy to work for and write a blog for RAI.
Our Madonna high took us through several more songs until near collapse. She told me later in broken English about her shows. From what I gather she has two, one is perhaps like Celebrity Survivor and the other is maybe a cross between a sports show and SNL. I don't really know but she's the biggest star in Italy so I thought it best not to insult her for details. I don't know her name but hope to see her on a television or dancefloor soon.
Several of us retired to the Hemingway Bar upstairs at the Ritz. At the table beside us we found Kate Moss with singer Donovan Leitch and several other Euros. To me Kate looked great and it looked like she was drinking Evian. My jaded companion argued his interpretation: a distinct bloat, a fall off the wagon, and a large vodka soda. Several rounds later, as Bruce spills his Bordeaux all over his suit, we shut down the bar and leave Moss' party in deep conversation.
We are starved and up to our throats with champagne. It's after 3 and the Hotel Costes is blaring chillout music, lit by hundreds of candles with not a sole in sight. Who are they awaiting? Us, we figure. Can we sit and have dinner in this red gilded perfection? Of course we can, we're told. He eats pasta, I eat an omelette with toasts served sans crust. A little more champagne before bed and a Paris night is over.