Robert Wilson’s annual summer benefit for his Watermill Center is always an over-the-top, weird affair, but this year’s event on Saturday night, themed “Paradiso,” seemed even more so — the man in the snow monkey costume greeting guests at the entrance being the first tip-off.
Further on into the grounds, there were strolling nudes, artists and models caught in nets hanging from trees, and a dude in a dunk-tank-like contraption getting green paint poured on him. “This feels Fellini-esque,” said one partygoer, gesturing towards an exhibition where guests limboed around a pole. “Like, things could get really wild.”
A few exhibits were moving things in that direction. Jia-Jen Lin’s “Sweeping of the Earth with Wings Made of Rusty Knives,” which consisted of several naked men with waist-length black hair gyrating in an open wooden A-frame, was one of the most popular works. “We’re there! Let’s go!” shouted Alan Cumming and Rufus Wainwright, gleefully heading off into the woods and towards the piece, arm in arm.
The evening’s dress code was “heavenly” and, from the looks of it, attendees had varied interpretations of the afterlife. Alec Baldwin, Calvin Klein, Eric Ripert, André Balazs, Alex Kramer and Zani Gugelmann went the conventional route with seersucker suits and designer gowns. But others accessorized their get-ups with helmet-like masks resembling a collection of tumors, fuzzy dice necklaces and angel wings made from feathers. Even Sharon Stone’s son, Roan Joseph Bronstein, seemed to be in the spirit of things with his crop of bright pink hair.
Stone herself kept it simple in a white and black sundress, perhaps not to distract from her role as the fete’s auctioneer. After dinner, she took the mic, explaining, “If you talk or breathe or move suddenly, it’s a bid. And then I take your money. Because I have this theory that money talks but cash screams. And it’s served me well over the years…but I can see you’re a bunch of tightwads.”
Kicking off the bidding asking for “10 million — I mean 10 thousand dollars,” Stone then shimmied wildly in the middle of the stage. “A bug just flew up my dress,” she cried. “What an awkward moment. For the bug.” Stone was eventually relieved by Simon de Pury, who took up the job with gusto, but not before the actress had persuaded Wainwright to perform an impromptu rendition of his cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
As the festivities wound down and guests headed towards the west terrace for dancing, a lady’s stiletto heel got caught between two stones on the torch-lit path. “This is hell,” she said.
“No,” a friend corrected her. “This is Paradiso.”