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Decadence took a bad rap in 2002. Girls-gone-wild Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith led the charge. Lizzie Grubman was locked up, then set free again. Winona Ryder got caught stealing, and the Hilton sisters went on perpetual parade. Alfred Taubman, Dennis Kozlowski, Jack Welch and a pack of badly behaving ceo’s crashed Humpty Dumpty-style. Even her majesty Martha Stewart took a spill.
But as the scandals cooled, New York’s most fabulous couldn’t deny themselves a wild party or two. Last Thursday saw Gilded Age excess both Uptown and Down with Rena Kirdar Sindi’s blowout at the Versace Boutique and Marc Jacobs’ company party at Capitale.
A roving pack of jestering little people wandered the Jacobs fete, an ode to Moulin Rouge. There was a naughty French maid here, a sword swallower there, a balloon-bedecked ballerina and fleets of cancan girls. Baz Luhrmann would have been impressed. “I’m lucky that my boys like to dress up,” said Marc Jacobs president Robert Duffy, who, along with the male contingent of his staff, channeled Mughal maharajas in turbans and dhotis. Zöe Cassavetes took a less labor-intensive approach. “It’s called ‘I just found it today,’” joked Cassavetes, who had yanked her skirt north to wear as a strapless dress.
Others fashioned more elaborate and more scandalous costumes. “Is there really a naked Santa?” asked a wide-eyed Hilary Swank. Not quite, though a very buff Mr. Claus turned up sporting a red corset and HotPants.
But for all the decadence and purported iniquity of the scene, it truly was a family party. Loud cheers went to the ladies of the sample room — some of whom have been around since the Perry Ellis days — as they won a trophy for Best Group costumes.
At the Versace boutique, it was decadence of the classic New York variety. Traffic stopped on Fifth Avenue as masked figures flung shimmering gold paillettes from a balcony onto the revelers — 200 bona fide socials — entering below.
Like every Rena party, it started late, and ended really late, leaving guests with plenty of champagne to drink and plenty of time to drink it. The theme: glitter. Leave it to Bronson van Wyck to coat himself in gold paint. “It’s aluminum chloride. Deep healing treatment,” said van Wyck, who came with a matching party-crasher, Robbie Hammond. By the time dinner was served, an allergic reaction was setting in, and van Wyck was forced to sit on his hands to resist scratching.
Other guests had their faces airbrushed on-site. Amanda Brooks flitted by, one eye done up in a lace motif. Alex von Furstenberg’s shaved head was tricked out with flames, while Boykin Curry went enigmatic with a left ear painted blue.
And some simply let their Versace do the talking. Instead of worrying whether her dress was too see-through, Liz Cohen relied on her inner Donatella. “If Naomi Campbell is a publicist,” she said, “then I’m a supermodel for the night.”
The cranky in the crowd complained that Sindi had thrown one party too many, but they came. They glittered. And they hit the dance floor. After all, even if they’re bored by each other, Sindi herself is fascinating. “I’m so in love,” she cooed, clinging to new boyfriend Tico Mugrabi. By the end of the night, Sindi and Mugrabi would tiff and reunite to cling together once again.
So how would Jacobs’ and Sindi’s efforts have measured up to the revelries of the Gilded Age? Back when the Vanderbilts were nouveau, New York’s original Mrs. Astor rallied against her hard-partying peers, such as hostess Alva Belmont, who gave a breakfast for Consul, a chimp dressed in a frock coat, and the Cleweses in Newport, who threw a Servants’ Ball, where guests came as their help. Eric Homberger chronicled her distress in his book “Mrs. Astor’s New York: Money and Social Power in a Gilded Age.” “I hope my influence will be felt in one thing, and that is in discountenancing the undignified methods employed by certain New York women to attract a following,” Caroline Schermerhorn Astor said. “They have given entertainments that belonged under a circus tent rather than in a gentlewoman’s home. Women of this stamp are so appallingly active!”