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Tipsy Turvy

At Monday's CFDA Fashion Awards, the problem wasn't the heat, it was the humorless jokes that trickled from the stage like flat tap water.

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NEW YORK — Note to CFDA: fire the scriptwriters.

At Monday’s 2005 CFDA Fashion Awards, it wasn’t the heat, the less-than-stellar wine or the overpowering steak au poivre that wore the audience down. Instead, it was the lackluster jokes rattling down the teleprompter that were often as flat as a blown-out tire.

From the tipsy to the obtuse to the touching, the night’s winners generally kept their speeches crisp and to the point — sometimes so much so that they literally were on and off the stage before you could blink an eye. But the presenters were a different story. Many struggled to read their lines from the teleprompter perched high on a wall across the room from the podium, and those who squinted and stumbled for the most part shouldn’t have bothered. Case in point: Heidi Klum, who in irritating fashion used her signature Project Runway phrase ‘You’re either in or you’re out’ to confusingly describe each women’s wear nominee. Or Donna Karan and Sean Combs, who announced Swarovski’s Perry Ellis Award nominees, but should have checked with German native Klum on how to pronounce the Austrian crystal firm’s name before going on stage.

“Sra-owski, Swo-ki-skeee,” Combs blundered.

Catherine Deneuve, who presented Elle’s Gilles Bensimon with the Eugenia Sheppard Award, proved that a great actress does not make a great public speaker. Deneuve, not one to ad-lib, struggled to read the teleprompter and seemed lost at one point. “I am sorry, Gilles,” she said. “I could have done better, but I am confused.”

Kate Moss, for her part, offered one of the evening’s most succinct speeches. Leaning on the podium and grasping her statue, she whispered: “I’d like to thank the CFDA for this award, and all the people I have had the chance to work with.” Then she was off.

All this isn’t to say the night didn’t have the ingredients for a hit. The carpeted foyer of the New York Public Library minimized dangers of slipping after the rain storm; the massive Studio Job-designed crystal frame with livestream coverage of red-carpet arrivals gave the transfixed fashion folk much reason for ice-breaking chatter (including watching Anna Wintour barrel up the red carpet like it was a 50-yard dash), and the decor of red tables, fabric-covered chairs and steamy red lighting gave the Celeste Bartos Forum a lounge-like feel.

This story first appeared in the June 8, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

And there were some touching moments, even the rehearsed ones. Iman, who presented the “In Memoriam” tribute, recalled her first shoot with Richard Avedon. “Do you want me to smile or not, Mr. Dick?,” she asked him, to which he retorted at the time: “I know you just arrived here from Africa. You can call me Mr. Avedon, Richard or Dick, but never Mr. Dick.”

Her hubby, David Bowie, who took the stage immediately after her, quite liked the phrase. “Feel free to call me Mr. Dick anytime,” he joked before introducing Moss, the night’s Fashion Influencer award recipient. Bowie stepped in for an absent John Galliano, who was injured by a collapsing glass shower door in his Paris apartment.

Diane von Furstenberg, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award, was responsible for the night’s most heartfelt moment when she remembered her late first husband, Egon. “My first love, who gave me his name … who believed in me long before I believed in myself,” she said before turning to second husband Barry Diller. “Even though I don’t like the idea of being married, I’m proud to be your wife,” she said.

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