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On Monday, New Yorkers hit the Whitney Gala, which this year was injected with some va-va-voom, courtesy of co-chair Donatella Versace. First of all, there was celebrity eye candy like Patrick Dempsey, Christina Ricci and Mariah Carey. Secondly, the top-floor gallery was made over to more resemble a nightclub than a formal dinner, complete with mirrored walls and flashing light installations.

“My 17-year-old daughter will be like, ‘You are kidding me,’ when she hears I met Patrick Dempsey,” said Whitney head Adam Weinberg. “I will rise considerably in her estimation.”

This story first appeared in the October 23, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The museum’s monied board members did at least have one leg up on the stars. “I wish I had the luxury of collecting art — I don’t earn enough yet,” said Ricci.

Later, Sting’s three-song set had Leonard Lauder clapping along enthusiastically while others, such as Lauder’s table mate, oil baron John Hess, didn’t want the party to end. He and his wife, Susan, headed downstairs to the Studio Party, where they boogied on the dance floor to hip-hop beats alongside Rose Byrne, Emma Roberts, Jane Krakowski, Juliette Lewis, Brian Reyes, Gilles Mendel, Thakoon Panichgul and Patti Hansen.

Carey also made her way downstairs to support her husband, Nick Cannon, who spun tunes (including her own “Fantasy,” which had the songstress blushing). She admitted she wasn’t exactly an art collector. “All those billionaires outbid me.”

Not so for Dempsey, who took a break from dancing with Versace’s daughter, Allegra Beck, to exhibit a bit of buyer’s remorse. “I don’t know what happened up there,” he grinned. “I think I just bought a Julian Schnabel apartment for $5,000 and he’s going to paint it for me.”

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