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Victoria’s Secret: Panties and Protesters

NEW YORK — Breaking into Fort Knox might have been easier than gaining entry into the Victoria’s Secret Christmas Dreams & Fantasies 2002 fashion show Thursday at the New York State Armory on Lexington Avenue.<br><br>But the booty was...

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NEW YORK — Breaking into Fort Knox might have been easier than gaining entry into the Victoria’s Secret Christmas Dreams & Fantasies 2002 fashion show Thursday at the New York State Armory on Lexington Avenue.

But the booty was lingerie, not gold, that scores of wide-eyed, celebrity-hungry media and Wall Street executives wanted, as did a token number of entertainment and sports stars like Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Gina Gershon, Donald Trump, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and CNN news anchor Bill Hemmer.

In addition to 28 scantily clad models, the $1.5 million extravaganza included performances by Destiny’s Child and Marc Anthony. It was laced with the prerequisite formula for top TV ratings: sex, violence and a circus-like ambience that included Cirque du Soleil-inspired aerial dancers, Flamenco dancers and the Love Fellowship Tabernacle Choir.

The show is set to air Wednesday on CBS at 9 p.m.

As one scalper was pacing the block-long line attempting to hawk an invitation to the show for $500, describing it as the “the hottest ticket in town,” security — which included New York’s finest lining the streets; GSS, Victoria’s Secret private security agency, and personal body guards for Trump and The Limited’s chief executive officer, Leslie Wexner — resembled a terrorist search. The 40- to 60-minute check-in created a juggernaut for guests, who were body-scanned and whose handbags and briefcases inspected.

But these intense security measures did not prevent nonmembers of the press corps from smuggling mini cameras into the preshow cocktail party, where candid photos were taken with celebrities. Nor did it stop four members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals from leaping onto the catwalk and following Brazilian model Giselle Bündchen with signs reading: “Giselle: Fur Scum.” The segment had to be refilmed.

It took approximately 30 seconds for a squad of security guards to rush the protesters, one of whom was tackled off the runway to the floor on her knees at the feet of Marc Anthony. At least one protester had a front-row seat, and each wore a Victoria’s Secret pass. The big question is, how did they gain access to the badges and the show?

Chuck Grelick, managing director of GSS, refused to comment. Anthony Hebron, director of communications for Victoria’s Secret and The Limited, did not return phone calls Friday.

Tom Palmer, assistant to Violaine Etienne, vice president of the show’s production company, Bureau Batek, said: “We’re kind of asking that same question. Don’t know.”

But Lisa Lange, PETA’s vice president of communications, said: “We have many friends who help us. The target wasn’t the Victoria’s Secret show, it was Giselle. When she signed that contract to promote Blackglama mink coats, she wanted attention. Well, we thought we would give her the kind of attention she didn’t want.”

However, Lange would not address why PETA members did not attack Trump’s girlfriend, Melania Knauss, who was wearing a floor-length white mink coat throughout the show.

Asked what he thought of the ruckus, basketball legend Abdul-Jabbar replied: “I think it’s hypocritical. People wear wool and leather, and you don’t see any protesters. It’s illogical. Besides, this is lingerie and Victoria’s Secret is a great place American women can go and make themselves look sexy, but in a classy way.”

Meanwhile backstage, the air buzzed with anticipation. A neon sign placed above the stage entrance flashed on and off: “Be Sexy. Be Energetic. Be Glamorous.”

Standing on the runway, the event’s producer, Alex de Betak rotated in and out of a variety of roles, from drill sergeant to cheerleader. He ran down important runway logistics along with rules of decorum. “Don’t overdo sexiness. It should not be vulgar. Don’t touch your butt. It should be sexy, but happy and smiley. It is not a normal fashion show.”

Grace Nichols, ceo of Victoria’s Secret stores, said the editing of the show for network TV “will pass all network requirements” this year. As reported, certain advocacy groups complained about the adult content of last year’s show, which was broadcast live during the family hour.

Regarding the new Victoria’s Secret megastore in Herald Square, Nichols said consumer reaction has been good. She said, “Trying to open a new store at this time of the year is always a challenge.”

The number-one-selling lingerie category has been panties, ranging from $15 to $200, she said.

Tom Palmer, assistant to Violaine Etienne, vice president of the show’s production company, Bureau Batek, said: “We’re kind of asking that same question. Don’t know.”

But Lisa Lange, PETA’s vice president of communications, said: “We have many friends who help us. The target wasn’t the Victoria’s Secret show, it was Giselle. When she signed that contract to promote Blackglama mink coats, she wanted attention. Well, we thought we would give her the kind of attention she didn’t want.”

However, Lange would not address why PETA members did not attack Trump’s girlfriend, Melania Knauss, who was wearing a floor-length white mink coat throughout the show.

Asked what he thought of the ruckus, basketball legend Abdul-Jabbar replied: “I think it’s hypocritical. People wear wool and leather, and you don’t see any protesters. It’s illogical. Besides, this is lingerie and Victoria’s Secret is a great place American women can go and make themselves look sexy, but in a classy way.”

Meanwhile backstage, the air buzzed with anticipation. A neon sign placed above the stage entrance flashed on and off: “Be Sexy. Be Energetic. Be Glamorous.”

Standing on the runway, the event’s producer, Alex de Betak rotated in and out of a variety of roles, from drill sergeant to cheerleader. He ran down important runway logistics along with rules of decorum. “Don’t overdo sexiness. It should not be vulgar. Don’t touch your butt. It should be sexy, but happy and smiley. It is not a normal fashion show.”

Grace Nichols, ceo of Victoria’s Secret stores, said the editing of the show for network TV “will pass all network requirements” this year. As reported, certain advocacy groups complained about the adult content of last year’s show, which was broadcast live during the family hour.

Regarding the new Victoria’s Secret megastore in Herald Square, Nichols said consumer reaction has been good. She said, “Trying to open a new store at this time of the year is always a challenge.”

The number-one-selling lingerie category has been panties, ranging from $15 to $200, she said.

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