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Saving Venice is not a task for the faint of heart, or the sartorially subtle.

“This is one of the last events where you can really go all out,” Adelina Wong Ettelson said with a laugh on Tuesday night, as she patted the ruffled skirt of her Valentino dress and gestured at the ballroom of The Plaza hotel. “It’s always a fantastic party — I always make sure to fill my table with great dancers for getting down after dinner — and it’s such fun to have an excuse to get all dressed up!”

The space was filled with elaborate gowns, period-appropriate Venetian costume, masks topped with feathers, Swarovski crystals or semi-precious stones and a variety of topless men wearing body paint (some of whom carried candelabras, others elaborate Venetian-style props of differing importance). A video that played during the salad course explained that the proceeds from the gala went toward the restoration campaign of the church of San Sebastiano (and the canvases and frescoes by Paolo Veronese therein).

“Nobody listens to the videos,” one partygoer lamented. “At the ‘Museum of Moving Image’ party nobody listened until Alec Baldwin spoke, and then you could hear a pin drop. Maybe we need Alec Baldwin in here.”

Two operatic sopranos appeared on a nearby balcony at various points to serenade the crowd, who alternately cooed their pleasure or ignored them completely. Valentino was one of the evening’s sponsors, and many guests turned out in the label, including Amanda Hearst, Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, Alexandra Lind Rose, Jennifer Creel, Lydia Fenet, Kristen Allegri, Amy Buckley and chairman of the Young Friends of Save Venice, Olivia Chantecaille. A few were also draped in glittering tokens from the other sponsor of the evening, Bulgari.

Carlos Souza, Brad Goreski, Carlos Mota and Angel Sanchez were all on hand, later seen shaking it on the dance floor. The evening’s greatest surprise was the presence of Courtney Love, who sat with Mota during dinner and had slipped her mask off during the preliminary cocktail hour. Love spent a great portion of the night having a turbulent business discussion via telephone by the bathroom sinks.

“I’m at Save Venice; What about Save Japan?” she said, a bit in jest, later.

During dessert, prizes were given to the best male, female and couple’s masks: In a coup, Beatrix Ost’s woven straw hat-and-veil combination won best female as well as best couple (with Ludwig Kuttner), while Francesco Clemente took best male for his creation: a mask of his own face which stared at other revelers from the back of his head during dinner. He carried his prize, a liter of Grey Goose vodka, in his hand for the rest of the evening. Clemente’s tablemates, Elisa Sednaoui, Jennifer Hart and beau Stavros Niarchos, Alba Clemente and Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld all donned their masks as coffee was served, to demonstrate their pride and solidarity for their victorious artist-in-residence.

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