40 AND FABULOUS: “Oh God — it’s glamour, glamour, glamour,” cried Patrick Cox like an E! Entertainment reporter covering his first Academy Awards party. And he wasn’t kidding — David Furnish’s 40th birthday party in Venice was a black-tie affair to remember, with 115 guests including Elizabeth Hurley, Victoria Beckham, Donatella Versace, Lily Safra, David and Serena Linley, Stephen Gately of BoyZone, Sam Taylor-Wood, Jay Jopling, the gorgeous Daphne Guinness, Cornelia Guest, Ingrid Sischy, Sandy Brandt, an Alexander McQueen-clad Skin (of the band Skunk Anasi), Billie Jean King and Philip Treacy. “I’m known for being extravagant,” said Sir Elton John, Furnish’s boyfriend and the party’s host, “and I do like to be extravagant with my friends.”

The bash began Friday in London, where guests — lubricated by countless bottles of pink champagne before lunch — boarded a charter jet to Venice. The next afternoon, Sir Elton and Furnish uncorked even more bubbly and spooned up caviar during a drop-in at their newly restored house, La Giocanoda, near the Hotel Cipriani. And that night, all 115 guests reconvened at the Cipriani’s Granery of the Republic, to feast on white truffle risotto around a single endless banquet table festooned with towers of lilies.

This story first appeared in the October 29, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Comic relief came in the form of Damian Hirst’s long-time love, Maia Norman. During the toasts, she barreled up to the microphone, turned to the table and announced, “I’m not a very good singer,” before tearing into a full-throated but totally tuneless serenade that left everyone agog. “Unplug the karaoke machine!” screeched Lord Linley’s business partner, Tim Gosling.

Then, as the dance floor heated up after dinner, guests were mesmerized by the sight of David LaChapelle — in dangerous deshabillé as his shirt hung open, his suspenders dangled at his knees and his trousers slipped down his hips — dirty dancing with a couture-clad Lynn Wyatt. “What a woman!” gasped Isabella Blow. At the same moment, Sting was deep into a tantric boogie, Detmar Blow waved his arms about like a Teletubbie and the Linleys cut a royal rug, while slender Hedi Slimane played wallflower, taking in the wild sight. At one point late in the night, reported a merry reveler on Sunday evening’s flight back to London, the police arrived to shut down Sir Elton’s raucous party, but when the carabinieri got a load of the host — the Queen of Italy, as someone joked — they decided to turn a blind eye.

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