DANCER PREMIERE: Dancers from the Alvin Ailey School of Dance will be among the first to wear gowns from Badgley Mischka’s new line Mark & James. The line makes its debut in November, but some of the dancers attending the Ailey Opening Gala on Dec. 2 will wear dresses from the line. Male dancers will sport suits from Sean John to the Dec. 2 event. The gala will kick off the five week New York City Center season and honors Judith Jameson’s 20th year as artistic director. The event, which raises money for the Ailey scholarship fund and children’s education programs, will be hosted by honorary co-chairs Pauletta and Denzel Washington.

This story first appeared in the October 19, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

OPENING NIGHT: “You should see this theater backstage — it’s unbelievable,” said Bruce Willis to the opening-night audience at Dallas’ new Wyly Theatre, which boasts movable floors, balconies and other innovations. Calling the Rem Koolhaas-designed building “technologically incomprehensible,” Willis joked, “You don’t even have to turn your cell phone off. Apparently, if your phone goes off you will be shocked by a 120-volt beam from backstage.” The show saluted the debut of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, a $354 million complex built almost entirely with private funds. A highlight was composer Alan Menken, who has won more Oscars than any living individual, performing some of his greatest hits. “A lot of people ask me what it’s like to win an Oscar,” he said from his perch at a grand piano. “Honestly, besides being thrilling, it’s completely terrifying….Despite all these honors, I still think of myself as a struggling off-Broadway composer.” He also advised the audience, which consisted primarily of major arts donors including Dee and Charles Wyly, Gene and Jerry Jones and Margot and Ross Perot, “You should congratulate yourselves.”

WESTWARD, HO: October always brings a slew of designers to the West Coast for market and trunk shows, and the parade kicked off Thursday night as Saks Fifth Avenue Beverly Hills welcomed David Neville and Marcus Wainwright of Rag & Bone; Aimee Cho of Gryphon; Geren Lockhart of Geren Ford; Lisa Brochu of Brochu Walker, and Sophie Buhai of Vena Cava to its contemporary floor for a cocktail party. “I like the L.A. vibe,” said Buhai. “People don’t seem to be in a rush to get to the next party.” The next day, Melissa Odabash showed her latest ready-to-wear collection at the Peninsula. This week, Neiman Marcus welcomes Zac Posen, Jason Wu, Bruno Frisoni and Chado Ralph Rucci, and the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund will present its annual fashion show and tea for this year’s nominees at Chateau Marmont.

JUST US FOLKS: Steady rain and December-worthy chills didn’t stop an enthusiastic crowd from trekking up Park Avenue on Thursday night for cocktails hosted by Laura and Richard Parsons to announce the American Folk Art Museum’s Fall Benefit on Nov. 11. Agnes Gund, Denise Rich, Jerry Lauren, Christian Cota, Bibhu Mohapatra and Liliana Dominguez filled Yaz and Valentin Hernandez’s Upper East Side apartment. Valentin acknowledged the feat of drawing such a group on a dark and stormy night. “Thank you all for coming,” he said as he introduced Laura Parsons. “I almost didn’t make it.” One gentleman who actually didn’t make it was Laura’s husband, Richard.

“I apologize. My husband had to go to Washington to meet with a regulator who is not the easiest person on the planet,” she said, before expressing her passion for the museum.

Of her husband’s interest she later explained, “I don’t know how big a supporter he is of [the museum], but he’s a big supporter of me.”

Indeed. Around 8:45, after most people had departed and Yaz was preparing to head to her next hosting duties at the El Museo del Barrio, Richard Parsons arrived, straight off the shuttle.

DIAMONDS FOR ALTRUISM: Lorraine Schwartz, is chalking up her success to one person: her mother. At Tuesday night’s Angel Ball to benefit Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research, Schwartz will unveil the Shulamit Benjamini Sandberg Medical Research Grant, named for her mother, who died of cancer. Schwartz has started the grant along with her sister and brother, Ofira and Ilan Sandberg. At the ball, hosted by Denise Rich at Cipriani Wall Street, Robin Thicke, Estelle and Jennifer Hudson are among those scheduled to present and perform. Schwartz has donated a pair of $92,000 earrings with 28 carats of diamonds, a style worn by Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé Knowles, Mary J Blige and Heidi Klum to benefit the charity. “The best accessory is feeling like you’re giving something back,” said Schwartz. “Although I think diamonds are a girl’s best friend, giving back is the mother of all.”

BIG LOVE: Members of the cast of “New York, I Love You,” including Maggie Q and Eli Wallach, piled into the Ziegfeld Theater on Wednesday night for a screening sponsored by Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America. The anthology film by “Paris, je t’aime” producer Emmanuel Benbihy features 10 short romantic vignettes set in the five boroughs and directed by the likes of Brett Ratner, Mira Nair, Shekhar Kapur, Allen Hughes, Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Joshua Marston and Natalie Portman.

“My goal with this entire franchise is really to work on material that is [about] the universality of love,” explained Benbihy. “It’s to find what people have in common so people all over the world can actually identify with New Yorkers.”

It was certainly a project close to Nair’s heart, as she’s been a New Yorker for more than 30 years. “This was an ode of love to my city of many years now,” said Nair. “I just love New York, any corner of it, any avenue, any skyscraper. I really am a sucker.”


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