Runway Rubber-Necking

Out on the edges of the solar system, far from the orbiting paths of Jupiter and Neptune, in the icy cold of deep space, Jennifer Lopez had just been sucked into a black hole. The actress-singer-entrepreneur was sitting in a roped-off area in the corner of the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space, where over 600 people had clustered on the night of Sept. 12 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Coty, the beauty conglomerate which owns Ms. Lopez’s company.

Guests sipped saccharine blue cocktails beneath the ceiling, which glowed the blue hue of an evening sky. Paying homage to science, waiters offered trays of test tubes filled with shots of brightly colored alcohol. “It” boy Fabian Basabe, surrounded by socialites Annie Churchill, Lydia Hearst and Casey Johnson, took turns spinning excited young women across the dance floor to the sounds of D.J. Mark Ronson.

Beneath the planetarium’s faux constellations, it was clear that the star of the night was Ms. Lopez, but the black hole refused to give her up. Partygoers lined up on the edges, drawn to Ms. Lopez’s orbit, and gawked at the chinchilla-lover who wore a fur coat over a nude skirt and beige top. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, whose fragrance line is made by Coty, spun by and were sucked in. Ms. Lopez posed for pictures with the twins, who had chosen slimming all-black ensembles, Ashley in a leather jacket and slacks and Mary-Kate in a long black jacket buttoned over a red dress. While the twins managed to slip out of the hole to roam, Ms. Lopez stayed glued to her seat, flanked by several bodyguards. She refused interviews and spent the night cuddling with her husband, Marc Anthony. At one point, she paused while applying lipstick and tried to decorate her husband’s pucker. He swatted her hand away as the two collapsed into giggles.

Other guests orbiting nearby included Isabella Rossellini, designer Kenneth Cole, the ubiquitous Williams sisters, Tatum O’Neal, Veronica Webb and Bai Ling. Carol Alt, swathed in an ivory toga dress, sat on a couch cuddling with her 31-year-old husband, Ottawa Senators center Alexei Yashin.

Hollywould shoe cobbler Holly Dunlap had been trying to beg her way into the V.I.P. section, to no avail. She was sipping a cocktail nearby, a bright blue sequined dress adorning her lithe frame. “My parents are convinced I’m an alcoholic now and called me the other day ready to, like, do an intervention!” laughed the night owl, who chronicles her adventures on her Web site. “And I was telling them, ‘No, no, it’s really not as bad as it sounds,’ but then I was like, ‘Actually, yeah, it’s all true! That’s exactly what goes on!'” She decided to give the promised land one last try. Soon after she made it past the gatekeeper, Ms. Lopez and her entourage got up and whooshed out the door into the night.

That night, in a parallel universe, new gemologist-to-the-stars Chris Aire, nicknamed “The Iceman,” was launching his line in the rotunda of Gotham Hall, complete with a fashion show and performances by rappers Wyclef Jean and Nelly. In competition with Jacob the Jeweler, Aire’s clients-including Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Michael Jordan and Halle Berry-snap up his new creations, such as the Aire Traveler watch, which retails from $4,600 to $195,000.

Eric Nies, of the first Real World and MTV’s The Grind, who along with some friends was roaming the fringes of the room, said he “didn’t really know what was going on.” So how’s life in the real real world? “I have a new line of workout videos coming out this fall-infomercials, vitamin supplements and all that stuff. Just finished doing Battle of the Sexes, Part II. I’ve got my paws in a little bit of everything. I do charity work. I have my own nonprofit.” He confessed that he no longer kept in touch with his castmates. “The only time I talk to anyone from the show is when we get together for one of the challenges. If I do ‘em. I don’t know if I’m gonna go back and do another-so much drama. Everyone’s so young and they’re running around like crazy, taking off their clothes, acting obnoxious. It’s kind of like becoming 20 again for a month. But I’m just not raging anymore.” Mr. Nies paused. “What publication is this for again?” After he was informed, he managed to find his rage. “Oh, I have a bone to pick with you!” he said, and then launched into a tirade against a “scumbag” Observer reporter who ran a story four years ago ridiculing New York’s Fox affiliate for hiring Mr. Nies as a part-time reporter for culture segments, including a story on recreational Viagra users. The article, Mr. Nies claimed, resulted in his being fired by the station. “The Observer can suck my dick!” he railed. “Seriously-fuck all of you! And you can print that, too!”

Finally the real celebs began to arrive, and soon the Williams sisters (a constant presence during Fashion Week) were lounging by candlelight on black velvet couches with the likes of Foxy Brown, Fabolous, D.J. Clue, actors Lars Ulrich and Connie Nielsen, and the most incongruous guest of the night, celebrity dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone. Glasses of champagne sat sweating on tables with fake ice scattered across them.

Benihana heir Devon Aoki was chatting with friends wearing jeans and a V-neck paisley halter. The model, 2 Fast 2 Furious star and Lenny Kravitz ex-girlfriend was enjoying being the spectator this week. “I’m recording an album all week, so I’m not doing any shows. My music doesn’t really fit into a genre. It’s a mix between jazz, rock, R&B, hip-hop-there’s like all these different flavors.”

After Wyclef Jean opened the show playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his $500,000 diamond guitar (and with his tongue, at one point), the human hangers took to the runway in glittering bling and little else. Models like May Anderson and Ujjwala strutted in skimpy bikinis, dripping in sparkling bracelets and necklaces, including large diamond crosses (what would Jesus wear?).

Spotlight-adoring Naomi Campbell closed the show with a teeny pair of shorts and a see-through diamond vest that publicists were billing as “The Divine Halter.” Soon guests got up and started to leave, and hip-hop star Nelly emerged in a green cap and jersey with two backup singers and rapped such hits as “EIEIO,” but the mediocre sound system tortured his lyrics.

Nevertheless, AOL Time Warner chief executive Richard Parsons, dressed in an all-black suit, was nodding his head along with the beat. “Chris Aire’s a good guy, and he’s a talented young man who’s been around, so I was really looking forward to the show,” he said. Just then, NY1’s George Whipple and his eyebrows rushed over to effusively shake the media mogul’s hand. “Anywhere George goes, I gotta go-to make sure he’s doing his job!” Mr. Parsons laughed, and Mr. Whipple retreated. “This is all a part of Fashion Week, and I’m all about New York, so this is where I wanted to be tonight.” We asked if he’d been to any of the fashion shows. “Not as many as I’d like. I’ve been busy.” He gave The Transom a pointed look. “I have a day job.”

Backstage at the Luca Luca show, two Brazilian models with their hair in rollers were grabbing each other excitedly and chattering in Portuguese. “In five minutes I’m going to be very nervous, because the heels, you know, are pretty high tonight!” said Isabelli Fontana, the 21-year-old who scandalously appeared in the Victoria’s Secret catalog at age 16. What does she think about while strutting the catwalk? “My boyfriend [fellow model Alvaro Jacomossi] asked me the same question yesterday! You know, I don’t really think about anything. I just look straight and I go!”

“I just think, ‘I have to do this show to make money!'” said the other model named Marcelli, who looked a bit tired. “I went to sleep at 2 in the morning and I got up at 9. I was late for the [10 a.m. Behnaz Sarafpour] show because I wanted to sleep a little more!” she cackled.

Mary-Louise Parker, who was introduced to Luca Luca when her friend Janelle Maloney wore one of his designs to the S.A.G. Awards, was the first celebrity to show up behind the scenes. “They’re such great party dresses!” cooed Ms. Parker, who’d topped her jeans with a periwinkle Luca Luca sweater with a ruffled V neckline. “They’re so feminine and pretty and sweet, but they’re not stuffy or old-fashioned. The colors are so delicious!” And she still has a place in her heart for the dress she wore to the Golden Globes, where she won a $1,000 bet after thanking her son for her ample breasts in her acceptance speech. “I was just really happy,” said the star, despite being famously dumped a month earlier by boyfriend Billy Crudup. “There was something so much more important than the awards themselves. It was just so fun to put on a dress after having a baby two weeks before. It was like, ‘Oh, yeah-I forgot!'”

R. Kelly-sporting corn rows in a black suit, red shirt and thick red leather gloves-came back to snap up the champagne cocktails that were being served at the backstage bar.

Disney princess Anne Hathaway vamped it up in black slacks, big silver hoops and a plunging black jacket tied by a black satin bow. Later during the show, she would remove the jacket and show off her ample cleavage in a black satin tank-perhaps trying to prepare her fans for her forthcoming movie Havoc, in which her character has sex with gang members as well as co-star Bijou Phillips. She was holding the hand of a thirtysomething gentleman. No stranger to dating older men, Ms. Hathaway has also dated 30-year-old Scott Sartiano, who co-owns the hip restaurant Butter and is now linked to Ashley Olsen. Thankfully, the Olsen twins-who had been a fixture at the shows this week-failed to turn up at Luca and avoided a potentially awkward situation.

Ms. Hathaway is currently taking the semester off from Vassar College, where she’s majoring in English and minoring in women’s studies. “I’m looking for a job!” she laughed. “And I’m settling into New York. I’ve lived here off and on over the years, but now I’m definitely finally here, so I’m just, you know, buying furniture and couches.”

Nearby, Bai Ling was poured into a silvery blue satin dress and sporting bangs that can only be described as “aggressive.” It seemed as if she was waiting for people to notice her.

There was no missing Jessica Simpson, who caused a media flurry moments later when she popped into the room in a gold headband, garish gold jewelry, intense lip gloss and a black satin dress with a large gold bow belt. She beamed for the cameras with designer Luca Orlandi and the three actresses. Ms. Simpson’s curly-haired assistant, Casey Cobb, who was the bane of Nick Lachey’s existence on the last season of Newlyweds, was in tow to keep things running smoothly. “Does she want to go sit down now?” a publicist whispered to her. “Yes, yes!” Ms. Cobb said eagerly, and Jessica was soon led away, a paparazzi wake trailing behind.

Gangly O.C. star Mischa Barton, wearing a red satin Luca Luca halter top, also caused a stir. Next to her, boyfriend Brandon Davis was feeling ignored, so he playfully hit Ms. Barton’s thigh, who hit him back, starting a war until they erupted into giggles and held hands.

“Look! There’s Amy from The Apprentice!” a floor photographer pointed out to another.

“Amy from The Apprentice? She’ll have to come to me-I’m not going to her!”

“Oh, I know you didn’t!” the first one laughed.

Shortly after The Transom walked backstage at the Fusha fashion show on Sept. 10, the power went out and there was a collective gasp from the hair stylists, makeup artists and the many headsetted publicists bustling around.

But the woman of the hour didn’t seem to mind at all. “I’m not worried,” said the show’s designer, Marie Claudinette Jean. “I have great faith in the Big Man.” Clad in an army-green tank, black cargo pants and running shoes, her wrists and fingers glittered with bling. Her assistant held up a mini-flashlight as the manicurist continued crafting a French manicure onto Mrs. Jean’s nails. Up since 4 a.m., the designer sipped a Damrak gin screwdriver from a hollowed-out Sunkist orange. (“We call it ‘haute damn’!”)

The collection was dedicated to her 10th wedding anniversary with husband Wyclef, so Ms. Jean had imbued this season’s designs with as much romance as possible. “Last Valentine’s Day, I came home exhausted to find flowers leading all the way from the doorstep back to the bedroom and out to the kitchen table, where there was an elaborate candlelit dinner. I know he didn’t cook the food-he had a caterer do it-but it didn’t matter. It was amazing. He’s always doing things like that.”

Wyclef walked by, vaguely strumming a yellow guitar, his bodyguard known only as “The Beast” lurking nearby. Mr. Jean was to open the show with a serenade to his beloved. “Yeah, that’s where it is, right there!” he said proudly of their 10-year union. “You know when you first start a relationship and it’s exciting-but then later you decide that the person is lame and you can’t be with them anymore? It’s all about keeping up that same attitude and spirit you started off the relationship with. You have to have fun and be funny. You can’t take a relationship too seriously.”

Nearby, makeup artist Vincent Longo was dabbing a berry-colored stain on the lips of 20-year-old model Villina. “The strong lip is coming back! The past few years it’s been gloss, gloss, gloss,” he said, peering at her through his squared-off glasses. Another man began ratting out Villina’s hair to such an extent that the knots will likely still be there next season.

“Oh my God, that hurts!” she yelped.

“Sorry,” the hair stylist said shortly.

“Don’t do it too big!” she pleaded.

Stunning model Petra nibbled a Buffalo wing to the bone while another model in a sawed-off denim skirt and sparkly Chinatown slippers quietly tucked into a bag of potato chips.

Out in the audience, rapper Ja Rule had his omnipresent Yankees cap cocked to one side, and omni-tan publicist Lizzie Grubman chatted with The Simple Life’s Nicole Richie. “Double-confirmed” guest Jay-Z was a no-show, perhaps because his request to bring a large entourage had been refused. On the opposite side of the runway, actress Vivica Fox was in good spirits in a short denim skirt and a plunging, ruffly beige blouse. Her black hair hung in a sheet to the middle of her back. Wasn’t she nervous at all about sitting in the front row wearing such a short skirt? “You just gotta cross your legs and put a little something here,” she confided, putting the Fusha tip sheet across her lap.

Walking down the runway, the singer took off his white fedora and tossed it to a girl in the front row, who promptly dropped it and then perched it on her head for the show’s entirety. After playing his guitar behind his head, Wyclef concluded his solo by plucking the chords with his tongue à la Jimi Hendrix.

Soon after the last model had stepped off the runway, guests headed westward and piled into the Ruby Falls lounge for the after-party. With no V.I.P. room to huddle in, a furry-faced Dylan McDermott took to a corner to chat up That 70s Show’s Danny Masterson while Bondsman Pierce Brosnan and actress Rosario Dawson wandered the room. Partygoers noshed on a buffet of Buffalo wings, meatballs, fruit and shrimp cocktail that had been transplanted from the fashion show’s backstage. All that sustenance-or the very sight of it-proved too much for one cute twentysomething blonde. Close to midnight, she was found vomiting into a vase while guests looked on in horror.

-Noelle Hancock

Driving Miss Crazy

Writer Amy Fine Collins famously fainted at Plum Sykes’ book party for Bergdorf Blondes back in April. Luckily, the Vogue and Vanity Fair scribe managed to stay erect while launching her own tome at Christie’s on the night of Sept. 9. Her book-the winner of the Longest Subtitle in History Award-is called The God of Driving: How I Overcame Fear and Put Myself in the Driver’s Seat with the Help of a Good and Mysterious Man and details her adventures with an eccentric professional driving teacher named Attila (no Hun intended).

In front of the glass-encased auction house, rain poured onto a large white tent. Underneath, a dark sapphire Bentley Arnage and a red Bentley Continental were on display and being inspected by guests such as International Herald Tribune fashion editor Suzy Menkes and Vogue’s editor-at-large, Hamish Bowles. “I don’t know if I can survive Fashion Week,” said Mr. Bowles. “I’m exhausted and I’m a bit concerned about the next five weeks.” He was all bright greens and oranges in slacks and sport coat. “I start with the socks and work up,” he explained.

Ivana Trump, the publicity-shy ex-wife of an up-and-coming real-estate developer, was refusing interviews. “Please, I’ve been doing this all day!” she pleaded, her cleavage bursting out of a skin-tight leopard-print gown. She had brought her Italian boy-toy Rossano Rubicondi. Up for auction that night were several diamond “right-hand rings,” a gift certificate to Manolo Blahnik, a deluxe balcony stateroom for two aboard a six-day trans-Atlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2 and 30 hours of driving lessons with Attila. Ms. Collins’ “God,” who guarded her flank as she signed books, was dressed in black leather from head to toe.

“Can we make this quick and dirty?” Ms. Collins asked when we requested an interview. Go right ahead. “There are a lot of things that go on in the back seat of a car that I’ve done. It’s about what goes on in the front seat that interests me now. For instance, I was driving on a track in Lime Rock, Conn., in a Dodge Viper and got into a spin and managed to come out of it. It was the biggest and best greatest high I’ve ever known.” Ms. Collins, whose tall frame was draped in a red floor-length Geoffrey Beene gown, had never learned to drive after two grandparents were killed in car accidents and a father was “mangled” in three different accidents throughout her childhood. The memoir was a first for Ms. Collins, who’s more known for profiling dead celebrities such as Truman Capote and Eleanor Lambert. She laughed and shook her head: “I thought anyone who could drive was a genius! What I realized is that no one’s a good driver!” Including Ms. Collins, who may need some more lessons. “The other day, I was pulled over on I-95 on the way to my country house, and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Turns out I was driving too slowly!” What do you recommend telling a cop when he pulls you over? “Well, the joke if you’re a guy and get caught speeding is you say, ‘My wife ran off with a state trooper 10 years ago, and I thought you were returning her to me!'”

-N.H.

Prime-Time Paisans

The stream of fashionable people flowing out of the tents in Bryant Park that evening didn’t know what to think. Blocking the path on the sidewalk was a young couple engaged in a loud conversation. The man, whose shoulder-length bleached-blond hair matched the color of his suit, was casually flexing his right bicep while getting cursed at by his date, a young woman in an off-the-rack gown who appeared to use the same stylist as the man. “Where the fuck is the car?” she blurted in a Russian accent. “Didn’t they say in the front of HBO? Do something. Make call.”

It was Sept. 9, and HBO was screening a two-episode sneak preview of its much-heralded documentary series, Family Bonds, which follows the lives of the Evangelistas, a sprawling Long Island–based family that runs a bail-bond company out of Long Island City, Queens. Half bounty-hunter drama, half domestic comedy, the 10-part series revolves around the family patriarch, Tom, a husky, motorcycle-driving guy’s guy, whose gruff-but-endearing demeanor calls to mind that other staple of HBO programming, Tony Soprano. For over a year, two full-time camera crews followed around Mr. Evangelista and the nine members of his extended clan as they added quirk and circumstance to this Seinfeld-meets-Cops hybrid. There’s an idea of the series’ dual-edged feel: The cameras come along for a gripping raid on a group of Romanian scam artists who jumped bail, but not before the van full of Evangelistas bicker like schoolchildren at one another while becoming hopelessly lost in Queens.

“The only thing I insisted on,” said Tom Evangelista, speaking to The Transom at the screening-party cocktail hour, “no one films me in my bedroom or in the shower naked. Anything [else] they got, they got.”

Mr. Evangelista said he was originally skeptical about the idea of doing a bounty-hunter show, but warmed to the idea when Steven Cantor, the show’s creator, explained that he was equally interested in probing into the lives of Mr. Evangelista’s colorful family.

“We’re one of very few of any bonding companies around here that has the family involved in every aspect of the business,” he said, sporting a very uncharacteristic black-on-black trendy outfit at the show’s premiere. “I think it’s important that people know that bondsman aren’t just the badges. We’re people. And when people come to me and need to have their family members or loved ones bailed out, you gotta have a heart to do this. The only time I draw that line-when I start getting on the other end-is if they don’t show up to court. Other than that, I’m a regular businessman doing my thing.”

The show’s jester and comic relief is Mr. Evangelista’s 36-year-old nephew, Chris, who has been living on the Evangelistas’ couch for six years following his divorce. In the show’s earliest episodes, Tom Evangelista mercilessly taunts Chris about his weight-he was 309 pounds at the start of the shooting. In the show’s fourth episode, the hefty bail bondsman starts a workout regime, which he said he’s maintained to this day-more or less faithfully.

“My trainer’s here,” Mr. Evangelista said outside the screening gallery, “and he’d get on my ass about drinking, because I have a beer here and there … but I’m in the gym five days a week, and I’m looking at 270 [pounds] now.”

The slimmed-down Evangelista, who never seems to miss an opportunity to mug for the camera, said he’d be thrilled at the prospect of another go-round on the reality circuit.

“I love it. I eat it up like cake. I want more,” he said, his mischievous eyes flashing. “If there’s any more wanted for me, I’ll give it all. I’m not worried about it. I’ve got enough to give.”

-Blair Golson

Mike Meets His Match

As far as John Gorman is concerned, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s re-election campaign, a.k.a. Bloomberg ’05, starts now.

That’s because the retired police captain, a Bensonhurst native, is the proud owner of http://www.bloomberg05.com, http://www.bloomberg05.net and http://www.bloomberg05.org. He picked them up on a whim last February, nearly a year before someone at the law firm that represents Mr. Bloomberg, Willkie Farr and Gallagher, registered a slew of related domain names. “I thought, Bloomberg’s got money, maybe he’ll buy it,” he said.

So far, his venture into cybersquatting has been fruitless, but Mr. Gorman figures that “now might be a good time.” In any case, if Mr. Bloomberg-who still controls his old campaign Web site, http://www.mikeformayor.com-won’t deal, Mr. Gorman, a Republican who is “generally supportive” of the Mayor, isn’t about to take his vengeance on the Web.

The former cop does have a backup plan, though. Interested Democrats can contact him for his other holdings: http://www.dumpbloomberg.com, http://www.dumpbloomberg.org and http://www.dumpbloomberg.net.

-Ben Smith