It was the biggest in U.S. history. People gasped when they saw it coming. It was scary. It damn near pulled my arms out of their sockets. I am talking about the world’s first Category 6 goodie bag.
In fairness to all concerned, we were given ample warning. Halfway through Allure magazine’s 10th Anniversary Best of Beauty Awards on Monday, Sept. 19, in the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, editor in chief Linda Wells made a speech during which she let it be known that we would, at the close of the evening, be receiving the mother of all goodie bags.
This heavenly hamper turned out to contain everything from Ling Instant Gratification Face-Lift to Fancy-Feet Foot Petals, those tiny pads which stop you flying out of your slingbacks when you’re staggering home laden with goodie bags. To put it simply: It was $2,500 worth of high-class slap, and it was free!
I should point out that Ms. Wells didn’t say the word “slap,” though she probably should have. “Slap” is a common English noun used by housewives and drag queens alike to refer to both makeup and skincare products, as in “I simply must pop into Boots the Chemist and buy some slap.” The American beauty vocabulary is sadly lacking a word like “slap” that covers both maquillage and skincare. I suggest we adopt it forthwith.
Back to the Allure Slap Awards. After the speeches, there was a performance by the singer and Gap spokesmodel Joss Stone, who, apart from needing a dollop or two of foot cream, seemed like a lovely young lady. However, though we clapped and hollered, none of us were really concentrating: All we could think about was the crate of award-winning slap that awaited us.
The frenzied post-performance stampede over the ramparts of oversized brown canvas totes that filled the Rainbow Room coat check was a media-worthy sight. Where was Anderson Cooper? Where was Geraldo? Though completely and utterly hilarious, it was just a warm-up for the shenanigans which ensued as wild-eyed guests began to wrestle their goodie bags across the carpet and out of the building.
According to Ms. Wells, it had taken eight hours to get the 280 bags—almost 10,000 pounds of slap in toto—up to the 65th floor. How to evacuate? Allure publisher Nancy Berger Cardone solved the problem by providing an army of strapping young men to Sherpa our slap-sacks down to our waiting Town Cars. Unfortunately, there weren’t quite enough hunks to go around, and a significant number of us were sans Town Car.
The site of so many schvitzing beauty-industry execs dragging their goodie bags along 49th Street, desperately flagging down cabs or attempting to wedge themselves up the stairs of M.T.A. buses, recalled one of the more grueling challenges on Survivor.
Having had a double-hernia operation back in the 1970’s—the result of lifting too many store mannequins—I was even more reluctant to carry my own bag than most of these pampered professionals. Thinking moderately quickly, I eventually slipped one of the Sherpas $5 and, potentate-like, proceeded grandly towards Fifth Avenue, where I found a taxi in no time. I swear that I could hear the chassis dragging along the ground as we sped off.
The next morning, wild rumors circulated in the slap community of drunken, horny execs taking home more than just the goodie bag. One can well imagine the kittenish overture to the Sherpa: “Bring this goodie bag back to my apartment, Pablo, and I’ll show you my two goodie bags.”
When I checked in with Ms. Wells to thank her for an unforgettable evening, she told me the tragic tale of one Allure staffer who stumbled in her Manolos and was clunked on the head by the closing elevator doors. “She rode down with colleagues holding a cocktail napkin to her bleeding brow,” Ms. Wells chuckled compassionately, adding: “She was still clutching the handles of her goodie bag.”
According to Ms. Wells, one out-of-town Allure advertiser had a nightmarish experience at the airport: She would have missed her flight had the security agent not gone limp from boredom and fatigue halfway through searching the bag. As a token gesture, he confiscated her vibrating razor.
One male cosmetics executive, not wishing to be encumbered at an après-awards dinner, declined the goodie bag. The next day, his wife heard about it from a friend and is on the verge of instigating divorce proceedings.
All of this begs the question of why we care so much. Why goodie bags, and why now? How did the goodie bag become so culturally central? What is the deeper meaning of this phenomenon? Is it connected to global warming? Who knows? One thing’s for sure: In centuries to come, our epoch will be seen as the Golden Age of Swag. Future generations of social anthropologists will look back at the early 21st century and, scratching their heads, write complex papers about that bizarre era when people refused to go anywhere unless they were rewarded for their pains with sackfuls of graft.
Let’s close with a heartwarming tip e-mailed to me by a West Coast reader who has been raising money for Red Cross hurricane relief by selling the contents of her goodie bags on eBay: “I recently flogged a tube of StriVectin,” wrote this inveterate partygoer, “the hot stretch-mark-cum-wrinkle cream, from Miramax’s 2004 Golden Globes party goodie bag. It went for over $100 … ka-ching! … Would’ve been more if I’d saved the box.”