Then, “everyone has to walk this gauntlet of servants lined up on either side,” said one attendee. At the end of the line was the queen, Ms. Wintour, flanked by the arguable belle of the ball, Cate Blanchett, in fringed gold Balenciaga.
Dinner was announced with a long Henry VIII—style trumpet fanfare. As the hungry hordes poured into the banquet room, they were greeted by Vogue editor at large André Leon Talley, draped in a giant navy tent-like cape, lounging on one of the many couches that lined the walls. “Welcome to my home,” he bellowed upon spotting his friend Donatella Versace, and then erupted into laughter.
Caviar on smoked salmon, veal and chocolate mousse were served. Then Jennifer Hudson performed. “She went on for a good 15 minutes,” said a witness. “Half the crowd was really into it, and half the crowd was just having none of it.”
Guests gushed further that the room’s décor was very “intimate” and “comfy,” despite the grandeur of the event. “It was very warm,” said hotelier André Balazs, who turned up later at an after-party at the Box on Chrystie Street. (The Olsen twins, Damon Dash and Mick Jagger stopped by Mr. Chow’s first.) “I’ve never seen that room like that. You were surrounded by all these panels that were hand-painted murals on canvas …. And the whole room was sensual, and there was this sisal carpet. It was a very—strangely enough—intimate evening.”
Actress Rose McGowan didn’t agree. “There were a ton of people I don’t know,” said she, ravishing in J. Mendel, at the Box. “I get nervous around people I don’t know.” She said that she had been introduced to several doctors. Doctors! “You just look at all these people and you say, ‘I don’t know any of you, and I feel completely out of place.’ And you think, ‘Why am I here? You’re all very tall.’” She laughed a great toothy laugh.
“I’m not usually very serious about being myself, and then all of a sudden I felt as if I had to be serious,” Ms. McGowan continued. “So I acted.”
It was now 2 a.m., and the stuffing was clearly coming out of the evening. Many of the women had traded in their long gowns for cocktail dresses. Tuxedo ties swung free about the collar.
Lindsay Lohan swept in and was immediately ushered into the downstairs of the burlesque theater by its bearded proprietor, Simon Hammerstein.
And at the top of the stairs, Jennifer Connelly and her husband, Paul Bettany, were having a little tiff.
“You totally just walked away from me,” whined Mr. Bettany.
“No, I didn’t, honey,” pleaded Ms. Connelly.
“Yes, you did!”
The argument resolved itself quickly, and the couple headed arm-in-arm toward the main room. There, in a booth near the stage, were Mr. Jagger and the chain-smoking Ms. Dunst, sharing a booth.
Ms. McGowan and her new beau, Grindhouse director Robert Rodriguez, were on their way out. Mr. Rodriguez had opted not to attend the gala. “I heard what it was all about, and I was like, ‘I’ll turn right,’” he said. “I just wanted to come for the fun part.”