An age-old question hung in the air at last Thursday evening’s ACE Black and White Ball at the Edison Ballroom: What do you give the man who has everything? In the case of Henry Buhl, the philanthropist whose 80th birthday was being celebrated, the answer was a lap dance in a room filled with 380 of his closest friends.
The burlesque dancer hired as a “special surprise” for Mr. Buhl’s birthday festivities was of the high-class, retro sort, and didn’t strip down past the limits of a PG-13 rating. That seemed plenty for Mr. Buhl, who sported a wide grin-complementing his ACE-emblazoned tuxedo jacket-for the rest of the night.
Punk legend Patti Smith also took the stage, but stuck to song; “Because the Night” was a highlight for the crowd-which included Kipton Cronkite, Janna Bullock, Ambassador John Loeb and model Ingrid Seynhaeve-as was a Marilyn Monroe-style rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Ms. Smith has been making the charity rounds quite a bit lately, and she told the Transom about her recent gig at the AmFAR gala at Cannes: “I was there with Lenny Kaye, and I performed about three songs, and they did an auction. I think someone paid $100,000 to hear ‘Gloria,’ acoustically. The biggest thing of the night was the photo shoot with Karl Lagerfeld.” (It went for $735,000, for those keeping track.)
Another attendee we were dearly hoping would sing-but who sadly did not-was Countess Luann de Lesseps. She would perform her dance single “Money Can’t Buy You Class” later that night at the nightclub Splash, but attended the Black and White Ball on a purely social basis. Ms. de Lesseps wore her signature one-shoulder dress. “If it works, it works, right?” she asked the Transom. “I don’t know if it works.” We assured her that it works.
Ms. de Lesseps had skipped watching the final reunion special of her reality show The Real Housewives of New York in order to attend the party. “I’m DVRing it,” she said, just as she spotted a friend: “Oh, look, there’s Sonja!” She then trotted off to chat with Sonja Morgan, ex-wife of finance scion John Morgan and Ms. de Lesseps’ Housewives co-star.
Ms. Morgan later told the Transom that her summer plans included traveling with her daughter, “relaxing and letting our hair down, and maybe going topless in France.” The petite Ms. Morgan, in trousers and Prada platforms, stood out in a crowd where ball gowns prevailed. “This is Escada that I picked up in Paris, I guess maybe five years ago. It’s a bustier with chiffon silk pants, with slits up the legs,” she said. She looked a little like Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night as she pulled one slit back to reveal a toned leg-and happened to catch a glimpse of the Transom’s own footwear. “Oh, you’re wearing flat shoes?” she inquired, sounding positively shocked. “You’re very brave!”
Properly chastised, the Transom headed across the room to catch up with Mary Sliwa, the COO of the Guardian Angels (and, not coincidentally, the wife of its founder, Curtis Sliwa), who wore a lovely bejeweled jacket she said she purchased at an antiques show, along with a homemade accessory: “My baby sitter and I made my belt,” she told the Transom.
“Like arts and crafts!” we suggested, to Ms. Sliwa’s slight chagrin.
“More couture,” she said, “but at a very wonderful price.”