“I’m sorry, we’re out of Champagne,” the bartender told a striking woman who stood before him in the Guggenheim’s stirring atrium, where the grand white gallery ramps rise in curling white eddies–all leading to Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic skylight. A sampling of uptown glitterati (and the highest echelon of museum board members) had gathered for the unveiling of the 2010 Hugo Boss Prize, a $100,000 grant that goes to an artist of any medium or homeland.
The award was the evening’s ostensible raison d’être, but at the moment all that mattered was Champagne. “You’re out?” the woman asked. She was crestfallen, and walked away. A small tragedy, yes, but remarkable: The Observer discovered, within minutes, that there was no such shortage of bubbly. It had just been stockpiled over at a particular bar, nestled by a semi-walled-off corner, where Adrien Brody, Alan Cumming and others had fashioned themselves a makeshift VIP section.
MOST OF THE men and woman dressed with glammed-up restraint, but Paul Johnson-Calderon–the attention-prone party boy who has the distinction of once accompanying Tinsley Mortimer into the realm of reality TV, on the CW’s High Society–had spiced up his look with black nail polish. Over gin and tonics, he told us about his new line of bow ties, one of which he was donning, and introduced us to a line of identical male models with identical amounts of stubble.
But with the award presentation impending, we made our way to that vaulted nook that the night’s big names were so taken with. 30 Rock‘s Katrina Bowden sipped from her Champagne flute–the stuff had appeared, magically!
“I’ve always been a fan of Hugo Boss!” she told The Observer. “I love what they do with taking up with the Guggenheim foundation, giving these prizes every year to artists. I’m an art fan.”
The young actress was also happy to whet our appetite for 30 Rock-related small talk. “Favorite guest star ever? Um, Jennifer Aniston was great.”
A few feet away, we noticed Mr. Cumming’s wily Cheshire Cat grin affixing itself on Adrien Brody, whom he was soon embracing. “Adrien, how’re you doing!” Mr. Cumming exclaimed.
Then the music emanating from the DJ booth hushed for the presentation of the prize. It went to German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann, known for his installations. The ceremony was short, and once it was over, the crowd quickly returned to the Champagne and plentiful hors d’oeuvres.
Later in the evening, Mr. Cumming was loose enough to talk. It did, however, take some prodding.
“I don’t want to talk to the man from The New York Observer,” he said.
But Alan, why not?
“Because … I’m drunk? And I don’t have much to say right now.”
That doesn’t matter, we insisted.
“You can ask one question. Think about it, take your time.”
We thought about it, and went with one about The Tempest, Julie Taymor’s new silver-screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s final play, which stars Mr. Cumming as Sebastian.
“No, I’m not gonna talk about that. Think of another one.”
So we asked about his cologne line, which was launched with a viral video in which a naked Alan claimed it would get its users laid. He called it “Cumming, The Fragrance.”
There was a very long pause.
“Well …” he said. “I’m not a businessman. But I’ll tell you this. I love the whole concept. It went out there, people liked it, people became obsessed with it or people were like, ‘What’s going on!’ I loved the way it started. The guy who made it–it was kind of mass-produced, but the guy who made it, he usually makes oils. There were leftover portions [of the cologne], which he’s making into an oil. He’s donated all the money to charity and it’s called–guess what?–’The Second Cumming.’”