“Sarah Jessica invited me,” said television personality Amy Sedaris. “I’ve never even been to the ballet!” The actress, who played Sarah Jessica Parker’s publisher on Sex and the City, was standing alone in the midst of a crowded cocktail party before the New York City Ballet’s Fall Gala at Lincoln Center last Thursday. Ms. Parker, one of the evening’s co-chairs and a friend of the guest of honor, tan and glam designer Valentino Garavani, had yet to walk the red carpet.
“I love the sets, though,” said the ballet neophyte, in a tea-length dress as starchy as a tutu. “But he just told me”—she gestured at a nearby party guest—“that the stage is very bare tonight!”
Ms. Sedaris had slightly more knowledge about the evening’s program than did broadcasting icon Barbara Walters. We asked her what her favorite ballet was. “Tell me what the ballet is tonight,” she told us gamely, “and I’ll tell you it’s my favorite!”
We inquired about the just-announced joint interview with Barack and Michelle Obama on The View the following week. Would Ms. Walters go hard or soft on the president and first lady? “Both hard and soft!” she told us. “We’ve been writing questions all day!
“You know, there are five women asking questions, and two interview subjects—both of them,” she continued, before the conversation was interrupted by a magenta-clad, jewel-bedecked interloper. “The bar would not serve me!” she shouted. It was Princess Firyal of Jordan.
“This is a reporter,” said Ms. Walters.
“So write that!” the princess cried. “Write that they are closed, that they would not even serve me two sips of water!”
We promised we would denote the bar’s closure at the very moment we glimpsed Iman snapping pictures with well-wishers. “Let’s do a prom photo!,” said a male friend of hers. We caught her as she entered the crush of people in the entryway to the bar area. “Follow me,” she exhorted, leading us to the quieter balcony, which overlooked a slew of people rushing through the lobby to claim their seats. Who were we to argue? We asked about her relationship with Valentino, the designer who’d crafted the costumes for the evening’s ballet. “He’s a great host. He makes sure a huge party feels like an intimate gathering. He has staff that helps him—but it feels as though he’s doing it all himself! There are people doing it, but he’s very involved.”
Anjelica Huston paused in her conversation with Ron Rifkin (who’d played one of Carrie Bradshaw’s Vogue editors, and who we later saw embracing Ms. Parker—she knows how to gather a posse!) to speak to us about Valentino, for whom she’d worked as a model in the 1980s. She was not wearing Valentino this evening. “The dresses were a bit small for me!” she explained. “These days, he’s designing for small Italian women.”
We’d gotten caught up chatting and had little time to tarry before the ballet began: rushing up the stairs to the first circle, we realized we were behind a group of men gathered around Ms. Parker herself (husband Matthew Broderick was absent, likely performing in his Broadway show, Nice Work If You Can Get It). The group moved as one—to a closed bar station so that Ms. Parker could grab a napkin to spit out her gum—then headed to the center of the first circle, where, all in a row, Iman, Valentino, Ms. Huston and Ms. Parker formed one very glamorous cheering circle. The ballet was preceded by a video in which celebrity friends who couldn’t be present testified to Valentino’s genius. Hugh Jackman, in a maroon henley, talked about how Valentino criticized his wardrobe; Meryl Streep read his name in an exaggerated Italian accent; and Rita Wilson commented on his impressive tan.
At intermission, we joined the crowd swarming outside—including Anne Hathaway, in near-transparent embroidered green Valentino. She recalled for us a Valentino party of past vintage—she’d been one of the attendees at his 40th anniversary celebration in Rome. “It was a very good party, with aerial ballet dancers,” the Les Miserables actress told us crisply. She’d first met the designer on the set of The Devil Wears Prada, at which time, we posited, she must have been relatively green.
“Quite,” she replied, turning away.
The curtain rose upon the magical second act, the world premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Bal de Couture, with elaborate black-and-white tulle gowns with hidden fuchsia lining. Valentino himself came out after the ballerinas’ bows to adjust a tutu’d black swan’s crown and announce, “The most important thing is that all of you came to see my clothes—but what is very important is being a part of the New York City Ballet.”
Immediately afterward, as patrons noshed on a dinner of lobster and salmon—and Valentino circled past our table declaring “Oh, I’m so happy!”—Ms. Parker addressed a small circle of reporters (she’d left her matching cape at her dinner seat, next to Bravo executive Andy Cohen, in order to accept thanks for hosting the event and circulate). Asked whether she wished to wear the Valentino ballet costumes she’d seen onstage that evening, she noted, “We all spend a lifetime looking at things we can’t have—that’s the beauty of having eyes. That’s why there’s museums, theater, music!” She said Valentino had first invited her to dinner five or six years ago, and that he was, indeed, a wonderful host.