Full Speed

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Full Speed

There are many things I am currently lusting after. A Tord Boontje chandelier. Riccardo Tisci’s fall collection for Givenchy (and the body to wear it). More closet space. A car is not among them.

See, I grew up in New York City. Which means I knew how to ride the subway before I learned the difference between the gas pedal and the brake—which I never really did, since I don’t know how to drive.

The irony was not lost on me, then, that on Thursday night I found myself in the Jacob Javits Center at the opening of the 2011 New York International Auto Show, surrounded by—you guessed it—cars. As in, some of the most expensive and technologically advanced vehicles in the world over which many men were salivating and in which I had little interest unless they came equipped with a full-time chauffeur.

But the evening was not about me or my inability to maneuver an automobile, a skill most people half my age possess. It was the annual East Side House Settlement Gala Preview, hosted by Lotus Cars, and benefiting the non-profit’s endeavors to provide children and families with educational tools and support.

blog-auto-show-01.jpgFrom left: Fe Fendi, Bettina Zilkha

Unlike most such charity events, the enormous, windowed venue was packed with men in suits (many tie-less), who more than outnumbered the malnourished young women in clingy dresses the size of cocktail napkins.

“That’s what you call reverse cankles,” said Shannon, my friend and date, as we gawked at one particularly underfed specimen with non-existent calf muscles.

blog-auto-show-02.jpgFrom left: Lake Bell, Susan Fales-Hill

The males had plenty to keep them busy besides the eye candy, female and mechanical. There was a silent auction loaded with Y chromosome-friendly items like a pair of boxing gloves signed by Muhammad Ali ($3000), a baseball penned by Mickey Mantle ($2500) and even an acoustic guitar autographed by Justin Bieber ($2200). Okay, maybe that last one could have gone either way.

But these guys seemed in touch with their feminine sides, too. At one of the many bars dotting the space a trio of dudes inquired of the bartender, “Can I have the pink drink?”

“What pink drink?” he responded. “Do we make a pink drink?”

Disappointed, they settled with wine.

Dinner proved equally entertaining. At benefit co-chair Fe Fendi’s table Susan Fales-Hill entertained birthday boy Peter Bacanovic, while Fendi chatted about her upcoming Lady Gaga concert Saturday night and Easter plans (“I’m not cooking. It’s a waste of time,” she laughed.).

blog-auto-show-03.jpgFe Fendi with Peter Bacanovic

Lydia Fenet oversaw the live auction whose star lot was the 2011 Lotus Evora IPS sports car, which went for $80,000 (I would try to elaborate on its many qualities, but the brochure description may as well be written in Arabic). Rather dramatically it was driven straight into the middle of dinner, stopping just a few feet from Bacanovic’s chair.

“You almost got run over. Happy Birthday, Peter!” said Bettina Zilkha from a nearby table.

Fortunately he stayed healthy long enough to receive a chocolate birthday cake and round of singing and well wishes.

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