New Yorkers are familiar with masks, at least of the psychological variety. There’s the nodding, agreeable mask we put on when asked to perform an odious task. The frowning, “of-course-you-haven’t” mask when a spouse asks if they’ve gained weight. The cheerful, enthusiastic mask when schlepping to the depths of Brooklyn in the rain for an acquaintance’s birthday party. And so on. (There are also, of course, the more physical renditions that come courtesy of the city’s top plastic surgeons.)
This is all to say that charity circuit regulars were well equipped for the Save Venice foundation’s Un Ballo in Maschera (masked ball for those who didn’t take a year abroad in Italy) Monday night at 583 Park Avenue. Themed “A Night on the Lido” and sponsored by Badgley Mischka and de Grisogono, the event brought out all manner of interpretations on the stylistic cue from the meek (that would be me, arriving mask-free and grabbing a pedestrian one from a giveaway basket up front) to the bold (a woman seemingly channeling Isabelle from Dangerous Liaisons).
Mark Badgley and James Mischka
Cocktails were on the mezzanine level, transformed along with the table-filled space down below into a scene straight from a Venetian beach. Blue and white awning stripes covered canopies over multiple bars procuring bellinis and all manner of spirits, while white clad servers passed around prosciutto wrapped grissini and mini steak filet bites. Champagne buckets with bottles were strewn about so guests could refill their own glasses. It was all rather chic, with one slight misstep, so to speak: the bars were all up rather precarious steps, made all the more so by gowns with multi-foot trains. And the perimeter of the balcony level was so narrow that as one man put it, “One lane traffic only!”
From left: Dayssi Kanavos; Jamie Tisch
“I can’t move,” said Alexandra Lebenthal in a red ball gown whose skirt was comprised of an aviary worth of hand dyed feathers to ombré effect. She wasn’t kidding—she barely budged for the entirety of cocktails, even as a man whose mask sprouted a large sharp nose banged into her.
“Sorry, my beak bumped into you,” he apologized.
Tableau vivant: men in vintage bathing suits and women in Badgley Mischka Gowns
Soon it was time for dinner, at tables under umbrellas covered in the same awning stripes. Cornelia Guest and others at my table stuck their masks into the centerpiece, the better to eat (or drink). On a stage, a tableau of female models dressed in Badgely Mischka and holding parasols (“We got them from laceparasol.com,” James Mischka confided to me. “We googled ‘parasols.’”) stood for the entirety of dinner, flanked by two strapping male models in vintage onesie bathing suits.
“It was our first male casting,” said Mischka. “We chose guys who didn’t have body hair.”
As dessert was served, Mischka and Mark Badgley presented awards for best male, female and couples masks. Donna Cruz won in the ladies category with a crystal emblazoned number.
“I knew it was over when I saw her,” said Guest of the contest.
Winners of best couple masks: from left, Will Cotton, Susan Krysiewicz, Rose Dergan, and Thomas Bell
A young man sprouting what looked like a silver reindeer antler from his mouth took one for the guys. There was a tie for couples: one pair seemed to have built veritable castles onto their heads.
Then onto the dance floor, which became a mélange of Journey, Rihanna and men in tuxes with lace covering their eyes.
Jamie Tisch wandered around with a multi foot high black, feathered piece on her head.
“I feel like a show girl,” she joked as she scanned the room. “I can’t find my date because I forget what mask he’s wearing.”
Photos: Julie Skarratt