After a week of Armory parties, museum galas, and movie premieres, a little perspective was in order. After all, there is more to life than reporting on the cultural whims of the city’s 1%, right? (What we wouldn’t give for a dive bar to drink away our Friday night.) We compromised by going to the United Nations and celebrating International Women’s Day–a day late, but the Women in the World Conferencem of which the night was a part of, lasts 72 hours, so technically we were just celebrating outside the illusion of time–at the 3rd Annual Diane von Furstenberg Awards.
Sure, the room was jam-packed with stars eating shrimp cocktail: Ms. von Furstenberg herself, husband Barry Diller, Tina Brown, Fran Lebowitz, Diane Sawyer, Lauren Bush, Debra Winger, Oprah(tm), and, just for funsies, Jessica Alba. But the evening, sponsored by the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation to honor five women from around the globe who had “demonstrated leadership, strength, and courage in their respective fields,” added an air of levity to the proceedings that might have been lacking at the Independent earlier in the week.
That didn’t mean there wasn’t some schmoozing to be done. We found ourselves seated at a table made up almost entirely of Newsweek/Daily Beast employees–which makes sense, since Newsweek co-sponsers the event–and when Tina Brown rushed over to spill that she was wearing the same dress as *whisper whisper undecipherable name*, we seized our chance. “We’ll switch dresses with you Tina!” we generously offered the media mogul. We would even throw in our lovely Occulter jewelry with our borrowed Gemma Kahng dress if she wanted. Ms. Brown soundlessly laughed and shook our hand as she declined (boo! We wanted changing room stories with Tina Brown!), managing to crush almost every single bone in her mighty grip. Nursing our throbbing appendage in ice, we tried to get some sympathetic gossip from our table-mates. Who dared to show up wearing Ms. Brown’s grey flowered frock. They were tight-lipped about the offending party, but did offer condolences.
“Did she shake you with her left hand or right?” Asked one writer.
We thought it was her right hand.
Once the show began, we were a little shocked to see how many people stayed on their cell phones and texted while honoree Chouchou Namegabe from Vital Voices described in graphic detail a recent gutting of a seventh-month pregnant woman in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Come on guys, Angry Birds can wait. (Then again, maybe we were just bitter: our phone had died on the way over.)
Of course, when Ms. von Furstenberg introduced Oprah, who was receiving an award as well as giving one to Ms. Dugard, all cell phones immediately went into recording mode.
Earlier in the evening, we heard an overwrought assistant complaining that Ms. O had wanted her speech changed at the last moment, but when you’re dealing with Oprah, it doesn’t matter if you know how the sausage was made. When she began to talk about the 18 years Ms. Dugard had spent being held in captivity after being abducted at age 11, we admit our eyes had begun to water. By the time the now 31-year-old came up on stage and hugged Oprah, we were openly crying that way that makes other people near you at social events mildly uncomfortable. We didn’t care. It was Oprah. You’re supposed to cry.
After the ceremony, we stood next to a throng congratulating Ms. von Furstenberg, trying to manuever a hello while still fixing our runny mascara. But the Belgian-American designer saw us first.
“Look at you! You are so pretty…you look like a giant tattoo!” The fashion icon declared.
She turned to a group of French women with whom she had been previously conferring, and pointed at us. “Like one big tattoo, yes? So interesting!”
On the way out, we ran into Ms. Brown again, and told her that she needn’t have worried: we hadn’t seen one person wearing her dress. She made that soundless laugh again and reached out her hand. We winced, and bravely faced another bone-shattering squeeze.
So we guess the moral of the evening–besides the fact that you should never invite Jessica Alba to speak at an event about atrocities against women in third world countries–was that one should never get into an arm-wrestling match with Tina Brown. She will literally crush you.
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