Top-billed guest Wendi Murdoch was notably absent from last night’s Mission of Mermaids film premiere/pre-World Oceans Day celebration at MoMA. Whatever engagement precluded her attendance (intercepting another airborne pie, perhaps), the evening went on mostly unhampered. Guests still turned out to celebrate the 19-minute self-proclaimed “love letter to the ocean,” written, directed and narrated by Susan Rockefeller.
The evening, hosted by Ms. Rockefeller and her husband, David Rockefeller, Jr., was sponsored by luxury Swiss watchmakers Girard-Perregaux. Their former motto: “Watches for the few since 1791.” In honor of Ms. Rockefeller’s film and her husband’s nautical charity, Sailors for the Sea, the aforementioned few will have the opportunity to pick up a limited edition marine blue Girard-Perregaux Sea Hawk 1000m timepiece at an eco-friendly $10,900 price tag.
Hostess Ms. Rockefeller made her way breezily down the blue carpet in an abstract print shift. “I actually was inspired by the photographs of Ricardo Cisneros, who’ll be showing his photographs at the after-party,” she told us. “They’re so beautiful—they represent all the mystery of the ocean. So I went downtown and found this fabric and I had it made myself. The fabric is really soft and it feels like I’m in the water.”
Sowind Group (Girard-Perregaux’s parent company) CEO Michele Sofisti did not appear to feel like he was in water of any kind, but assured us he would be soon: ”In the summer I go to the ocean, but normally in the Mediterranean. Ocean water is always beautiful when it’s green, and when it’s protected.” Your move, Mrs. Murdoch.
IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond and wife Peggy Bonapace were also in attendance “We’re dedicated every year to coming out with an environmental movie, and saving the planet,” Ms. Bonapace told us.
From across the space we caught a glimpse of Bill Cunningham, camera in hand, but by the time we made it through the throng the beloved photographer was nowhere to be found. At 7:00, guests were corralled toward the theatre for the evening’s screening. The Observer was impressed by the unfaltering efforts of many to bring their beverages into the theatre, despite the steady stream of those being sent back to dispose of the offending drinks. We ditched our own wine (with minimal skulking, to our credit) and filed in. As the dim theatre filled with guests searching out seats near their friends, we couldn’t help but think of a high school assembly. But was anyone cutting?
To our right was George Frampton, Jr., former Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who had recently returned from an Al Gore-helmed trip to Antarctica alongside the corporate Chuck Norris, Sir Richard Branson. Of the outing Mr. Frampton told us, “It’s amazing how narrow the ecosystem it is, but how rich. And it’s all about the ocean, because once you go a hundred yards inland in Antarctica, there’s nothing.”
And what was it like to travel with Sir Richard? “He’s involved in this deep dive thing, so he talked a lot about that. He seems a lot more interested in that than he is in running his company. But probably he can afford to be at this point,” he laughed.
Though our mind danced with visions of Virgin-branded emperor penguins and polar bears, model/actress Jo Champa soon purred a “Good evening,” and introduced the film.
Mission of Mermaids is equal parts marine love letter and plea to the viewer to do their part (eating sustainable seafood, refusing single-use plastic). In an effort to be as carbon-neutral as possible, the film is comprised mainly of found footage culled from YouTube and other sources, as well as footage shot by Ms. Rockefeller on the beaches of Long Island. She hopes to make the film available in its entirety on YouTube once it’s finished the festival circuit. Her husband mused in the post-screening Q&A, “I was just thinking there should be a YouSale, as well as a YouTube…” There was some laughter.
Guests trickled out of the theatre and into a waiting cache of statuesque women in gowns, each bearing a tray of stainless steel straws. “To re-use instead of plastic,” one woman instructed us. On the neck of each straw were the words “Protect what is precious.” Like one’s stainless steel straw, perhaps. Model Nina Manuel was seen popping hers into a blood orange daiquiri.
We caught up with Chip Henderson, manager of Girard-Perregaux’s Madison Avenue boutique. Had the limited edition Sea Hawk 1000m been flying off the shelves? “We’ve sold two through the boutique, we donated the two tonight [that were given to Mr. and Ms. Rockefeller], and the run is a total of fifteen pieces.” The Observer crossed paths with one partygoer who was so taken with the piece that he had already arranged to pick one up the next morning as a fifteenth anniversary present.
A History of Violence producer and entertainment lawyer Roger Kass echoed the sentiments of many in his praise for Mission of Mermaids: “I thought it really delivered on a really important message in a succinct way,” he told us.
When at last we were able to grab co-host David Rockefeller, Jr. he was every bit the supportive husband. “I was so proud of Susan and her film. I think any time an artist puts their work into what might be an intellectual community, you fear that things that are messages to the heart won’t be messages to the mind. But I feel she touched a lot today.”
And what does the future hold for Mr. Rockefeller’s steel straw? “Oh, sipping ice tea…”
Eventually the crowd thinned, the dulcet tones of Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You,” punctuated by the occasional clink of a straw falling to the floor. We overheard one waiter proudly tell a guest of the paper goods, “And did you know the napkins are actually biodegradable?”
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