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Close Encounters

If anyone suffered the least bit of confusion over who was being honored at this year's Whitney Gala on Monday night, it was cleared up by the time they arrived in the museum's fourth-floor galleries...

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If anyone suffered the least bit of confusion over who was being honored at this year's Whitney Gala on Monday night, it was cleared up by the time they arrived in the museum's fourth-floor galleries, where a giant, dramatically lit self-portrait of Chuck Close stared down upon the dinner tables.

But the man of the hour was surprisingly nonplussed by all the attention. "I feel like a worm on a hook," he said.

Gala co-chair Meryl Streep was one of the few Close friends in attendance whose portrait wasn't on display. "I did one of those," Streep said, gesturing to a Close daguerreotype of Kate Moss. "But the lights he uses hurt my eyes too much. Not like Kate Moss — she'll look at anything."

Meanwhile, conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner was on the hunt.

"He just told me he's a huge fan of 'The Closer,'" said a surprised Kyra Sedgwick, also a gala co-chair, of her TV series. "I'll definitely come see his show."

After dinner, some braver souls ventured to the museum's packed lower floor for the Studio Party, where Jessica Stam, Margherita Missoni and a tardy Lauren Bush were subject to a sea of suited guys. As one guest put it, "This is like a kegger."

Not so the following afternoon, when Jennifer Creel, Jill Roosevelt and Blair Husain tucked into the Asprey boutique on Madison Avenue for a ladies lunch in honor of creative director Hakan Rosenius, while Lauren duPont and Sally Singer hosted a separate set of socials at Barneys New York for a quick bite to celebrate Isabel Toledo and Anne Klein. There, event designer Raul Avila's rose hedge wall prompted Simon Doonan to spell out Anne Klein in buds on the floor. "Do you think it reads?" he fretted, before grabbing a stem and tangoing with Toledo.

That evening, old-guard socials filed into the City Center to kick off the American Ballet Theatre's fall season. Robert De Niro snuck in with his wife Grace Hightower just as the curtain went up. Afterwards, guests including Muffie Potter Aston, Susan Fales-Hill and Anne Grauso walked a few blocks north to the Mandarin Oriental for dinner, where Aston revealed the rather unlikely person who sparked her interest in the ballet — hubby Sherrell. "I'm probably the only woman in this room who didn't drag her husband kicking and screaming," she said.
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Meanwhile, in Beverly Hills, Olivier Theyskens hosted the Couture Cares lunch at Kelly Wearstler's house, benefiting the Revlon/UCLA Breast Center and sponsored by Neiman Marcus. "I am always a little bit nervous when I present my work," said Theyskens. But he had nothing to fear. His Nina Ricci spring collection was a big hit with co-chair Stephanie Murray and guests Rashida Jones, Jamie Tisch, Colleen Bell and Vanessa Getty.

The designer proved just as popular. "He's just so cute," gushed co-chair Crystal Lourd.
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