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Not even industry jester Simon Doonan, who presented the International Award to Dries Van Noten, could get much of a laugh at Monday's CFDA Fashion Awards at the New York Public Library. His ribbing of André Leon Talley for "renting" a turban and diamond pin fell completely flat, and emcee Fran Lebowitz's wit was so dry that it too elicited little response — though there were some chuckles when she needled the fashion industry's "obsession with the middle-aged....If you see a young, beautiful person, be nice to them," she pleaded. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, two of New York's funniest women, didn't fare much better with their accessories routine. Fey's "Spanx" weren't accessories, Poehler said, but "undersadness." In the end, it was up to Board of Director's Special Tribute recipient Mayor Michael Bloomberg — not particularly known for his comedic chops — to lighten up the crowd when he sheepishly apologized for his tux: "My skinny jeans are at the cleaners, and my gladiator sandals are being resoled," he explained.
Perhaps the typically cool reception to shtick is why fewer A-list celebrities are attending as presenters: The word on the street about this hard-to-please bunch must have spread.
Not even crowd favorite, the much imitated Eugenia Sheppard Award winner Candy Pratts Price, took the opportunity to cut up on stage. Most commonly, the winners thanked the CFDA and Anna Wintour, which just might be leading the factions from Elle, Harper's Bazaar and In Style to contemplate some form of sedition.
As for the videos, they're getting slicker every year, with even a few name directors like Mike Figgis and Douglas Keeve (and Diane von Furstenberg for Van Noten). They had their amusing moments — Tom Ford's faux move on "shrink" Gabriel Byrne treading the line between funny and peculiar or Pratts Price's voiced-over Kate Moss — but the onscreen efforts suffered from the same cool reception that greeted the onstage players.
All of this isn't to say that the night didn't have its share of high points — led by the punctual start and fast pace of the awards ceremony, which took on a theater-style format with refreshingly brief acceptance speeches, and von Furstenberg's opening of the evening with poignant words about Yves Saint Laurent. "He was a visionary who brought art into fashion and fashion into art," the CFDA president said. "He always teased that he would have liked to be Matisse, but I think Matisse would have liked to be Yves Saint Laurent."