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"We almost went there once," claimed Peter Sarsgaard.
"No, we almost went to Dubai," his fiancée Maggie Gyllenhaal corrected him.
"Close enough, right?" Sarsgaard answered.
Kind of — Qatar (pronounced "cutter" if you're a Brit, "ka-tar" if you're American) juts out into the Persian Gulf on a peninsula about 250 miles west of Dubai. But regardless of geography, guests found it worth their while to feign some interest in the locale. As Chloë Sevigny put it, "It's always good to get in with the airlines."
After a lobster dinner, Ross took to the stage in full sequined gowns and metallic platform shoes ("must be leftover from 'The Wiz,'" said one guest). Her Motown hits inspired Christine and Steve Schwarzman to slow dance and Gayle King, Ann Dexter-Jones, Allison Sarofim and Julianne Moore to bop around like teenagers. The audience was so inspired that, just before stashing the Qatar Airways linen napkins in their purses as souvenirs (what, the nanos weren't enough?), they grabbed peonies from the Colin Cowie-designed centerpieces and tossed them on stage for the diva.
The Middle East was also the hot topic downtown at the inaugural Afghan Hands benefit. The white Chelsea gallery space at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. was transformed into a bazaar — only this one was hawking such wares as red-carpet dresses worn by Jessica Biel. The charity, which provides employment for Afghani women in workshops where they create intricately embroidered shawls, was founded by Neutrogena cosmetic science expert Matin.