If you were the famous artist Ellsworth Kelly and you were celebrating your 80th birthday — even if you didn’t look it — wouldn’t you be thrilled if the Whitney Museum of American Art gave you a big birthday gala to tell you how much they loved you? With a house so packed you had to use your wiles, if not your elbows, to get through the crowd? And wouldn’t you be tickled Ellsworth-Kelly-pink if your friend Dionne Warwick trilled gems by Burt Bacharach from the museum stage, where she asked you to join her, and you did and gave her a big kiss and whispered in her ear, “You devil you?”
Well, you’re not Ellsworth Kelly and he is, and he had a grand time on his big night at the Red Ball. And, listen to this, it was the biggest and most glamorous gala ever at the museum and raised more than $2 million.
Done up in dazzling red by Colin Cowie and lighted by Bentley Meeker, the Emily Fisher Landau Galleries, where the multitudes sat down to dinner, could have been the Red Sea. Almost all the ladies were done up in shades of red, and even a few fearless gentlemen wore red bow ties. Hilary Swank all but stole the show, in a red-hot chiffon number that she must have been tied into, as the skintight dress by Donna Karan had knots in all the right places.
The chairmen of the night were Susan and John Hess, Evelyn and Leonard Lauder (he’s the chairman of the Whitney) and Sir Evelyn and Lady de Rothschild. Rose Marie Bravo, who has made Burberry an international brand of brands, was the dinner chairman; among the sponsors were Veronica Hearst, another figure of fashion, in red-as-a-rose-red. Alexandra von Furstenberg was escorted by her English boyfriend Tim Jeffries as she has been for the past several months. Others in the crowd were Carolina Herrera; Vera Wang; Stephanie Seymour; Deborah Norville; Pamela Dennis; Dan Akroyd with his wife, Donna Dixon; Donna and Bill Acquavella; Lisa Jackson in Vera Wang; stylish Sally Albermarle; Edgar Bronfman Jr. and his beautiful wife, Clarissa, in gold beads; Jacqueline and Max Anderson, the former museum president, and its new president Robert Hurst with his wife, Soledad. Among the artists were Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Bryce Marden, Richard Serra and Frank Stella.