You can buy a lot of things in Los Angeles--but the party given this week by the ultra-rich John and Patricia Kluge proved that you can't buy a triple-A event.
It can be good, that's for sure. It's never bad when you have the Kitchen Cabinet and out-of-towners like Anne and Gordon Getty, as the Kluges did when they lavishly hosted the opening of "The Lagoon Cycle" at the County Museum of Art Tuesday. And, as with any event held at LACMA, one automatically gets a certain degree of class and culture.
And it was lavish, with 7,000 feet of specially dyed carpeting covering the floor of "The Clamshell," a pole-less tent.
When part of the neon sign hanging over the bandstand in the tent temporarily burned out, for a short while it read, "AGOON CYCLE." There are, of course, always such glitches in any grandiose evening--even when it's put together by party master Clive David (who probably could make his entire career out of doing these monstrous do's for the Kluges).
But the glitch here was that the imported splendor seemed to miss what L.A. and its night life is all about. This was a party in search of itself--or at least in search of the city it happened to be given in, far from the Kluges' home base in Virginia.
Los Angeles has great party ingredients--experienced corporate heads, studio moguls, art lovers and that most precious of commodities, real live stars. Check any of the two-dozen-plus events the County Museum of Art puts on in any calendar year and you'll find these elements brought together with style, panache and spirit. The Kluges avoided many of the key ingredients--no stars, one studio head and an absence of downtown corporate power.
The guest list did include some "good names," like Morton and Abigail Van Buren Phillips, Occidental's Rosemary Tomisch, Anne and Frank Johnson, Sherry Lansing and architect Richard Meier, Dwight and Dona Kendall ("the exhibit is in our gallery"), Ted and Rhonda Fleming Mann, Iris Cantor (hubby Gerald was home with the flu), and former Ambassador to Mexico John Gavin and his actress wife Connie Towers, who were thrilled about their coming European trip to Paris, London and pheasant hunting. "Leave out the 'h' and it will make the article more interesting," Gavin kidded.
The Kitchen Cabinet was out in almost full force, with partygoers including Betsy Bloomingdale with Martin Manulis, Betty and Bill Wilson, Marion and Earle Jorgensen, Chardee and Tuck Trainer, Harriet and Armand Deutsch. (Bloomingdale had recently been a guest at the Kluges' Albemarle estate, and called the hostess "brillant" and her involvement in the upcoming Virginia Film Festival crucial to its success.)
But little of that "brillance" showed through a very formal evening and very formal receiving line, with the Kluges and artists Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison greeting the guests who were arriving at the tent from the exhibit, a study of the edible crab native to Sri Lanka.
And, in a very formal way, the 200-plus black-tie guests were held in a crowded and small reception area, kept from the actual tables by a velvet rope.
"This is a 'Class A' party," quipped film-maker/restaurateur Tony Bill to his wife Antoinette, "But I only see two familiar faces, so I'm anxious to find out who these people are."
Somerset did fabulous food, and the music from the Art Deco Society Band was great.
So what kept this party from being a top-notch time? Maybe it was the theme. "Do you think it's easy to plan a party around a crab?" quipped party maven David.
Could be that when you import the hosts and the guests, maybe you miss the city. You get a good grade in party giving--but you don't ace the course.