From left, Sharon Stone and Stefano Tonchi, Catherine Keener and Jacqui… (Donato Sardella )
Rachel Zoe, Monique Lhuillier, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, Pamela Skaist-Levy, Scott Sternberg, Doug Aitken, China Chow, Jacqui Getty and Sharon Stone were among the notable guests who turned out to fete W magazine's 40th birthday at a pair of events in Beverly Hills on Wednesday night.
The festivities began at Saks Fifth Avenue, where W editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi and actress Catherine Keener hosted a cocktail party and Tonchi, armed with a Sharpie pen, signed copies of a new book chronicling the publication's history. Titled "W: The First 40 Years,” and edited by Tonchi with Christopher Bagley and Joseph Logan, it's being published by Abrams in November and is a fabulous collection of archival images. W magazine was first launched in 1972 by legendary Women’s Wear Daily publisher John Fairchild. “The idea for W from the beginning was to talk about fine living,” Fairchild writes in the book’s forward.
For the Saks event, the publication's editors curated an exhibition of photos from the book and arranged them by decade -- each one with corresponding decade-appropriate hors d'oeuvres (chicken vol au vents represented the 1970s, beef Wellington bites for the '80s, sushi rolls for the '90s and farm-to-table burrata on rustic toast for the 2000s).
The provocative photos are a compact history of fashion through the lens of society queens, designers, celebrities and fine artists, beginning with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis snapped on the street in the '70s dressed down in a casual button-down shirt and jeans. "It all started with Mr. Fairchild's obsession with Jackie Onassis," Tonchi said, "[followed by the magazine's] obsession with Madonna, who was on the cover more times than any other person."
There is a great photo from the '80s of Calvin Klein surrounded by a constellation of supermodels, and another of socialite Pat Buckley with her three dogs and what seem like 30 logo suitcases. From the 1990s, there is a waify Kate Moss captured naked on a chaise in a yacht, and a tender photo of Gianni Versace and his sister Donatella taken before he was killed. Another photo, shot in 1990 long before Karl Lagerfeld famously lost weight, shows the designer chowing down on McDonald’s on the Champs Elysees.
In the 2000s, celebrity culture came on strong, as evidenced by the famous Steven Klein photos of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie playing house at the Parker Palm Springs Hotel before they went public with their romance, and the sexy, sweaty shots of David and Victoria Beckham. Throughout the years, W has also commissioned portfolios from some of the world’s most famous contemporary artists, including Barbara Kruger, who turned Mark Seliger’s naked cover shot of Kim Kardashian into a work of art. “It’s all about me. I mean you. I mean me,” Kruger’s overlaid captions read.
Post cocktail party, Tonchi and select guests decamped to the recently renovated Spago restaurant down the street for a private dinner at two long tables covered in red roses. Wolfgang Puck showed off his handiwork in the kitchen, serving tasty short ribs and loup de mer, and his wife Gelila showed off her handiwork on the walls — she curated the stunning, 20-plus works by L.A.-based artists including Aitken and Ed Ruscha that decorate the warm, new dining space.
No birthday celebration would be complete without the singing of "Happy Birthday" and the blowing-out of candles, in this case slender, stick-thin red candles easily a foot-and-a-half long, jutting skyward from each dinner guest's frozen dessert.
No one said as much, but we're guessing that more than a few silently made their own birthday wishes for another 40 glossy, fashion-filled years for W magazine.