Ad Nauseam

Photo by Jack GouldA hard-hitting story a couple of months ago by the crack Times gossip columnist Ann Conway did a magnificent job of exposing the back-scratching symbiosis between arts organizations and such enemies of the people as Cartier and Tiffany. Conway charged that such high-end culture factories as the Orange County Performing Arts Center and the Orange County Museum of Art spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on premiums for their rich benefactors in an ever-more-frantic circle of fortune hunting; in one case, gala-goers were treated to donated pearls. The sad truth, of course, is that local "patrons" of the arts expect champagne colonics in return for their tax-deductible "gifts." One patroness of a local museum calls ahead when she's going to lunch so they can freshen a table with her personal linen. According to local arts personages, she's a monster. And that's the way business is done.

Though we could never hope to best it, we at the Weekly are happy to follow up Conway's Pulitzer Prize-worthy expos with one of our own. Hold on to your hats: the Philharmonic Society pimps for Mont Blanc and Versace, all in the name of Beethoven!

It's true. For a kind of Junior League scavenger hunt at South Coast Plaza on March 25, the Philharmonic invited select Big Money-we're talking big money of the likes of Anton Segerstrom, who was hangin' with a posse from the Huntington Beach Art Center-to case the goods in nine luxury retailers, with said luxury retailers handing 15 percent of the evening's receipts to the Philharmonic. Anyone who got seven of the nine locations to sign off won a chance to win a $3,000 shopping spree. And there were martinis involved.

Friends of ours were shocked and appalled by the number of faces melting like Dali or Michael Jackson and the number of solid-gold belts, as though the perps just didn't know what to do with all their lovely piles of money. Unfortunately, we were too busy (in what was really a shocking breach of ettiquette, and we're really really ashamed of ourselves) scouring the place for hors d'oeuvres to notice.

We began in a roped-off atrium, where we had a nice chat with our favorite party girl, the Bowers Museum of Cultural Arts' main curator, Janet Baker, who is beginning work on an exhibition of items from the Forbidden City, including a toilet in padded yellow silk, as opposed to the tin bucket the Last Emperor had to pee in when he was sent to a re-education camp after those damn commies took over. We then "listened" to speeches by French people and knocked down any waiter bearing those marvelous little smoked-salmon treats.

And then, dear readers, the madness began. In an ever-widening circle of foraging for food, we began at the children's boutique Bonpoint, where they were offering for free (with purchase) a full-size Bonpoint eau de toilette for your special child. In as shocking a display of French excess as has been seen since Marie Antoinettelost her tete, the bote offers teensy little smocks and cream-linen gowns for les enfants (we're talking rugrats under the age of 1) for up to $313. What kind of person thinks that's okay? If we won the lottery and all of a sudden had $119 million at our disposal (because doesn't it seem like a waste of time to win the lottery for anything less than $50 million?), we still wouldn't buy $313 dresses for babies. The only person we can imagine doing so-trussing her children up in eternal fear of a pudding driblet-is Mommie Dearest. We appreciated the caviar, though.

Next it was Baccarat, where we saw horsies and bunnies shaped from the finest crystal. In what was a death-defying leap of taste-we mean more death-defying than crystal bunnies and even more than vans airbrushed with stacked nekkid mermaids-the extravagant chandelier, with all its individual diamond-shaped drops of crystal, was illuminated by crooked electric candles with tacky paper shades. While they're at it, why don't they just serve up some Boone's Strawberry Hill from their crystal goblets?

We moved on-our souls shaken, not stirred-to Mont Blanc. They didn't have any hors d'oeuvres, but they did have $11,500 pens. Weeklyreporter Tony "The Pen" Pignataro opined that he would rather have a 10-pack of $1,000 pens than one $10,000 pen. Which would you choose?

We got the hell out of Dodge and into Versace-for the tiramis. Did you know Donatella is certifiably insane? The new line is a mishmash of 1978 grandma-sewnLove Boat wear in lavender and teal. The only detail missing was hems shaped with pinking shears.

From there it was Tiffany (with champagne, but we abstained-no, we really did!). Your humble reporter admits to a weakness for big fat diamonds but would like to point out that she doesn't actually own any. Stop the insanity!

We spent an insane five hours at Big Fat Ugly Anthony's Designer Imposter Awards Shack-the nom de guerre of the Orange County Ad Club awards at the Newport Beach Marriott. We dig advertising: the sheer, mind-controlling evil of it all perks us right up. And indeed, there was plenty of that. But whose idea was it to let the scholarship winners (who put the "cult" in multicultural; they were a perfect Puzzle Place of genders and ethnicities) and the "lifetime achievement" winners give acceptance speeches? The Orange County Press Club has the right idea: winners just smile, nod and sit the hell back down. But what struck us most was how damn sexy everyone was. It's entirely appropriate that most of the characters on Melrose Place work in an ad agency-most everyone at the gala awards show was soap-opera-star hot. Even the non-ad people were sexy-the Orange County Business Journal's Susan Deemer (one of OC's sexiest people) was poured into a dress at our table. And boys, her retarded LA Times boyfriend just broke up with her because the fact that she used to be a Harley girl rubbed him the wrong way. Hop to it!

With about 500 people schmoozing in the atrium before dinner-and then a good 150 of those table-hopping during dinner because, damn it, an hour and a half is simply not enough "face time"-we were shocked not to see any flat-out drunken necking. But there was enough blatant scoping going on that we figured there would be enough action for Catherine the Great later in the evening.

As a table of insouciant joker types hung spoons off their noses and some hilarious guy played with a laser pointer, Cosby's Doug E. Doug chastised the assembled. "You guys are in the business of selling a bill of goods," he told them, vis--vis spending $80 to $100 to maybe get "honored" at an awards show. "You fell for your own bullshit!" People laughed, assuming that since he's a comedian, he was joking.

Awards were announced via monitor and commercials played-some good, some hellish, such as ones for golf products with a high-pitched Scottish voice-over. dGWB, Rieches Bairdand Lawrence & Mayowon the lion's share. And then the categories for "Best Self-Promotion" were announced. Flabbergasted, we considered the irony of it all. Damn, they give out awards for that! Consider the possibilities!


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