The Date: Feb. 27, 2007
The Venue: The Grand Ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, New York
The Bar: Fine red and white wines, soda in mini glass bottles and an array of liquor
The Crowd: Business bigwigs, a smattering of media folk, the staff of the Financial Times' U.S. edition and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg
The Event: More magazine's seventh annual Wilhelmina 40+ model search
The Date: Feb. 27, 2007
The Venue: Cipriani, New York
The Host: Angela Bassett, More's 48-and-loving-it March cover girl
The Models: A diverse lineup of working women over 40 (and a few above 50) who happen to be stunningly gorgeous and possess legs long enough to make a giraffe envious
The Swag: A cornucopia of freebies relating to every aspect of the event and its hosts -- a copy of Angela Bassett's new book on married couples with husband Courtney B. Vance; the March issue of More; Roc Skin microdermabrasion cloths for wrinkles and color-treatment shampoo from event sponsors Roc Skin Care and Garnier Fructisse, respectively; and a change purse from Talbot's.
The Dow might've taken a steep plunge yesterday, but demand for Freeloader was through the roof. We started out the evening juggling no fewer than five party invites, but were only able to budget our valuable Freeloading time enough to attend two. Luckily, the free booze, food and swag overflowed just as much as our social calendar.
We began the evening in another world after stepping foot into the Grand Ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Waiters were lined up at the entrance, carrying trays of chardonnay, rare tuna on little biscuits and fancy toasted-cheese balls. The Financial Times really outdid itself for being a 10-year-old local business paper.
Name tags were handed out -- salmon-colored for company reps and very special guests and white for press and fellow freeloaders like us. The night's buffet was abundant with shrimp and roast pork buns, little egg rolls, a variety of salads and focaccia. But the food did not stop there. Waiters worked the room with silver trays filled with potato pancakes accompanied by caviar and bruschetta. While people wined and dined, the piano man in the corner played an array of classics from "What a Wonderful World" to "My Heart Will Go On." (We of course use the term "classics" loosely here.)
After a few words from the FT heads, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was brought onstage. After playing up New York with some facts and figures, the mayor gave his spiel on how great the Financial Times was. "If media is going to survive, then it has to change with it," he said and believed that the FT was doing just that. We would've asked him to expand on that comment over cheese balls and chardonnay, but the mayor was promptly whisked away by his security detail immediately following his appearance.
It was time, then, to book it to Cipriani for More's seventh annual Wilhelmina model search, where Angela Bassett was just being introduced as our hostess for the evening. Dressed ever so fetchingly in a strapless black and white gown from designer Carmen Marc Valvo (who crafted the rest of the models' couture for the evening), she couldn't help but draw attention to those imperious biceps of hers. Note to self: never get in an arm-wrestling match with Angela Bassett.
Ms. Bassett is a proud 48 years old and did an impeccable job introducing the 40+ models as they strutted their impressive stuff down the runway. Freeloader caught a great glimpse of the leggy finalists from our front-row seat, though we had to fight back thoughts of ourselves as Donatella Versace being seated between Stella McCartney and Gwyneth Paltrow at the unveiling of the latest spring line in Paris. Mr. Valvo showcased a diverse lineup of evening gowns and cocktail dresses that were both clingy and form-flattering for the "mature" models, often featuring enough sequins to outfit the entire cast of "Dreamgirls" three times over.
Though we favored 50-something film exec Paula O'Connor, the judges went with the lanky Miami native Patricia Neville as the winner. But Freeloader felt like the real victor, for making it through two crowded events without so much as a busted heel or cheese-ball stain.