save venice

"Black Tie and Masks or Venetian-Inspired Costumes." So read the dress code on the invitation for Save Venice's Un Ballo in Maschera, the annual benefit to help restore art in this unique city on the water.

I was warned not to arrive without a mask, and I'm glad I paid attention, because almost everyone complied—with some of the most elaborate, stunning pieces I've ever seen.

Fresh off the plane from London, Rena Sindi, the creative genius behind many of New York's most legendary theme parties, followed direction in a mysterious black lace mask. Last time I had been to Save Venice, Rena and I closed the place down.

"Do you remember, we were the only ones left?" I asked her.

"Which year was that?" she replied, as it was clearly not the only time for Rena, who is known for her unbridled energy and enthusiasm.

I spotted artist Will Cotton with Rose Dergan a few feet away, wearing silver glitter half-moon (Will) and shooting-star (Rose) masks. Will, the creative director behind Katy Perry's hilarious "California Gurls" video, reminded me that we had met in Venice. His mask had originally been created for a Studio 54–themed party—he recycles, too!

"There was a famous 'Moon with a Spoon' at Studio 54, but I got rid of the spoon; I didn't think it was appropriate for tonight," he said with a chuckle.

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How do you update a classic? A preppy staple? The go-to shoe that has graced the feet of several chic generations of posh women, from Palm Beach to Palm Springs?

You have to keep the soul (or sole, as the case may be) of the shoe and tweak it a little. Make it hipper. Don't compromise the quality. Keep the price reasonable (we're talking preppies here, and those who aspire to be). What do you get? A $157 snakeskin—snakeskin!—chic, easy-to-wear shoe.

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Chelsea Clinton Marc Mezvinsky School of American Ballet Winter Ball

The School of American Ballet held its annual Winter Ball on March 14 at the David H. Koch Theater. The dancers are young, beautiful, wide-eyed, and disciplined. No feathers growing on their backs; no mental illness, enlarged pupils, or self-mutilation à la Black Swan on these teenage mobile works of art. Just fluttery, graceful performances.

Many black tie–clad ballet fans and supporters came to appreciate and applaud the prima ballerinas of the future, who hope to transition into New York City Ballet's outstanding company.

The life of a student includes hours of practice in addition to regular schoolwork. The young dancers are completely devoted to their craft, and it showed when they danced "Pièce de Résistance," specially choreographed for the evening by New York City Ballet soloist Adam Hendrickson, to perfection.

As guests gathered for drinks, I spotted multiple Tony award–winning choreographer Susan Stroman, who will be presenting a Duke Ellington–themed ballet with NYCB on May 25, For the Love of Duke.

"It's all Duke Ellington music. The dancers are not only beautifully classically trained, but they understand jazz music too. It's a wonderful combination of their classical technique to the Duke Ellington music, and it's very exciting," she said.

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Why would a bunch of men turn up at a Cosmopolitan magazine party? Because the racy women’s title was celebrating its annual Fun Fearless Males, of course. And 2011 honoree Russell Brand lived up to that title, giving a fun—hilarious, actually—speech during dinner and pulling a fearless stunt, climbing the backdrop on the red carpet.

Cosmo editor in chief Kate White said Brand is the epitome of fearless: “He’ll do anything, he’ll run around in his underwear, he’ll say anything, he married just a glorious, fabulous, fearless girl—and yet he takes his mother to the Oscars.” Aww!

Fun Fearless runners-up included Penn Badgley, who noted that he was the third of the Gossip Girl guys to get the award. “I was going to bring Chace Crawford as my date, which would have been fearless and probably bad for my image, so I left him at home,” he quipped. “You know, I haven’t gotten any awards in my four years on Gossip Girl. This is in place of all the Emmys we won’t ever win.”

Isaiah Mustafa, best known as the towel-clad Old Spice guy, got a lot of attention from the ladies at the party. He’s single! “I happen to be learning about relationships,” Mustafa said. “I haven’t gotten it down pat, so that’s why I’m a single guy. For whatever reason, I’m not doing it right, so I’ve got to figure it out.” Ladies, it’ll be fun training him.

Even Badgley became a fan: “Isaiah, you are charming!” he told the audience, to much laughter. “Good god, are you single? Well watch out!”

With the success of the Old Spice ads, Mustafa’s career has taken off; he recently shot movies with Tyler Perry and Jennifer Aniston. That cologne seems to work.

The Vampire Diaries hunk Ian Somerhalder thanked Cosmo for providing a public service: insight into the minds of the opposite sex. “It allows us men to sort of get an insight into what you women are thinking.” As a service to partygoers, Cosmo ran film clips of Somerhalder in various stages of undress.

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