Friday, March 16, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Iris Apfel and Bergdorf Goodman Celebrate "Accidental Icon"

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Bergdorf Goodman held a cocktail party on March 15, 2018 to celebrate fashion legend Iris Apfel's book "Accidental Icon." One thing that everyone in fashion knows - if you are a super celebrity at the age of 96 it is certainly not an accident. Apfel was born Iris Barrel in Astoria Queens the daughter of Samuel and Sadye Barrel-who owned a fashion boutique and glass-and-mirror business. She studied art history at New York University and attended art school at the University of Wisconsin.

Entrance to the boutique
Photo: Lieba Nesis
Click images for full size views

Iris worked for Women's Wear Daily as a young woman and for interior designer Elinor Johnson.  She married her husband Carl Apfel in 1948 and they launched the textile firm "Old World Weavers" which they ran unit 1992.  The couple traveled throughout the world where Iris began buying and collecting artisanal clothing to wear to high-society parties. (Read our extensive Masters of Fashion interview with Iris Apfel at her home back in 2006 conducted by Marilyn Kirschner)

Apfel with her Gucci Barbie and book
Photo: Lieba Nesis

In 2005, The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented an exhibition about her style entitled: "Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. Apfel has become notorious for her large dark rimmed glasses and even started her own eyewear line which can be purchased on the Home Shopping Network. Tonight's event contained more than a few fashion icons including: Linda Fargo, Amy Fine Collins, Tommy and Dee Hilfiger, Nicky Rothschild, Stacey Bender, Freddie Leiba and Christie Brinkley.

Linda Fargo in vintage Marc Jacobs and Iris Apfel owl brooch
Photo Marilyn Kirschner

Linda was smashing in a black turban and black-and-white Marc Jacobs outfit paired with old Manolo boots. Fargo absolutely adores Apfel which was evident by her omnipresent smile. Fargo is undoubtedly one of the most powerful women in fashion and I am confident her career longevity will match that of Apfel. Fargo says she admires the "way Iris thinks and dresses because every choice comes from within." Linda met Apfel 15 years ago when she showed up with husband Carl at a lecture Linda was giving on fashion and asked Linda to help with her upcoming exhibit at the Met.

Mike Haldeman, Ranjana Khan and James Aguiar
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Fargo has a couple of people whose fashion she admires including of course Iris, Ranjana Khan, Giovanna Battaglia and Caroline Issa. Fargo said Apfel was a self proclaimed geriatric starlet who didn't achieve fame until she reached 83 years old with her Costume Institute exhibit.

Brian Clements, Melanie Allegra and Linda Fargo
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Fargo said it was remarkable how broad and democratic Apfel's fan base was especially in the youth oriented fashion market. Linda spent 5 months collaborating with Apfel on the windows and pop-up Bergdorf shop which include borrowed pieces from the Apfel collection from the Peabody Museum.

Stacey Bendet for Alice + Olivia skirt as homage to Iris
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Bergdorf had bracelets and t-shirts made based on her collection and expressions Apfel loves including "you have to be interested to be interesting" and "I don't have any rules because I'd be breaking them." Linda even introduced Apfel to Stacy Bendet from Alice and Olivia who designed a skirt with Apfel's picture. There were jackets and dresses made by Ralph Rucci and Naeem Khan-Fargo's go-to designer-which were inspired by Apfel with tags utilizing her favorite axioms such as "more is more less is a bore."

Fashion on display
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Fargo said that Apfel proves that there is no age when you have to stop wearing denim or any other clothing category. It is unfathomable that the 96-year-old Apfel was involved in the picking of colors and nearly every other aspect of the pop-up as she continues to design, model, speak and travel admitting this is to keep her sanity after losing her husband three years ago at the age of 101.

Christie Brinkley
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Apfel is a very private person who stays off of social media and her book contains funny stories and anecdotes about her various jobs, likes and dislikes, as well as secrets as to how to maintain a long and happy marriage.

Dee and Tommy Hilfiger
Photo Marilyn Kirschner

Mattel has even modeled a one-of-a-kind green Gucci-clad Barbie after Apfel because of her long-spanning career. Ranjana Khan, Naeem's wife, said she loves Apfel because she is such a straight shooter and teaches women how to celebrate themselves without getting work done.

Fashion on display
Photo Marilyn Kirschner

She held Iris's 92nd birthday and Carl's 99th birthday at her and Naeem's house. She said Naeem was disappointed he couldn't attend the event because he was busy building a school and an atelier in Miami-she loves Miami because it is the South America of the United States.

Colorfully attired guests
Photo Marilyn Kirschner

During the evening, the crowd was clamoring to get photos with Apfel despite the sign that said no photos were allowed. The indomitable Apfel posed continuously until the hour of 9:00 PM - a time when most of her contemporaries are home sleeping.

- Lieba Nesis

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

A Conversation With Patricia Bosworth: A New Book, Rex Reed & Vanity Fair

Diane Clehane and Patricia Bosworth
Click images for full size view

 No matter what else is going on in the world, I can rely on spending at least two fun-filled hours each week deep in conversation with some of the world’s most fascinating people. I’m now on my twelfth (!) year of lunching with the famous and fabulous at Michael’s and I have to tell you, it never gets old for me.

Especially on days like today. I knew I would be meeting the accomplished and award-winning journalist Patricia Bosworth to talk about her latest book, Dreamer With a Thousand Thrills (powerHouse Books) at a luncheon hosted by my good friend Betsy Perry, but I had no idea I’d be part of a group that included other best-selling authors and respected editors as well as my favorite film critic of all time. (Can you guess who? Much more on all that later.)

I arrived a few minutes before the appointed hour so I could chat with Patricia before the rest of group started to file in. I found Patricia at Table One (where else?) raring to go. I knew she was a contributing editor at Vanity Fair so I had to ask her what she thought about the changing of the guard now that Graydon Carter has departed and Radhika Jones is at the top of the masthead. “I think she’ll do a great job. She’ll bring a women’s point of view which is timely and something I think it needs.”

Patricia is the prolific author of many books including two memoirs, Anything Your Little Heart Desires: An American Family Story which told the story of her family and the Hollywood Blacklist and her latest, The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan, which was released in paperback by HarperCollins in January. She’s also written biographies on Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda and photographer Diane Arbus which inspired the 2006 film Fur which starred Nicole Kidman. Patricia also had a career as an actress (She played opposite Audrey Hepburn in a Nun’s Story!) I could go on, but you get the picture.

Patricia’s new book is something entirely different from her other work. It’s a massive love letter to her late husband, photographer Tom Palumbo, which includes over 250 photographs that haven’t been seen in decades that she personally selected out of literally thousands of images. Patricia told me it took her ten years to complete the book (which is understandable given her other projects), but in talking to her, it was clear she adored every minute she spent on it. “I wanted it to be a tribute to my husband’s work and life,” she said. “I wanted to immortalize him.”

If you don’t know Tom Palumbo’s name, you most certainly know his work. “He was one of the definitive photographers of the fifties and sixties,” Patricia told me. “His work is a reflection of that time. He began with Avedon when they both worked for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. He was an up and coming photographer.”

Patricia met Tom in 1954 when she was a John Robert Powers model. “I heard he was fun to work with,” she said. “And our worlds collided.” At the time, Tom was married to his muse, Anne St. Marie, the subject of some of his most arresting work and, not surprisingly, strongly represented in the new book. “She was gorgeous,” said Patricia as we lingered on an image of Anne perched on a rock overlooking the sea seemingly unaware of the group of nude men nearby.

She told me her husband also shot scores of advertisements for Bonwit Teller, Best & Co. and Peck and Peck. If you’re sighing at the memory of these totems of a bygone era right about now, you’re not alone.

Gloria Vanderbilt
Photo by Tom Palumbo

When I told Patricia I recognized the close-up shot of Gloria Vanderbilt that’s in the book she said, “You’ve probably seen it on the cover of Town & Country.” As she turned the pages, I told her I loved Tom’s fashion work. “He documented that beautiful, elegant world. It was a different time." I’ll say.

As Patricia took me through the book, I was struck by the breadth of Tom’s work from editorial and advertising. His work comprised iconic shots of the fashionable women of the fifties in mid-century tableaux to his black and white celebrity portraiture including his arresting images of jazz legends like Miles Davis (who he met through his friend Jack Kerouac) and mesmerizing shots of a very young Jane Fonda. “He did these on his off-hours, He is work was very personal. He loved photographing artists,” said Patricia. “His studio faced the studio of Betty Comden and Adolph Green and he would listen to this wonderful music. That’s how he was first introduced to them, and then he photographed them.” Music and musicians played an important part in Tom’s work. “He did albums covers for Capitol Records for Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole. He loved it.”

There are also quite a few shots of the photographer himself in the book. “He loved selfies,” laughed Patricia. “He took selfies almost every day.”

Patricia has been getting publicity all over the place including Britain (in the Telegraph) and Spain (Spanish Vogue) which makes sense because it’s an international release whose official publication date was yesterday. There’s also a swanky party tomorrow night at the Staley-Wise Gallery downtown which is exhibiting Tom’s work.

While we’d been chatting, the rest of the guests had arrived – and what a group it turned out to be. In addition to our hostess Betsy. consultant Jo Baslow, and publicist Madison Morales who are responsible for promoting the book, the group was a literary Who’s Who. In attendance: Town & Country’s Elizabeth Angell, Amanda Vaill, biographer best known for Everybody Was So Young (about F. Scott Fitzgerald) who is currently working on a biography of Alexander Hamilton’s women, Shelley Wanger, an editor at Knopf Pantheon who edits Joan Didions and is Joan Bennett’s daughter, art critic Deborah Solomon whose latest book is a biography of Norman Rockwell and the legendary Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying and more recently, Fear of Dying.

When we all sat down there was one seat still empty. Before I could wonder who we were waiting for, none other than Rex Reed arrived at the table. “Am I the only man?” he laughed. Even though he’s spent the last three weeks battling bronchitis, he proved more than up to the task. Patricia leaned over and told me, “I’ve known Rex forever. I gave him his start as a film critic at Holiday magazine!” Later, after lunch had been cleared and we played musical chairs so people could chat, I asked Rex about it. “I’d forgotten about that!” he called across the table to Patricia.

I told Rex that his movie reviews in The Daily News way, way back when had inspired me to want to write about film and actors and we had a very interesting conversation about his amazing career (perhaps the subject of another ‘Lunch’) and the death of the much beloved New York Observer. Rex worked for the salmon-colored weekly for decades (“Peter Kaplan was a great editor!”) and his film reviews were must-reads not only for his criticisms, but for his brilliant turn of a phrase. He’s still reviewing films for, but has a new “sideline” doing a cabaret show where he sings (Ted Firth is the musical director) and shares anecdotes about the stars he has known (and that’s pretty much everyone in Hollywood from Alice Faye on down the list) at The Beach Café. His latest three-night run at the popular Upper East Side haunt three weeks ago was “jam packed” (Patricia went and loved it) and such a success he’s been asked back. “Who knew?” he said as he sipped his tea.

Before I left, I wanted to ask Patricia about the curious title of Tom’s book. “It’s lyrics from a Frank Sinatra song,” she explained. “Tom revered him. He even tried to dress like him.” Did he ever get the chance to photograph him, I asked? “No,” said Patricia. I’d say Old Blue Eyes missed out on something special.

Betsy Perry, Diane Clehane and Rex Reed

Scene & Heard Around the Room

What where they talking about? Kate Betts and Bill McCuddy on Table Two … Candy Pratts Price and Manolo Blahnik’s George Malkemus on Three … Attorney Bob Barnett and CBS News president David Rhodes on Four … John Sykes on Five … Andrew Stein on Six … Judy Price on Seven … New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia, Alex Hitz and Brooke Hayward on Table Eight.

Moving On … PR maven Chris Taylor and Jennifer Gould-Keil on Fourteen … Peter Price on Fifteen  ... Hunter Millington (yes, Steve’s brother on Sixteen) … Judy Licht on Twenty … and Lewis Latham on Twenty-seven. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

School of American Ballet Holds Winter Gala at Lincoln Center

The Young Dancers
All photos Lieba Nesis
Click images for full size views

The School of American Ballet (SAB) held its annual Winter Ball at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center on March 8, 2018 with cocktails beginning at 7 PM. SAB, the official yet independent training academy of New York City Ballet, was established in 1934 by legendary choreographer George Balanchine and philanthropist Lincoln Kirstein. Located at Lincoln Center, SAB trains almost 1,000 youth ages 6 to 19 annually (with more than 3,000 auditioning per year), and provides $2 million in financial aid to 46% of the student body.

Vanessa Lawrence in Oscar and Jill Kargman in Chanel

Students come from all over the country to attend this preeminent institution with over 40% self-identified as students of color. The evenings chairs were Renata Garcia, Joyce Giuffra and Elizabeth Gosnell Miller with honorary chair Julia Koch a no-show. The glamorous ball which has taken place for the past 13 years is a celebration of the students and faculty at SAB. However, there was a noticeable component missing from this electric evening and that was the presence of former Artistic Director Peter Martins.

Coco and Arie Kopelman with Alexis Mintz

Martins was forced to retire after 30-years of service due to questionable behavior and a replacement for this superstar genius will be difficult ,if not impossible, to find. The charisma and expertise of Martins who was a choreographer, mentor and administrator as well as being one of the most respected Balanchine dancers of his generation, gave SAB an undeniable gravitas. As SAB searches for a new director the school remains in limbo.

Vanessa Lawrence, Jill Kargman, Amanda Brotman and Caroline Lagerfelt

This evening contained 350 prominent guests who came to pay tribute to the students including: Indre Rockefeller, Geoffrey Bradfield, Michael and Tara Rockefeller, Margo Langenberg, Jean and Martin Shafiroff, Jennifer Creel, Jill and Harry Kargman, the Kopelman family, Amanda Brotman, and many others.

Jean Shafiroff

Some of my favorite fashion choices were Indre Rockefeller in a black-and-white Herrera, Jean Shafiroff in a floral Zac Posen, and Jill Kargman in an off-white Chanel with a Marc Jacobs skirt flowing underneath.

Chairman of Board Barbara Vogelstein

Another beautifully dressed attendee was Master of Ceremonies and CBS anchor, Tanya Rivero Warren, who wore a silver sequined gown. She said as a former SAB student herself she remembers her Russian dance teacher telling the girls, "you must always be a ballerina even on the street because your fans expect a ballerina."

Arieh Bates and Heidi Magnussen

Warren said this was her teacher's admonition to students to put their best foot forward in whatever they were doing. Rivero also urged attendees to donate to the Toe Shoe Fund since professional dancers run through one pair every night which cost $100 each-proving an exorbitant cost for underpaid dancers.

Front: Executive Director Carrie Hinrichs; Back left to right: Renna Taher, Amanda Brotman, Joyce Giuffra, Renata Garcia, Stephanie Sharp, Kylie Van Hoek and Elisabeth Miller

Newly appointed Executive Director Carrie Hinrichs took to the stage to thank Peter Martins for his incredible artistic achievements over the past 30 years while noting that 98% of the dancers from New York City Ballet are former SAB alumni. Hinrichs asked the alumni to stand up and excitedly announced that more than $900,000 had been raised.

Choreographer Alec Knight and Alexa Maxwel

The highlight of this evening, besides from the pink and purple hued room with tutus hanging from the ceiling, was the young dancers performance which was choreographed by 21-year-old Australian Alec Knight.

The dancers

Knight praised the dancers whom he referred to as "unsung heroes" for leaving their homes at the age of 17 to come dance. He also thanked Peter Martins for believing in him even though he was on the other side of the world.

Michael and Tara Rockefeller

Knight who later told me that he missed Martins presence said ultimately what made SAB special was the dancers. He called Peter his "biggest inspiration" and said Martins meant a lot to him.

Ashley Bouder

Principal dancer, Ashley Bouder, reiterated this sentiment by acknowledging that without Peter something tangible was missing; yet she remained confident that new opportunities and visions would be available for the Company.

Harry Kargman and Will Kopelman

Indeed the performance of the students was riveting as young girls and boys danced their hearts out with the expertise of veterans. There was a modern element to their dance routines as the intrepid dancers moved with a notable alacrity to the jazzy music-even incorporating some vogue-like movements.

Margo Langenberg and Geoffrey Bradfield

As the evening concluded, dancers headed to the dance floor to cheer each other and join hands in a symbol of unity and triumph that was infectious. Soon after the crowd danced to the tunes of Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars and Madonna as a double dessert of sorbet and chocolate cake was served-a savory conclusion to a Monday night evening.

- Lieba Nesis

Thursday, March 08, 2018

New York Fashion Cool Aid by Laurel Marcus

Carry On at The Museum at FIT's Student Exhibition "Pockets to Purses: Form + Function"

Portraits of George Washington - top - with a military booklet in a pocket
at his hip, bottom - with a ribbon watch fob
 Click images for full size views

"Pockets to Purses: Fashion + Function" is a new exhibition organized by graduate students in FIT's MA program in Fashion and Textile Studies on view now through March 31st at the Museum at FIT. The exhibition explores the historical relationship between ways of carrying one's essentials as well as the interconnection between masculine and feminine uses and designs.

18th century man's waistcoat with pocket, Fashion Plate c. 1778-1787,
woman's pocket worn tied at waist under a full skirt

A man's 18th century waistcoat or jacket would typically feature an easily accessible embroidered pocket however it was limited as to what could be carried without causing a break in the garment's tailored lines. By contrast women's voluminous skirts hid detached pockets or cloth bags which were tied around their waists -- these bags could hold domestic items such as sewing utensils or even a bag of oranges. Since they were camouflaged under a loose silhouette they would not create a bulge. One of the fashion plates featured here depicts a ruffled slit in an overskirt marking the spot of access through the many layers of fabric.

Blue waistcoat --Embroidered watch pocket on a 1878 bodice mirrors its purpose as a decorative pocket watch holder

Towards the end of the eighteenth century and into the nineteeth century silhouettes changed and narrowed. A small purse called a reticule, carried on the wrist came into fashion. Featured here is one such item derived from a man's waistcoat which has been re-purposed, as silk was such a precious material of the time -- marking an early example of sustainable fashion.

Embroidered purse -- Carpet bag, fashion plate of women waiting for a train

As middle and upper class women enjoyed an increase in leisure time, many turned to making handcrafted, knitted and crocheted bags for the use of both men and women -- often these were gifted to loved ones. Traveling with heavy trunks gave way to "Mary Poppins"- style carpet bags which were popular with both sexes.

Coat made for Prince of Wales with train ticket pocket

Men's coats were often made with a special ticket pocket for their commuter train ticket. Rules were changing for women -- by the early twentieth century both smoking and applying makeup were acceptable behavior and purses adapted. An example featured here includes a 1925 accessory set with a coin purse, cigarette case and cosmetic compact coordinate with an evening bag. A whimsical clock bag also features a built-in lipstick on its flip side.

Josephine Baker Photo (upper left), Needlepoint bag with cosmetic accessories (in case) upper right -- Cartier Bag

Purses started to be looked upon as an accessory as important as jewelry -- witnessed here with a 1930 Cartier evening bag of wool needlepoint and suede as well as a jade and rock crystal closure. A 1928 photo of Josephine Baker displaying her decorative evening clutch on a Paris restaurant table indicates that handbags had become symbols of status and style.

Schiaparelli illustration

Mid twentieth-century fashion designers began to feature pockets as a design feature including a Molyneux houndstooth wool dress circa 1948. This dress has the "new look" slimmer belted waist offset by ornamental hip pockets emphasizing the silhouette. A fashion illustration for Schiaparelli's "Cash and Carry" line reads "In Paris, these days, one goes oneself to market, one often bicycles, one needs pockets, one needs bicycle bloomers. Schiaparelli provides both on these two new suits -- shown above at the famous marketplace, "Les Halles." These pockets almost resemble saddle bags

Left -- Claire McCardell dress photo by Louise Dahl Wolfe, Bonnie Cashin Raincoat with Trompe l'oeil design, 1960's leather bags

Form and function are also combined with stylish, large pocketed garments by Claire McCardell and Bonnie Cashin (who riffed off of the Schiaparelli line with her own "Cashin Carry"). Her sketch of one such 1969 coat with a "built-in" canvas/leather purse/pocket and trademark twist lock closure reads "Look ma, no hands! Let your coat carry your bag."

Lower left - Schiaparelli illustration, center - Molyneux dress,
right - Dior shoes and bag, Chanel 2.55 bag

In the late twentieth century, the concept of the status bag that we know today offered opportunities for branding. A mid '50's Christian Dior evening set of floral silk handbag and shoes meant to match a particular ensemble from the collection sits next to an early '60's Chanel 2.55 black quilted, gold chained leather bag, advertised as a hands-free option, meant to go from day to evening with "practical versatility."

Top left - Mary Ping, 2003, Hermes Kelly Bag 2000, Louis Vuitton Murakami Speedy bag 2003, The New Yorker Tote, Judith Leiber evening bags

Other examples of status bags include the Hermes Kelly bag, the Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs Murakami bag (2003) as well as three Judith Leiber jeweled minaudiere evening bags, the duck one calling to mind the Carrie Bradshaw unwanted "ugly duckling" bag gifted to her by Big. Branded unisex tote bags such as the one distributed by The New Yorker become ubiquitous on city streets.

Bill Blass black cashmere evening dress, fall 1986

The exhibition ends with two examples of garments deriving their impact through pockets -- a man's Versace Versus suit with a military look (1993) and a stunning 1986 Bill Blass black cashmere turtleneck dress -- completely unembellished except for the elaborate jeweled pockets -- an enduring style recalling the embroidered pocket flaps from eighteenth-century menswear.

- Laurel Marcus

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Last Word by Diane Clehane

Oscars 2018

Producer J. Miles Dale, director Guillermo del Toro at microphone and cast crew accept Best Picture for 'The Shape of Water' onstage. - Click images for full size views

Some things were exactly the same. Jimmy Kimmel returned as host. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented the Best Picture Oscar (to the right movie, this time). But some things were very different. At last night's Oscars, the question was not if award shows were the appropriate venue for social activism, but rather which of a myriad of causes would garner a lion's share of the stars’ attention.

The Time's Up movement was always meant to live beyond award season and judging by the speeches, they’ve only just begun. Though attendees of the Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards were encouraged and chose to wear black to show solidarity with the initiative to fight sexual harassment, Time's Up organizers didn’t encourage a particular dress code for the Oscars because the mere presence of actresses like Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek spoke volumes.

The movement was certainly a topic of conversation on Sunday night, with prominent supporters and organizers not only attending, but also presenting. Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster were wisely tapped as replacements for Casey Affleck to present this year’s Best Actress award. Plenty of men who took to the stage did so wearing Time’s Up pins.

Other stars spoke out on behalf of the dreamers and there was an overall message of support for inclusion, diversity and empathy, a word that was used by many winners who took home statuettes.

Returning host Jimmy Kimmel had the unenviable job of trying to duplicate his well-received hosting stint last year at time of enormous change. He chose to play it safe for the most part but landed some truly funny zingers about men’s bad behavior (driving women to date fish). The bit with the jet-ski was funny; the surprise visit to the fans next door was not. It seemed a wan comparison to last year’s bit where he invited fans into the auditorium to meet the stars.

The producers were striving for an upbeat broadcast and mostly succeeded with sporadically memorable moments largely due to thoughtful and well-delivered speeches. Never were clip packages more successful than they were tonight in saluting not only an astounding ninety years of movies, but the faithful fans who have flocked to the theaters to see them all these years. Like every other business worried about fading into irrelevance, Hollywood was doing its damnedest to hold on to its shrinking pool of consumers willing to stick with them. Fans were thanked twice during the evening in two different clip packages. You’re welcome.

It was all very earnest and dare I say wholesome. Hollywood came off pretty well tonight with awards spread out over a number of nominated films (although it’s a shame the very noteworthy Lady Bird and its writer-director Greta Gerwig didn’t get to take home a statuette).

Nicole Kidman royal blue iridescent Armani Prive with sculptural oversized bow, accessorized with Harry Winston jewels

The pre-show was pretty much a no-show with a large number of stars avoiding the carpet entirely or deciding not to stop to talk. ABC’s ‘Opening Ceremony’ was largely a bore and E!’s show did its best to avoid the elephant in the room (Sexual harassment allegations against Ryan Seacrest made by his former stylist, in case you’ve been living on the moon) and as a result, had little of interest to offer viewers. The whole pre-show thing is tired and should be re-thought or perhaps even abandoned entirely.

Allison Janney in Reem Acra 

It has become passé to ask actresses who designed their dress which poses a problem for PR hungry designers. Without hearing a star utter their name on camera before millions of people, is all the pre-Oscar hysteria still worth it? This will, no doubt, be subject of debate after this groundbreaking awards season.

Jane Fonda in Balmain

The fashion was largely safe and therefore pleasant enough with no real disasters and everyone looking pretty good. Pristine white dresses looked elegant on Jane Fonda (Balmain), Laura Dern (Calvin Klein By Appointment) and especially on Margot Robbie (Chanel Haute Couture), regal red suited Allison Janney (Reem Acra) and Meryl Streep (Dior). Pink and blush were also red carpet favorites and Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein wore it best.

Jennifer Garner in Atelier Versace

I especially loved the blue dresses on Nicole Kidman (the evening’s best dressed in Armani Prive), Jennifer Garner (It looked like Versace to me) and Helen Mirren (those jewels!). There were plenty of metallic dresses that pretty much all looked good – and looked like each other. I have no idea what Frances McDormand was wearing which is perfectly fine because she couldn’t care less. The accessory of choice: eyeglasses.

Margot Robbie in Chanel Haute Couture

With its quiet red carpet, well-behaved stars and well-meaning speeches, Hollywood was on its best behavior which may have been the most outrageous thing it's done in a long time.

Here’s a minute-by-minute breakdown of the evening:

6:30 PM: Good Morning America’s Michael Strahan leads off the broadcast with “Happy Oscar Sunday!” Get Out’s Allison Williams, in a blush beaded Armani Prive gown and wisely back to brunette, is the first actor to be in interviewed on the carpet at ABC’s Opening Ceremony. “The Oscars are basically a religious experience. I wanted to do this since I was three years old.” You and everyone else there tonight.

6:32: Strahan is joined by Vanity Fair’s Krista Smith, Dave Karger from IMDB and two ringers from ABC shows – Wendy McLendon-Covey from The Goldbergs (who did an admirable job interviewing other actors) and Sara Haines from The View. It’s a rather mixed bag of talking heads with Smith and McLendon-Covey seeming pretty comfortable chatting with the stars. I like Michael Strahan, but this is not his métier. Zzzzzz.

6:41: Strahan attempts to interview Salma Hayek, who is wearing a very unfortunate Gucci dress. He is out of his depth talking to Hayek, whose stunning editorial in The New York Times about her personal experience with sexual harassment, was among the most shocking disclosures about Harvey Weinstein. Paging Robin Roberts!

7:04: Tiffany Haddish explains her choice of her unusual and elaborate gown to Strahan. She is wearing it in honor of her late father from the northeast African country, Eritrea. “He said one day I would end up here and if I ever ended up at the Oscars to honor my people, so I’m honoring my fellow Eritreans.”

7:12: “Fear does not exist in my universe” says Taraji P. Henson who is apparently not afraid of revealing pretty much everything she’s got in her Vera Wang dress.

7:13: Fellow Harvard grads Ashley Judd, looking great in custom Badgley Mischka, and Mira Sorvino talk movingly to Smith about the Time’s Up movement. “I want people to know this movement isn’t stopping until we achieve safe and equitable workplace,” said Sorvino. Judd smiles and adds, “I chose my date well.” Indeed.

7:22: Margot Robbie, who looks so young and fresh in white in Chanel Haute Couture, brought her very attractive mother tonight as her date.

7:24: Jennifer Garner looks gorgeous. “Why can’t everyone do their hair like that?” asks Madeline, my daughter and copilot for the evening’s festivities. The women seem to have it together this year.

7:33: Best Actor Timothée Chalamet in an all-white tuxedo by Berluti, is absolutely charming and is positively overcome when he’s shown a video of well-wishers from his alma mater, LaGuardia High School of Music & Art wishing him well. “I wouldn’t be an actor without public arts funding,” he says with his proud mother beaming at his side.

7:34: Best Actress nominee Saoirse Ronan looks elegant in a rosebud pink strapless dress in Calvin Klein By Appointment.

7:45: Fifteen minutes until the awards. Thank goodness, because this red carpet is pretty much a snoozer. Where’s the fun in everyone looking perfectly fine? Where are all the big stars?

7:54: Oh, wait a minute. Sandra Bullock, what have you done to your face? Why oh why did you overdose on fillers?

7:55: Five minutes left on the carpet and finally someone who I really want to see appears. “Oh Nic, we’re so glad to see you!” says interviewer Smith as Nicole Kidman who crashes Bullock’s interview. As usual, her dress, an exquisite Armani Prive, is to die for. Where does she keep all these dresses? I doubt she has to send them back.

8:00: Jimmy Kimmel opens the awards with a tepid old Hollywood style black and white newsreel with some very tame material. Uh-oh.

8:03: “This year, when you hear your name called, don’t get up right away.” Kimmel then explains why Oscar is Hollywood’s idea man. “He keeps his hands where you can see them. Most importantly, no penis at all … That’s the kind of man we need more of in this town.” I think he’s got a really tough job this year and I’m rooting for him.

8:05: Kimmel’s first and only Harvey Weinstein mention. “The academy, as you are no doubt aware, took action last year to expel Harvey Weinstein from their ranks. There were a lot of great nominees, but Harvey deserved it the most. “You know the only other person to be expelled from the academy, ever, was a character actor named Carmine Caridi — in 2004, he was kicked out for sharing screeners. Carmine Caridi got the same punishment as Harvey Weinstein for giving his neighbor a copy of ‘Seabiscuit’ on VHS.” Smart – but safe.

8:08: “If you are a nominee who isn’t making history, shame on you.”

8:11: Kimmel’s best line of the night: “We will always remember this year as the year men screwed up so badly, women started dating fish.” A close second is his shot at Trump: “Wow, the stunning Lupita Nyong’o — she was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya. Let the tweetstorm from the president’s toilet begin.”

8:13: Kimmel announces the winner of tonight’s shortest acceptance speech will get a jet-ski. Helen Mirren not included.

8:14: A montage of previous Best Supporting Actor nominees is first of several packages that remind the audience of the wealth of great performances in the history of the respective categories. By setting it to the music from Love Actually, the producers seem to be going for the tears ducts early.

8:15: Evidently, the Oscars are being held at Caesar’s Palace.

8:18: As expected, Sam Rockwell wins Best Supporting Actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. “We’re at the convention Frances!” It’s the first appearance of many Time’s Up pins that make it to the microphone.

8:28: Eva Marie Saint gets a standing ovation. She touchingly tells the crowd she appreciates the love since she lost her husband last year. The star of the iconic films including On the Waterfront and North by Northwest, talks about working with costume designer Edith Head and then presents the Oscar for Best Costume Design to Mark Bridge for his work on Phantom Thread.

8:40: Icarus wins Best Documentary Feature. A producer dedicates the film’s whistle blower Dr. Rodchenkov who, he says, “now lives in great danger.” Afterwards, Kimmel lightens the mood by saying, “Now at least we know Putin didn’t rig this competition.”

8:43: Mary J. Blige, the first person in the history of the Academy ever to be nominated for an acting and music award, gives a stirring performance of the nominated song she co-wrote, Mighty River from Mudbound.

8:50:That’s what I call a great commercial. Kudos Twitter. #HereWeAre

9:07: “We are the two actors you keep hearing about but whose names you have trouble pronouncing,” says Lupita Nyong’o with Kumail Nanjiani to present the award for Best Production Design. Before they give it to the team from The Shape of Water, Lupita says, “To all the dreamers out there, we stand with you.”

9:21: Kimmel says a trip to Lake Havasu is added to “sweeten the pot” for the winner of the shortest acceptance speech. From the way things are going, I don’t think anyone is playing.

9:29: Allison Janney wins Best Supporting Actress and gets a big laugh when jokingly she says, “I did it all by myself.”

9:39: Kobe Bryant wins the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for his film, Dear Basketball. The former NBA star’s win strikes an odd note in this Time’s Up year. Perhaps you don’t remember: Bryant was charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in Colorado in 2003. Prosecutors dropped the charges a year later because the woman did not want to go ahead with a trial. Bryant said the sex was consensual. Sound familiar?

9:54: They are finally starting to play people off.

9:59: Kimmel enlists Margot Robbie, Gal Gadot, Mark Hamill, Emily Blunt, Lupita Nyong’o, Lin Manuel Miranda, his sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez and a host of other stars to bring candy and snacks to people across the street in the theater watching A Wrinkle in Time. Well-intentioned, but it just doesn’t work.

10:10: Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph reassure the audience there are plenty more white people to come tonight. That’s what I’m afraid of.

10:12: “Hi Meryl. I want you to be my momma one day.” Haddish is really having a moment – and she’s milking it for all it’s worth.

10:15: A charming couple win Best Live Action Short for their film, Silent Child. She is sweet, smart and gorgeous. He is wearing a man bun.

10:19: Common and Andra Day perform their Oscar nominated song, Stand Up For Something surrounded by a group of social activists. A valiant effort, but it would have been better had the audience been made aware of who these people were. Surely if people like Nicole Hockley (Sandy Hook Promise), Janet Mock of (#GirlsLikeUs), Tarana Burke (Me Too) were important enough to be there, some kind of introduction should have been included.

10:25: Annabella Sciorra, Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek provide the evening’s emotional high point by taking the stage together. The women introduce a stunning video about the transformative past few months (has it really only been a few months?) in Hollywood. Judd speaks eloquently about “the changes we are witnessing” and “the powerful sound of people who are finally saying Time’s Up.” I hope Harvey Weinstein is sitting home -- alone --- in his bathrobe watching these brave women reclaim the spotlight.

10:35: Nicole Kidman looks divine. She presents the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Get Out to Jordan Peele who gives a heartfelt and rousing speech.

10:58: Christopher Walken (!) gets a standing ovation before he presents the Oscar for Best Original Score to Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water. I think that picture is going to win the big one …

11:01: I love Emily Blunt. I can’t wait to see her as Mary Poppins.

11:04: Jennifer Garner introduces the ‘In Memoriam’ package. Eddie Vetter performs Tom Petty’s “Room at the Top.” It always amazes me how many greats we lose every year.

11:13: Emma Stone (in pants!) introduces “these four men and Greta Gerwig” as Best Director nominees. An emotional Guillermo del Toro wins for The Shape of Water. “I am an immigrant like many of you. The greatest thing our industry does is erase lines in the sand when the world tells us to make them deeper.”

11:16: Jane Fonda (stunning in white Balmain) and Helen Mirren (dripping in diamonds and sapphires) walk center stage holding hands. They present Gary Oldman with his Best Actor Oscar. He concludes his speech by saying, “I would like to thank my mother who is 99 years young her next birthday. Put the kettle on, I’m bringing Oscar home.”

11: 29: Jodie Foster, on crutches, (“Streep, she I Tonya’d me”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“She’s always so nice at the luncheon.”) are there to present the Best Actress Award. I love this. “It’s a new day in Hollywood,” says Lawrence. “But none of us will ever forget those who came before us.” In a category of women who were all deserving of this award, Frances McDormand wins the statuette. When she gets to the stage, she puts it on the floor and asks all the women nominees – of every category -- to stand. She brought the house down. “I have two words to leave you with tonight, ‘Inclusion rider.’”

11: 40: Kimmel introduces Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to do Best Picture Oscar 2.0. “Nice to see you again,” says Beatty. There’s no mistake this time. The Shape of Water wins the top prize. Kimmel awards Costume Designer Mark Bridges with the Jet-ski – with Helen Mirren along for the ride.

Grades: Fashion: B+ Jimmy Kimmel: B Awards: B

- Diane Clehane