“First I thought I’d dress up as Robin Thicke, but Bette refused to perform the song with me,” Bloomberg told partygoers. “Then I thought I’d come as the character Bette played so brilliantly on Broadway this year, Sue Mengers. But I don’t look good as a blonde, sorry. So finally I decided to come, as I do every year, as George Clooney,” he said. “The younger George Clooney.” (In reality, the mayor’s bright-orange pants were better suited for the golfing habit he’ll be able to indulge come January 1.)
The theme at the ball, a fund-raiser for Midler’s New York Restoration Project, was the Big Easy. Her costume, she explained, was the Grand Marshal of the second line, which is a part of the traditional New Orleans jazz funeral procession. “I love the second line because the second line is the party animals, the ones who have the most fun after the funeral,” she said. “The first line plays the dirges, and the second line plays the fun.”
Midler shared some of her favorite memories from visiting the Louisiana city. “The first time I went to New Orleans, I was about 28 or 29 years old. I was with Barry Manilow, and we sang,” she said. “We followed Ella Fitzgerald into the Fairmont, and it was the most extraordinary experience. I fell in love with it, and I’ve never stopped loving New Orleans,” she added.
Other guests took the dress code to heart. Katie Couric, in a disheveled blond wig, tight dress, and leopard-print stilettos, sauntered by and said, “I’m the Big Easy.”
Billy Crystal went for authenticity. “Mine is a funeral walker’s costume, a vintage costume from the 40s,” he told VF Daily. “The guys who strut and walk with the Dixieland bands.” Crystal’s 700 Sundays costume designer did a lot of research and found the suit.
“We’re doing a little Louis Armstrong funeral moment, maybe a little Jessica Lange in American Horror Story, or a blend of something thereof,” Michael Kors said of his all-black ensemble, complete with parasol and glued-on facial hair.
“I’m obsessed with American Horror,” he added. The hit series is set in New Orleans this season.
Besides, Kors said, NOLA is one of his favorite cities. “I have an incredible group of clients there,” the designer, who was also honored at the gala, said. “One of my favorites, her name is Banana Reily. A city where you have a chic woman named Banana is my kind of town.”
The theme extended to the food, with “Voodoo shrimp remoulade” and “trout from the black lagoon” as first and second “corpses.” Entertainment was by New Orleans native Harry Connick Jr., who played Dixieland standards like “When the Saints Go Marching In” with a band with a full horn section. During his set, Midler pranced by, followed by at least 100 costumed revelers, and they continued, circling the Waldorf ballroom, back and forth, dancing to the music in a happy conga line/funeral march.