As we clambered up the stairs of Ralph Lauren’s wood-paneled uptown store, past the labyrinthine line of autograph seekers waiting to have Halle Berry sign their copy of Vogue, one of the PR girls whispered, “Okay, there’s Anna. Grab her fast. She’s leaving in a second.” We stopped dead in our tracks and clutched at each other: Wait, what? Us? Grab Anna Wintour? For anything short of saving her from a pack of hungry wolves, would that not get us thrown in Condé Nast jail or something? But before we had a chance to hyperventilate — or compose ridiculous questions in our head about Roger Federer, the importance of sunglasses, and toenail polish — we found out the PR girl was speaking a bit more literally than we realized: In the time it took us to blink, Anna was no more, having somehow exited through a tiny crack of space to our right and then vanished into thin air. We always suspected she would make a great Hogwarts professor, and now we’ve seen proof.
Anna did squeeze in a photo op with the guest of honor before departing for her next of many Fashion’s Night Out stops (for which she was wearing the appropriately banded T-shirt, and made it look like a masterstroke of tailoring). Once alone, Halle held court at a large wooden table — we’re guessing its day job involves displaying very expensive and sharply folded clothing — stacked high with copies of the September Vogue. Photographers crowded around her waiting for the big moment, as if she were about to sign a very important bill legalizing popped collars. Then a beautiful blonde squeezed into the frame and got her copy signed. No mere coincidence, that: Moments before, we heard one of the PR people summon her by saying, “I need models, here, NOW.” This seems like shrewd strategy, as it’s probably a scientific fact that the only person who can be in a photograph with Halle Berry and not want to weep about her comparative physical inferiority is a professional model. So, in a way, this saved everyone’s self-esteem, and we owe her a debt of gratitude.
The actual first recipient of Halle’s John Hancock was a dapper suit-clad older man. He told us he’d been in line since 3 p.m. for the honor — so, more than four hours — and was getting the issue signed for his daughter, who he said designed the pattern of the dress Halle wore in the photograph. He waved off our insistence that this made him the greatest dad ever; still, we hope he’s got a shiny new coffee mug coming his way for the holidays. Another woman in the line, which wound through the store’s entire second floor, confessed that she was in town ONLY to do this. We suspect the same could be said for the scores of preppy guys with slicked back hair in navy sport coats and khakis, all of whom looked delighted that Halle was wearing a blouse under her tuxedo jacket that was sheer to the bra, and seemed less interested in her signature on Vogue than in scrawling “Mr. Halle Berry” on their Trapper Keepers. Good luck with that one, guys. If it works, we’re sure we’ll eventually hear about it on The View.
Over at the Oscar de la Renta store, Champagne-swilling partiers merrily danced the merengue to a live band. Sadly, we missed the instruction by Mikhail Baryshnikov — and so did his former co-star Sarah Jessica Parker, who arrived moments after he left, which seemed to bum her out immensely. Perhaps (you know, in all her spare time) she is working on a Sex and the City alternate-ending fan fiction and had hoped for a little inspiration. SJP did look about as beautiful as we’ve ever seen her, clad in a gold-sequined Oscar cocktail dress with her hair back to the lighter Carrie Bradshaw blonde she’d abandoned in the SATC sequel. The store was tremendously crowded with revelers, and in the fracas we had to contort ourselves into strange yogalike positions to avoid spilling our Champagne on her gown. But it was worth it — both because we were so close that we could confirm how great-looking she is in person, and because we wanted every drop of that elixir to count.
We also scored a Catherine Zeta-Jones sighting, albeit a brief one. She glided into the store wearing a huge smile and a strapless emerald gown with open pleats in the back — the ideal cozies for storing a few emergency Champagne bottles, just in case — and then, after spending a good deal of time squeezing through eager fans and paying her respects to Oscar himself, glided back out again past a woman carrying a dog in a blue satin frock. Yes, that’s right, a dog was in attendance at Oscar de la Renta, and it was dressed better than we were. Come to think of it, that might be an even bigger esteem-buster than being ten feet away from Halle Berry. Good thing we had all that Champagne to cheer us up.