Remembering David Bowie and Prince at the Moth’s Glam-Rock Gala

Scenes from the Moth Ball. Photo: Bianca Bourgeois

Last night, celebrities and storytellers gathered for the Moth’s annual star-studded gala, the Moth Ball. Celebrating all things glam and rock at Capitale, an elegant venue housed in the old Bowery Savings Bank building, the Moth hosted an array of celebrity guests, including guest of honor Carrie Brownstein, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, Jenna Lyons, and Zadie Smith, as well as Molly Ringwald and Salman Rushdie, both Moth storytellers.

Colored lights bathed the room, and partygoers admired table centerpieces made of sunglasses and cassette tapes, spray-painted silver. The spirit of David Bowie hung in the air, right down to one woman’s Aladdin Sane face paint. The gala opened with a guitar performance by Jon Spurney of Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel”; later, Moth storyteller Suzy Ronson shared her experience as Bowie’s hairstylist (she went on to marry Bowie’s band member Mick Ronson).

Broad City ladies Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer introduced honoree Carrie Brownstein, with Jacobson gushing that Sleater-Kinney’s live shows have “this raw powerful energy that makes you want to live your life more passionately, where you’re like, ‘Fuck, I gotta fucking do shit.’” The pair presented Brownstein with the Moth Award – a giant white finger designed by Jonathan Adler.

As the Cut roamed the party, another late, great rocker was a topic of conversation: Prince. Zadie Smith told us about the time she and her best friend sneaked into the O2 Arena for a Prince concert. “He came to check out the stage and he stood right in front of us, and he had a tiny butt. Me and my friend Sarah reached out and took a picture,” she said. She did not reach for his butt. “I didn’t touch it. If I was more rock and roll, I would have squeezed it.” Molly Ringwald recalled seeing Prince on his Purple Rain tour.

Jenna Lyons, considering what she might perform for the Moth, imagined being ridiculous to lighten the mood. “Maybe [it would be] about my obsession with ice cream, all forms of ice cream,” she said. “I really, really like coffee ice cream. I like my ice cream to taste like coffee and my coffee to taste like ice cream.”

Salman Rushdie on the most rock-and-roll moment of his life? “That’s easy. I was onstage at Wembley stadium with U2, so that’ll do it.”

Carrie Brownstein told us why she could never do a Portlandia sketch about the Moth, revealing why most people love the Moth: “Portlandia is often about things I love,” she said. “But there’s something so sweetly earnest about the Moth, and I hold it dear, and there’s so many wonderful and moving stories that come from this show and the podcast that I’d just rather cherish it.”

Contrary to the theme of the night (the dress code encouraged looks inspired by Ziggy Stardust, Iggy Pop, and Candy Darling), Brownstein gloriously “prepared for this event by going into a CVS today and just buying eye shadow that didn’t have brown in it.”

While performing with Sleater-Kinney, she goes business-casual: “I just wore saggy-ass slacks from Banana Republic and if I didn’t have dyed-black hair and [wasn’t] shouting angry lyrics, you would have thought, ‘Oh, that’s weird that my bank teller’s onstage right now.’” Her most glamorous piece of clothing? She once won an off-the-shoulder, lavender-lace crop top that Cher wore in an exercise video. Goals.

Click ahead for a look at last night’s guests.

Reported by Madeline Raynor. Photographs by Bianca Bourgeois.

Remembering David Bowie at the Moth’s Gala