Just the other night, swarms of people took to the streets in victimy outfits, grasping for nearness to a little fabulousness like fashion zombies searching for fresh blood. The Republican National Convention? No, it was Fashion’s Night Out, the annual citywide capitalism celebration whereby every major department store and boutique in town hosts a gala event, mainly because if they don’t, FNO’s instigator Anna Wintour will throw battery acid in their face while withholding the proper eyeliner.
The result is frenetic, potentially oppressive, and often quite fun, even in—everybody now—this economy. Masses of sweaty people stampeding aimlessly through various boulevards and stores is actually the opposite of fashion, but their sheer lust for anything style-related is kind of touching, and the event ends up democratizing fashion by saying: “Come in! Gawk! Tweet! Just don’t steal!” (Some participating stores fill themselves with even more security guards than failed Project Runway contestants. The jaded call it Thieves’ Night Out, but I’ve only seen people stroke the garments longingly. Then again, back at Studio 54, I didn’t know there was sex in the balcony.)
And what a scene! Saks Fifth Avenue was a madhouse, where you pushed and kicked your way to the third floor—it was having some special event or other there—only to be told: “It’s closed off! Keep going up!” so you robotically headed to four before winding back to the lobby exit and running for air. It turned out Anna Wintour was on three, posing with a CEO, a basketball player, and Darren Criss from Glee. (For the show’s new season, Anna will help style Sarah Jessica Parker in her multi-episode arc as the editor of vogue.com, where the Chris Colfer character will work. I do know shit.) “Anna’s being nice tonight,” a photographer murmured to me later on, as if serving major headline news. “Well, this is her big night,” I responded. “It’s sort of like Elvira on Halloween!”
It was more like New Year’s Eve over at Lord & Taylor, where there was such a crush to get upstairs to see Kim Kardashian push her True Reflection perfume that people were begging me to help them sneak past the Russian Revolution–like crowds waiting for the escalator. Rather than risk death, I talked to former Real Housewife of New York Jill Zarin, who was safely promoting her jewelry line on the main floor. “My jewelry is for every woman,” Zarin told me. “It’s solution based. You can wear it with anything—casual or luxury. And even an $18 necklace gets a logo!”
I impressively stayed focused even as someone walked by luminously holding a bottle of True Reflection and a cup of champagne! They must have talked to Kim Kardashian!
Oh, well. I had bigger idols to fry, and True Reflection pales next to “True Colors” any day. So it was on to the Manolo Blahnik store, where music legend Cyndi Lauper was extolling Kinky Boots, the upcoming Broadway show she wrote the score for, based on the movie about the enterprising drag queen with a footwear fetish. Cyndi said the show “is a little story with a big heart. It’s about people changing their minds about other people.” And changing their shoes in the process.
Sporting haystack hair and personally made Manolos, Cyndi brought out Kinky star Billy Porter to sing the musical’s crazily catchy song “Sex Is in the Heel,” backed by cute guys lifting stilettos that would surely have helped me kick my way to the third floor of Saks. And then she did a pungent a cappella version of (yep) “True Colors” that set a whole new bar for West 50s shoe-store experiences.
But my favorite FNO event of all had another enduring icon—Miss Piggy—proving that sex is in the hoof by flirting with a bunch of toothsome NYC firefighters, who made sure things didn’t get so sizzling that we ended up with a big plate of bacon. It was a DKNY bash for Patrick McMullan‘s FDNY 2013 Calendar of Heroes, which is a pictorial compilation of the guys flaunting their bulging chests in a solution-based manner that’s quite heroic. “I thought: ‘This is the best shape I’ll ever be in my life. Why not promote it?'” cover boy Darius Dorsett confided to me in a corner. “And I like the cause.” “Me, too!” I gurgled. “What is the cause, by the way?” (Turns out the calendar benefits the FDNY Foundation. Oh, OK, good enough.)
“I fell in love with so many of them,” McMullan told me about the enviable audition process. “I had a few socialites look through the test shots and pick the ones they liked the best.” Just then, the biggest socialite of them all, Miss Piggy, entered, looked over the men, and cooed: “Do you have their numbers? I guess I can get ahold of them by just calling 911!”
McMullan promptly asked the little porker if Kermit is in or out (meaning her life, not the closet, LOL). “It’s safe to say he’s not here tonight,” cooed Piggy, evasively. Because she was unescorted, the firemen lined up to give Piggy a smooch (“No tongue!” she squawked) as McMullan warned the world’s most fashionable barnyard animal to only flirt with the single ones. “Maybe one will become single tonight,” Piggy said, devilishly. DKNY empress Donna Karan was getting feverish, too, announcing, “These guys are so hot I think I’m going to have to take them out of the fire department and put them on the runway this week.” Fine, as long as they bring their hoses.