Real-estate developer Douglas Durst arrived as a tree, Stevie Wonder — who later performed — was a skeleton pirate. Leyla Ertegun, a psychotherapist and daughter of the late music producer Nesuhi Ertegun, was a quadruple suicide. Her costume included syringe, knife, rope and bottle of pills.
New York Restoration Projectâ€™s Hulaween Gala on Friday night brought out all kinds of costumes.
â€œItâ€™s a theatrical town,â€ said comedian Judy Gold, the emcee of the event, on a night off from her own â€œThe Judy Showâ€ off-Broadway. â€œWe like to see so many kinds of people — and we like to become them.â€
â€œItâ€™s all about creativity,â€ said Kate Lear, a lead donor to the event and the chairman of Ballet Hispanico. She was a maid, her husband, Dr. Jon LaPook, Robin Hood.
There were many dead people walking around — a nod to the Day of the Dead theme. New York Restoration Projectâ€™s founder, Bette Midler, had tiny skulls and pink flower petals tucked into her headdress and bustle.
â€œYou look fab but letâ€™s cut to the chase: How do I look?â€ she said in her welcoming remarks. â€œEven dead, I look fabulous.â€
(The event also clung to its perennial Hawaiian theme, with Midler accompanied by hula dancers handing out fresh leis to top donors. There were a lot of jokes about leis.)
Robert Diamond, a set decorator for â€œThe Martha Stewart Show,â€ spent 52 hours on his sparkling green-beaded mask, part of his Emperor of the Butterflies costume. He learned to bead working for French fashion designer Thierry Mugler.
Later Diamond got to go up on stage, when designer Michael Kors gave him a prize in the costume contest.
â€œDonâ€™t try this at home,â€ Kors said of Diamondâ€™s costume. Kors himself was unrecognizable as a mariachi musician.
A highlight of the Mexican meal was grilled chicken with mole poblano. Chef Rick Bayless made 30 gallons of the mole sauce in Chicago, then simmered it in the kitchen of the Waldorf-Astoria for five hours. It contained almonds, sesame, peanuts, chocolate and various chiles.
Chocolate mousse was served in a skull-shaped chocolate shell.
Before Wonder got everyone dancing with Halloween- appropriate songs like â€œSuperstitionâ€ and Michael Jacksonâ€™s â€œThriller,â€ Midler gave awards to people who have helped the organization beautify New York City community gardens and parks.
Durst received the â€œGreen Godâ€ award. The projectâ€™s chairman and pro bono lawyer, Benjamin Needell, got the â€œWind Beneath My Wingsâ€ award (with Midlerâ€™s song by that name playing as he walked on stage).
On the tables were candles featuring saintly images of Midler, and large skulls made of glitter and foam. The decor was designed by creative director Douglas Little, whose work can be seen in the windows of Van Cleef & Arpels.
Littleâ€™s face makeup gave him a rotting look, right down to the set of teeth in his right cheek. â€œIn New York especially, people take costumes seriously,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a gorgeous way of escaping.â€
The event raised $1.9 million.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)