NEW YORK â€” Unrecognizable in a jet-black wig, mustache, French sailor shirt and neck scarf, Michael Kors proved to be the ultimate judge at Bette Midlerâ€™s annual â€œHulaweenâ€ Party Wednesday night at the Waldorf-Astoria. With a baguette in one hand and a fake cigarette in the other, Kors said, â€œI am the forbidden Frenchman. I am going to do two things you never see in New York â€” smoke in public and eat bread. There are women in that [ball]room who have never seen this much carbs.
â€œCan you believe I am smoking in public? In New York, red is more forbidden in fashion.â€
â€œEn Francaiseâ€ was the theme for the 17th-annual Halloween bash, which helped a Coco Chanel-looking Midler raise $1.8 million for the New York Restoration Project. Sizing up the parade of guests en route to dinner, Kors said, â€œWe have a lot of Karls [Lagerfeld.] I knew there would be.â€
The designer liked the Ann Curry look-alike with a knife in her back but the American slant clashed with the Francophile theme. That was something he could relate to. â€œWhen I was at Celine, they said, â€˜You canâ€™t drink Coke in public. Itâ€™s too American. I told them, â€˜Well, I think everyone knows I am American.â€™â€
Back to the costume contest. The Blackstone Groupâ€™s Stephen Schwarzman missed out on prizes as the Devil. And impressive as a stage-worthy French court was, Kors really perked up when a caftan-clad troupe waltzed by. â€œWhat are you?â€ Kors asked the party of 14, only to be told, â€œWeâ€™re Liz Taylor and the was-bands.â€
â€œOh I get it, youâ€™re Larry [Fortensky] and youâ€™re Richard [Burton] â€” divine,â€ he nodded approvingly. â€œElizabeth Taylor told me when she was married to John Warner she had to wear tweed.â€ The Taylor-ites then told Kors their caftans were actually bought at the Christies auction last fall. â€œI guess Iâ€™m lucky because I was bidding against you,â€ he said. â€œJust remember, donâ€™t say youâ€™re â€˜Liz.â€™ Youâ€™re Elizabeth. She always called herself Elizabeth.â€
In a Grace Jones-inspired costume, Douglas Little â€” who designed the partyâ€™s dramatic decor â€” donned another winning look. Kors said, â€œWe actually saw Grace Jones perform Saturday. It was called her Hurricane Return to Roseland. How strange is that?â€
Hurricane Sandyâ€™s flight cancellations stranded Al Gore in Tennessee and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas in Bermuda. Debra Messing arrived Wednesday as Marie Antoinette and Debbie Harry performed in can-can girl attire, but neither walked away with one of the prizewinning wheels of brie.
Before revelers tucked into the Jean-Georges Vongerichtenâ€™s three â€œcorpsâ€ menu, Midler sang for her supper with Sothebyâ€™s auctioneer Eric Kornfeld and Hugh Hildesley. â€œOf course, you all want to know who I am â€” Bella Abzug,â€ she said, showing off her tweed suit. â€œNo, I am a corpse of Coco Chanel because I knew there would be more Napoleons here tonight than there are Elvises in Las Vegas.â€