Chanel Puts Spice in Blue Ribbon Show

TIMES SOCIETY WRITER

It's no easy task to shock the Music Center crowd; we're not talking about a bunch of greenhorns here. But the combination of neo-punk, bum-baring fashions and vaguely smutty Prince lyrics sent a few eyebrows soaring when Chanel came to town.

The occasion was a benefit for the Blue Ribbon of the Music Center--the Music Center's chief fund-raising group--featuring a fashion show that sampled Karl Lagerfeld's cutting-edge Chanel fall/winter ready-to-wear and couture collections. On a chilly Monday night, about 300 Blue Ribbon members and their husbands filed into a sound stage at 20th Century Fox studios for cocktails, dinner, dancing and the show.

But it was the clothes that added a note of spice to this sophisticated gala. Model superstars Linda Evangelista (in persimmon-colored hair), Claudia Schiffer, Gail Elliot, Elaine Irwin, Veronica Webb, Nadege and Jennifer Flavin strutted their stuff down the runway, hiking up tulle skirts and flashing more chains than a rap star. It seemed as if Lagerfeld was alternately inspired by "Barbarella" and the Home Shopping Club's 14-karat gold sell-off.

Although some applauded wildly at the designer's grass skirts, denim suits and see-through high-heel ankle boots, others watched the show with mouths agape and brows furrowed. "I am a very, very rich girl. I am a very, very rich girl. I . . . am . . . a . . . very . . . very . . . rich . . . girl" intoned a voice-over at the beginning of the show. She was in good company.

"It was our feeling that we would not do something on a sound stage initially," said Arie Kopelman, president of Chanel. "There had to be a reason why; having an event on a sound stage wasn't enough. Then someone has the idea that in 1931, Coco Chanel was invited to Hollywood to do costumes for the movies, and suddenly the sound stage idea clicked."

Although Kaiser Karl was jetting off to Paris and couldn't make the event, he sent along sketches for turning the cavernous sound stage into a '30s nightclub, executed in shiny white floors, draped white walls, dramatic deco-ish chandeliers and goldfish bowl centerpieces with floating candles and gardenias.

"I wear Karl Lagerfeld--his own designs--and Chanel a lot," said actress Jane Seymour, who wore a fitted bell-shaped black tulle suit from Chanel's fall collection. She explained her fashion philosophy this way: "When I want to be young, sassy and maybe a little risque, Versace is obviously the way to go. For a classic look, Valentino or Chanel."

Several woman pulled out their white camellia-studded Chanels for the evening in that traditional homage to the designer, but they left the really outre stuff to the runway models. Among the guests were Candy and Aaron Spelling, Barbara Davis and daughter Nancy Zarif, Polly Bergen, Dina Merrill, Eddie Albert; actresses Lara Flynn Boyle, Rosanna Arquette and Sofia Coppola; John and Constance Towers Gavin, Betsy Bloomingdale, Cesar Romero, former Blue Ribbon presidents Maggie Wetzel, Keith Kieschnick, Joanne Kozberg and Nancy Livingston, current president Sandra Ausman and gala chairmen Joan Hotchkis, Anne Johnson and Annette O'Malley.

In conjunction with Chanel's launch of Egoiste, its men's fragrance, composer Henry Mancini and Gordon Davidson, artistic director of the Mark Taper Forum/Center Theatre Group, received Egoiste awards for their contributions to the arts. Scholarships in their names will be awarded to two young aspiring artists.

Davidson thanked the Blue Ribbon, saying, "You have made it possible for me and fellow artists to do the work we've been doing over the last 25 years. It's no small gift, it's a tremendous gift. It's the gift to imagine, to dream, to take chances, to fail and occasionally to fly. But the best of tonight is that the gift that you give in the form of a scholarship may make it possible for someone else to have a chance to fly."

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