Chow Time

Los Angeles

Left: Pamela Anderson, Anthony Kiedis, and David LaChappelle. Right: Richard Prince and Larry Gagosian. (All photos: Patrick McMullan/PMc)

At the last minute, I received an e-mail letting me know that I’d been green-lit to attend all parts of what is, let’s face it, the art event of the year in Los Angeles, Larry Gagosian’s annual Oscar-week opening and dinner (and as everyone knows, it’s not about the opening—anyone can get into that and does—it’s about the dinner at Mr. Chow immediately following). This year’s shindig was for Richard Prince. My favorite thing about the e-mail, aside from the fact of having secured its open sesame, was the question mark punctuating the list of possible attendees: “…EUGENIO LOPEZ, BROOKE SHIELDS, NATALIA VIODNOVA [sic] & JUSTIN PORTMAN, HEDI SLIMANE, MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ?” Very Richard Prince, that question mark, seeming to ask not so much whether these names would appear but rather, “Who the hell are these people?” And if the names appear on this list, does it matter if they actually show up? Would I even know Michelle Rodriguez if I saw her?

A little back story about Gogo’s plum annual gig: For 2000’s pre-Oscar blowout, Cindy Sherman premiered her “Brentwood Wives” series. That show brought new currency to Wilde’s observation that life copies from art (the photographs mirrored many of the key figures in the art-lovin’ throng). When Julian Schnabel commandeered the primo slot in 2001, his Before Night Falls was an Academy favorite. Despite the fact that someone as iconic as Leonard Nimoy, a.k.a., Spock, has been a Hollywood contemporary-art benefactor for decades, Gogo’s vaguely synergistic forays only underscore that Los Angeles is a single-industry town, and art isn’t quite industry. I’ve been going to openings in this burg for almost a decade and, while there are always plenty of hip cuties, I see more celebrities at the grocery store than I do at art events. The majority of Hollywood folk only buy art because they want something hanging on the wall that guests will recognize. Any young industry player could have a kick-ass collection for less, probably, than the average annual donation to the Kabbalah Center. But if a picture hangs on the wall and no one knows who made it, or roughly how much it set you back, is it really there?

I got to the opening late-ish. My first celeb of the evening would have been hard to miss: Snug canary-yellow dress, teal heels, luscious chestnut mane—Mrs. Peter Brant! Better known to most as supermodel Stephanie Seymour, she looks like Stephanie Seymour or how you think Stephanie Seymour would look. Which is like a Juergen Teller photo. Robbie Robertson’s plus-one appeared to be a hybrid of Seymour and Brooke Shields (who was a no-show). Put pictures of Kelly Lynch, Lisa Phillips, Sally Abermarle, and Kim Gordon together; call it Four Women Looking in the Same Direction. Snap Barbara Gladstone tête-à-têting with besuited Eva Presenhuber: an in-the-flesh, motherlode Girlfriends. Claire Forlani. China Chow. There were more pretty ladies than hot guys—dreamy, sloe-eyed Hedi Slimane in gold boots and pocket-size Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis were major exceptions. Since most of the ladies accessorized the arms of much-older men, I got really excited when Los Angeles doyenne Barbara Davis glided by on the arm of a young walker, until someone informed me that the honors student at the Jerome Zipkin Institute was her grandson, Brandon. Sigh. The latest issue of US, not to mention the attendee list, had him partnered up with Mischa Barton.

Left: Brandon Davis, Barbara Davis, Richard Prince, and Steve Tisch. Middle: Stephanie Seymour. Right: Hedi Slimane.

The Check Paintings—many a resplendent shit brown, all collaged with the artist’s canceled checks—are Prince in his most Warholian mode. Andy made clear that every payment is a kind of identity check, and the IRS cosigned his diary. Prince finds the literary in the fiduciary haiku of check writing: “7/20/99, Mike Ovitz, $175,000, memo: buyback painting.” “6/2/04, Kim Gordon, $680, memo: Book Art Piece.” All the checks have Prince’s address in Rensselaerville, New York, and many sport a penned-in telephone number that’s presumably as “real” as the checks. (Just to make sure, I dialed it and got an automated voice informing me that no one was available to take my call.) Maybe it’s the digits for Second House.

On the way to dinner, as I walked down Camden to Mr. Chow, I overheard someone say: “Spago’s closed—party for the Academy.” Prince once deflated some smartypants’ use of the term simulacra by deadpanning: “Simulacra? Isn’t that, like, just a word for the next-best thing?” Is Mr. Chow a next-best Spago? Seated at what was probably the toniest “writers” table I’ll ever sit at (Bruce Wagner, Bret Easton Ellis), I watched some dressed-up next-best-things being turned away at the door—not on the list. But it’s all relative: I was feeling not even remotely next-best when a real thing—Pamela Anderson!—purred her way up to me and my table companions, John Waters and Greg Gorman. Looking not tiny but perfect, she’s a supernova sexbomb, a feminine exemplar so powerful that she put me in touch with—what did Lacan call it?—my own special “not-all.” I may now have a clitoris. Oh, and the food at Mr. Chow: Let’s just say I felt thinner after having eaten.

Left: Dominick Dunne and Wendy Stark. Middle: Shannen Doherty. Right: Cecily Brown and Tara Subkoff.

Jackie and Irving Blum. Right: Larry Gagosian, John Waters, and Greg Gorman.