This past Saturday, on a particularly sweltering Los Angeles evening, a crowd began to fill the balcony space at the Hammer Museum.
Julia Roberts, this year's host of the Gala in the Garden, would not arrive for a while, but guests like Emma Stone, Elizabeth Banks, Patricia Arquette, and Kiernan Shipka rubbed Bottega-clad shoulders with art heavy-hitters like Ed Ruscha, Matthew Barney, John Baldessari, and Barbara Kruger while enjoying the view of a stunning courtyard illuminated by globe lights. A string quartet played classical music one could describe as "Vivaldi-ish."
Perhaps because this year’s event was honoring a woman who loves to drink red wine on the rocks (Diane Keaton) and an artist who recently installed a giant, green buttplug in front of the Louvre (Paul McCarthy), the celeb-studded crowd seemed particularly relaxed. Men wore Vans or Chucks with their suits. Will Ferrell hung out nursing a Peroni and Jane Lynch could be seen quietly people-watching.
“There’s no way to talk about art without sounding like an a**hole,” Amanda Peet told me when I asked for tips on “proper art conversation.”
The entire party had taken a sudden interest in the exhibits, as the galleries were the only place with air-conditioning. It seemed important to learn how to fake a smart conversation while trying to disguise my steady flow of sweat among such beautiful people.
Peet's plan was just to avoid talking about the art or the heat. A cue I should have taken before pointing out that she and her bud Sarah Paulson were wearing similar long-sleeved, pink lace minidresses. “Did you guys plan that?” I asked. She threw me the universal half-smile-of-exasperation all women give when someone points out their matching outfits. I assured her that my BFF and I also always try to coordinate our Bottega.
Hearing a rumor that Steve Martin wanted to discuss the exhibit he’d helped curate, I took leave of Peet. I found Docent Steve giving Martin Short and a woman who looked like Diane Keaton (but was merely a dedicated tribute artist) a quick run-through of works by painter Lawren Harris, whom I would classify as "Bob Ross-ish, but more abstract."
A civilian named Helen caught me trailing Steve Martin's art lecture, and kindly schooled me on the proper etiquette of Los Angeles parties: Nobody, save the ubiquitous trio of celebrity reporters, even bothers to notice the famous people. They are just like us, she advised me; therefore, I should treat them "like furniture." (Something to ignore until I sat on them?)
Diane Keaton arrived about ten minutes before the end of the cocktail hour, and seemed to have truly mastered the “I am not famous, I am furniture” mentality. She wove through the crowd, almost unnoticed despite the bowler hat that only she is allowed to wear, doing a little dance as she greeted friends like Patricia Arquette and Selma Blair. Finally, she joined a circle of women including Peet, Paulson, and a few others who toasted her with glasses of her new, affordable red wine, Keaton (sans ice, it must be noted). It was time for dinner.