Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2006

By James Verini

Among all the Hollywood throwback gowns, the re-upped worship of tortured denim and the Bob Fosse-conjuring underwear, nobody seemed sure, yet again, whether L.A. Fashion Week should be about showcasing L.A.’s real indigenous self or playing into the tiresome images of tawdriness and self-stultification, or — what usually ends up happening — trying to do both.

A similar contradiction afflicted the week’s nightlife, as the genuine and interesting found themselves awash in a lot of pandering nonsense.

Now, bear in mind, fashion week parties are something of an afterthought. At the last minute the houses’ business managers convince the sleep-deprived designers that they must get better at promotion and then prevail upon nightclubs and millionaires with houses in Bel-Air to throw open their doors for a few hundred people who couldn’t tell one collection from another.

But these parties, like the week itself, tease out a healthy cross-section of the city, from aspiring young East Side designers to bespoke Westside septuagenarians to celebrities who are actually interested in the clothing, plus those who are just interested in free stuff. Include, of course, the arm-tarts, junior agents and velvet-rope-fraying rabble who love them.

Wednesday night saw the after-party for the Jennifer Nicholson show (pushed back an hour so that her father, some actor named Jack, could see the Lakers win) in Brent Bolthouse’s lounge at Smashbox Studios, as well as a party for Kelly Nishimoto at Rokbar. Tuesday night there were parties for Uriel Sanz and Mean Magazine at Spider Club and LAX, respectively.

However, the sundered halves of the embattled heart of fashion week were flung most tellingly between two inimical parties that took place earlier.

First, the dark side.

Sunday night saw the after-party for the Louis Verdad show, held at the Spanish Kitchen and hosted, for no apparent reason, by Paris Hilton. At the last minute, some rainmaker had managed to secure the hotel heiress’ unholy presence — for what fee we can only begin to imagine — and before anyone had even arrived, the restaurant was swarming with o7paparazzif7.

After things got underway, the entire proceedings felt held hostage by Hilton, who these days travels with a coterie of bodyguards (a strange state of affairs, given that a restraining order was recently put in effect against her, and by her boyfriend’s handler, no less). They stood vigilantly by, watching out for any crazed “House of Wax” fans who might try to rush the roped-off upper level of the dining room, where Hilton and sister Nicky oversaw a table of hangers-on and heavily sauced enchiladas. The food and the sisters wore similar expressions of disinterest.

Louis Verdad was nowhere in sight.

Paris got up periodically to take photographs in front of a poster of — who else? — Paris Hilton, while on the lower level, the party’s B-plan invitees fought for drinks at a cash bar.

An epilogue: We heard Tuesday from our friends at Fox that Hilton was scheduled to appear in an episode of “Family Guy.” She was to play — who else? — Paris Hilton. But when Hilton read the script and found that her animated self is turned away from a nightclub because she’s not on the list, the real Hilton scoffed, put down the script and walked out of the “Family Guy” production offices. True story.

Thankfully, for every Hilton-soured party in L.A. these days — and there are many — there is also a beacon of nightlife hope.

Last Friday, fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone commandeered Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills, where she threw a dinner party for an expertly curated group of designers, producers, suits, actors, models, musicians and socialites. At a table in the back of the restaurant, Ben Kingsley tried with some success to make conversation with a pair of wide-eyed — and not just because they were starving themselves — models. Across the way, Courtney Love was leaning halfway over a table talking at Peter Katsis of management company the Firm. (Insert your own joke here.) At a nearby table, Stone Temple Pilots’ frontman Scott Weiland was in poking distance of Adriano Goldschmied, who was in cologne-guessing range of Vidal Sassoon, who was carrying on a grand fashion tete-a-tete with Fred Segal.

“Can you believe it?” cried Michael Baruch, manager of Segal’s little-known o7shmata f7operation, standing over Segal and Sassoon like Jimmy Carter at the Camp David Accords. “Two legends, right here! Two giants!” (Baruch, Paul DeArmas, also of Fred Segal, Cutrone, and Dean and Davis Factor, the brothers behind Smashbox Studios, shared hosting duties.)

“We’re building a library in Israel,” Segal told me, of his discussion with Sassoon. With his pastel blue sweater sans shirt and his slicked-back white hair, Segal called to mind a “Sopranos” character. In a move that likely would not sit well with Paulie Walnuts, he was wearing a necklace with a hanging silver cross topped by a diamond-encrusted Star of David. (Segal is not a Jew for Jesus, incidentally.) Sharing in the multi-denominational spirit of the evening was Vincent Gallo — it was only a matter of time, dear reader — who was outside, carrying on an in-depth discussion about knishes. He prefers cheese.

Not promoting any one label, the Mr. Chow party was instead a kind of statement on social eclecticism. What’s more, Louis Verdad was there.

Of course, it had its own share of fashionable preposterousness. At the end of the night, I found myself talking to Chrissie Collins and Max Zubari, the designing duo behind Parballe, a hot young label. Former models, Collins and Zubari have made their names on one particular sought-after item: shirts torn by buckshot. Literally. The pair scour vintage clothing stores the world over for T-shirts and then bring them back to L.A., where they shoot the shirts with shotguns full of buckshot. They go for $500 to $1,000 apiece. Keith Richards is a collector, and Johnny Depp has been seen in one, though Dick Cheney, thus far, has not.