To some, the top tier of Hollywood society means getting through the velvet rope at The Kress without a hassle, but after hanging with the crustiest of the upper crust at the opening weekend festivities of Los Angeles Opera — in which we took in Howard Shore's The Fly and Woody Allen's interpretation of Gianni Schicchi — Defamer has seen the light. Yes, there’s another level of society out there that's upholstered in rich mahogany and fine Corinthian leather, and I infiltrated it for you. So if you want to find out how the people who dress like Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly get down, strap on that cummerbund and let's begin.I’m no opera buff, but I heard that David Cronenberg was directing an opera version of The Fly and I wanted to go. When I saw that decent tickets were like $250 each, I decided to pretend I was a journalist and get in for free. This worked shockingly well. Not only did I get orchestra seats to The Fly, but also tickets to Il Trittico (a Puccini trilogy directed by William Friedkin and Woody Allen) as well as an invitation to the opening weekend black tie gala. In other words, my ass got hooked up.
I arrived at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Friday night, at least 20 years younger than everyone else and certainly the only one in a rented Men’s Wearhouse tuxedo. The women, bronzed and tucked within an inch of their lives, were draped in gowns that looked like fine Renaissance tapestries. Golf ball-sized bangles hung from their elongated earlobes. The men had self-tying bow ties and wore patent leather loafers without socks—a move only extremely successful people and total douches can pull off. The crowd even smelled rich. No Axe body spray here, this was strictly a Creed gathering, filled with people who made their money long ago. These guys didn’t have to worry about whether the studio would greenlight their next project; they were too busy donating wings to museums. I grabbed some complimentary champagne and drank a flute or five, thinking it would help me blend in a little better. The opera began and I was carried all the way to intermission afloat on a sea of alcohol. So much for the performance. Before I knew it, I was in the lobby with the swells once again. There was a reception for the media but I decided to skip it, preferring to stay with my rich brethren. I noticed that a select few of them were making their way to the left side of the auditorium and I decided to follow. They were filing into the Founder’s Room— an exclusive members only club within the already exclusive club of people who attend the opera on opening night. I snuck in, which was surprisingly easy to do because security doesn’t assume anyone would be so uncouth as to pull a stunt like that. The room was a gorgeous wood-paneled affair and the people here made the people in the lobby seem like paupers. There were even some celebs. Michael Eisner stood alone in the corner thumbing through a program. Martin Short walked by entertaining a group of dowagers who cackled at every word he said. William Petersen talked shop with some ancient executives. Don Johnson (!) strutted around with his amazingly tall ex-model wife. Josh Groban was being Josh Groban. I drank more free champagne to steel myself for the opera’s final act.
Soon enough the show was over and it was time for the opening night gala dinner. Only large donors to the opera were invited to this shindig and I was one of the lucky few members of the media asked to cover it. The courtyard of the Music Center had been converted into a banquet hall. Crystal stemware, silver, and a centerpiece of expensive roses graced every table. I was seated off to the side with the other journalists, but they were professional opera journalists, and therefore far classier than I. We dined on filet mignon and creamed Tuscan black kale catered by Patina. A live orchestra tinkled out standards and I fortified myself with still more champagne. Placido Domingo, living legend and director of the L.A.O. took the mike. In his glamorously Italian-accented yet boring speech, he thanked the opera’s many benefactors and introduced the cast and crew. Then he singled out Woody Allen.
Earlier in the evening Woody made his operatic debut by directing Gianni Schicchi, the only comedic opera in Puccini’s Il Trittico. It was a smashing success and received a standing ovation, but the famous recluse never came out for a curtain call. Many of us wondered if he even bothered to show up at all. I certainly didn’t expect him to be at the gala dinner. But as soon as Placido said his name, Woody stood up and shyly waved to the crowd. He had skipped the tux in favor of his traditional uniform-the famous thick black glasses, khaki pants, frayed Oxford shirt, and a blue blazer—and it made him look more like a living cartoon character than a real human being. It’s rare that anyone gets a chance to be near Woody in the flesh, especially Los Angelinos, and within seconds well-wishers mobbed him. Most memorably, Don Johnson came up to him brimming with confidence. “I’m a big star,” thought Don. “There’s no way Woody wouldn’t be psyched to meet me.” But when he tapped Woody on the shoulder and shook his hand, Woody said hi, and then immediately turned to talk to someone else. Obviously Woody Allen could give a shit about Don Johnson. For the briefest second, a look of embarrassment flashed across Don’s face, but then he bucked up and went back to his model wife, pretending all was right in the world.