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Sticks + Skin + Bones

Except for the two women dressed in what looks like cow intestine, the crowd huddling around the outdoor cocktail bar at MOCA’s opening of the “Skin + Bones” fashion and architecture exhibit seems pretty tame. Instead of radical Watanabe, Yamamoto or McQueen gowns that swirl like Gehry buildings, there is enough black to outfit the entire funeral procession for JFK. “Don’t try to compete,” a friend had advised before I ignored her and borrowed a dress from designer Sarah Luna. At least I’m not wearing black.

At the media desk, a woman informs me that I can choose the VIPs I’d like to chat with during the evening from a list of names she controls. “However,” whispers the woman, “Demi and Ashton are not giving interviews.” She has the regretful tone of a waiter announcing that the most popular dish had been 86’ed for the night. I choose the evening’s performer, Rufus Wainwright; Madonna-pal-turned-Entourage-star Debi Mazar; and Arianne Phillips, stylist to the stars and movie-costume queen.

Inside the exhibit, I finally lay my eyes on some real fashion —Viktor & Rolf, Ralph Rucci, Theyskens and Westwood . . . Stunning. Lots of architectural models paired with couture that employs the dramatic structures of the most daring architecture. In one instance, a circular stagelike installation features a series of dresses inspired by Russian stacking dolls. Not everyone is taken by the spectacle. I mention the art to an artist friend, who looks around and just laughs. “Where? Where’s the ‘art’?” Ouch.

We leave MOCA and head to the Geffen Contemporary, where a cocktail-sit-down dinner is being held to celebrate the exhibit. For some reason our individual Moët bottles come with a strange plastic spout attached — apparently, we’re supposed to use it as a glass. But I’m not into test-tube cocktails, so I pop off the spout and swig the Moët like beer. I swig too much and have to head to the ladies’ room, where Eva Mendes and Rachel Griffiths, from Six Feet Under (Brenda, my favorite), are discussing management. Apparently, Griffiths isn’t happy with hers.

Bored by industry gossip, and wanting to get my interviews out of the way, I head over to Mazar, who looks stunning in a crisp white suit. “It’s designed by Isabella Toledo, a great friend of mine and my kid’s godmother.” Toledo, who has some pieces in the exhibit, is sitting near us, engaged in another conversation. “The exhibit is amazing,” says Mazar. “Something like this is great for the fashion community.”

“You mean because it’s here in L.A.?” I ask.

“No,” she says rather emphatically, “I don’t care that it’s in L.A., it could be anywhere. It’s just amazing that fashion is being recognized as an art form. It’s really the first exhibit of its kind.”

I head off to find Arianne Phillips. But because she is seated next to Demi and Ashton, she has to talk to me out in the aisle. I guess they are afraid I might make some kind of eye contact with the May-December power couple. Phillips, unlike Mazar, says she’s really proud that the exhibit is in L.A. “For L.A. to host this kind of thing really says something to the global fashion community.”

Back at my table, a couple of representatives of Yohji Yamamoto aren’t so sure. “How was L.A. Fashion Week?” asks the slim brunette, practically giggling the words out of her mouth. The condescension was as ripe and juicy as the “beef juxtaposition” we were noshing on. When I try to explain that there’s a growing community of designers and a booming fashion business here, she nods at me with a touch of pity.

After a solo performance by Rufus, my friends and I sit outside on the denim bales and collect commemorative tea plates and a limited-edition copy of Diana Vreeland’s Memos. Rufus waves goodbye. About 20 minutes and a few more champagnes later, we see Demi and Ashton rush out. “OH MY GOD! YOU GUYS ARE SO FAMOUS!” some smartass calls out sarcastically. Demi looks up and smiles, a little embarrassed. Or that’s what I’d like to think.