What a magnificent event this was!!!  From beginning to end.  My enjoyment of it is still here, over a week later.

The gala was thrown by Etihad Airways to celebrate the launch of their daily non-stop service from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi, and was the absolute most generous party I’ve ever attended! I’ve been on the social scene for more years than I care to relate, and I thought I had seen everything. I’ve been to a soiree at an estate in Malibu where the host arrived on an elephant. I was a special guest at a birthday celebration for one of Jane Seymour’s teen-age daughters where there were carnival rides on the front lawn. (The girls invited me, not Jane.) And I was witness to the first birthday party of a Beverly Hills doctor’s infant daughter, where an airplane flew over with a banner proclaiming it so.  (Like the baby cared, right?) And, of course, I’ve attended many an award show and after-party, including Governor’s Balls.  But I have never seen anything as lavish, or well-executed, as this one.

The overview of the cocktail party and the dinner tables  set-up below the terrace.  All photos (except the one of Harry Connick, Jr.) by Getty Images for Etihad Airways.

The overview of the cocktail party and the dinner tables set-up below the terrace. All photos (except the one of Harry Connick, Jr.) by Getty Images for Etihad Airways.

It was held on the stunning property of Beverly Hills’ Beverly House, high above the flats. It was originally the home of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies, the honeymoon destination for JFK and Jackie Kennedy, and for many years now has belonged to Leonard Ross, a lovely lawyer whom I met at this fete.  I cannot believe that just one man lives there!  And I love that he appeared to really appreciate doing so.

This is going to be a very long write-up because there were so many nuances to the event that I don’t want you to miss any of the details.  And get used to lots of exclamation points because this party was indeed superlative!

Two members of the cabin crew.

Two members of the cabin crew.

First and foremost, I must laud every single person who worked on it.  The planners (I believe led by Ines Manger, with whom I bonded in one of the upscale-eatery-level powder rooms,) did a perfect job, on every front.  The service, from the people who first checked us in at a nearby park, to the valets, to the security detail, to the most pleasant servers, at both the cocktail party and the dinner, was on a level that I’ve rarely encountered.  And all throughout the evening, there were actual cabin crew members from the airline, in their attractive retro uniforms, to cater to our every need.  With a smile, of course!

I have never felt so welcome anyplace.  Not only did they ask me to stay when I was ducking-out early because I was cold, but they came out to see me at the valets to make sure I would be warm enough for the rest of the evening! (More on that later.)

We were told that “etihad” means “united,” and that’s what we all were there.  The guest list was comprised of about four hundred fashionable people, and all were willing to mingle and chat, including special guests Buzz Aldrin (my table-mate,) and Quincy Jones!!! (And I also met my two New Best Friends that night! Lovely ladies.)

For the first couple of hours, the guests were on the terrace, enjoying cocktails, Arabic coffee and dates, and passed hors d’oeuvres, that were each presented on a spoon, for the easiest eating possible.  Each offering was attended by two servers–one with a tray of the tidbits, and the other carrying a tray on which we laid our spoons when we were done!  It was the least messy party I’ve ever been to.

A bed in a new Residence on Etihad Airways.

A bed in a new Residence on Etihad Airways.

While that was happening, we got to explore mock-ups of the interiors of Etihad Airways opulent airplanes. My associate, Celia, and I almost passed-out when we saw their new “Residence;” it features a double bed and a full private shower!  And–get ready for this–a butler!!!  It was more luxurious than some top hotels I’ve stayed at!  I might just fly there and back, without ever getting off the plane!  Mr. X would seriously love doing that, since he doesn’t like to go out anyway!

There was also a tent where ladies were doing mehndi, which is henna tattoos, for the guests.  I always regret getting them, but at the time, they’re so special and fun.  (But, before you get one, think about what you have going for the next several days;  it looks like you have a skin disease for at least a week after.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

One of my favorite touches of the evening was also the most considerate on the part of the event planners.  It appears that I wasn’t the only female in attendance who expected it to be warmer out that night than it really was.  None of us had jackets, and my cocktail group was wondering how comfortable we’d be during the dinner and entertainment portions of the evening.  All of a sudden, a girl came out of the mansion carrying a tray full of…pashminas!!!  OMG!  It was like a miracle! We all readily, and gratefully, accepted them.

The mehndi tent on the terrace.

The mehndi tent on the terrace.

Okay, so here’s the story I referenced earlier:  Even with the pashmina, I was still a tad chilly, so I told Celia that we’d, unfortunately, have to leave because I was cold.  So, very reluctantly, we went out to the valet parkers.  As we were waiting, one of the flight attendants walked out to us.  I couldn’t imagine what was up.  She came right up to me and said, “We understand that you’re cold.  Will these help?”  And with that, she handed me three more pashminas! She then requested that we stay for dinner, and escorted us to our table…right near the stage!  This is one of the very few times where I can state honestly that something was “amazing!”  My own friends wouldn’t do that for me!

The dinner portion of the evening could not have been executed more perfectly.  The tables themselves looked gorgeous, and the printed menus, on black textured cards with gold lettering, were impressive.

(L to R) The power trio of Quincy Jones, Dannii Minogue, and Buzz Aldrin.

(L to R) The power trio of Quincy Jones, Dannii Minogue, and Buzz Aldrin.

There were a few brief, intelligent greetings from higher-ups in the Etihad organization.  My favorite speaker was the Mistress of Ceremonies, Dannii Minogue, the younger sister of Australian pop star Kylie Minogue, and a celebrity in that country in her own right.  She’s a beautiful, classy woman, with gorgeous speech, so kudos to Etihad for having such an excellent spokesperson for their top-notch airline.

After viewing an incredible Abu Dhabi-themed projection on the entire width of the immense edifice, we dined.  First we had burrata and tomato salads, which were served thusly:  Ten servers surrounded each table, one at a time, carrying the salads, which each had a cover on them.  Then, on the direction of one of the workers, all the salads were placed in front of the guests, ensemble!  I especially loved that presentation because it’s how the Dimitri Dimitrov-led team did things at the former Bel Age Hotel eatery, Diaghilev, which was always a regal experience.

Then the most brilliant thing happened; after the salads, we were entertained by none other than Harry Connick, Jr!  Besides that he was fabulous, (deets in a second,) it was perfect to have him perform in the middle of the dinner, rather than after, when everyone’s sated and ready to leave.  This way, there were no dishes or glasses clinking during his set,and everyone was full enough to pay rapt attention, but not too full to be groggy.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that order of experiences.

A guest's photo of Harry Connick, Jr. performing.

A guest’s photo of Harry Connick, Jr. performing.

Now, to the performance.  In addition to seeing the man himself, we heard his fabulous musicians, several of whom were featured.  What a fabulous treat the whole thing was.  Not only is Harry Connick, Jr. a gifted singer and pianist, but he’s so funny.  This is the first time in a long time that I wish I was still doing my TV show so that I could let you in on some of his bon mots with the proper inflections.  Suffice it to say that the men in the front tables, right in front me, had an extra-great time.  And, by the way, Harry is even better-looking than he is on television, and just as entertaining.

After that delightful musical interlude, we had our choice of three meal entrees.  There was a thoughtful vegan and gluten-free risotto, Celia’s choice of the succulent Chilean sea bass, and the delicious short ribs that were chosen by us carnivores.  The portions were the perfect size, as well.

We then moved on to the raffle, which awarded the winners with flights on Etihad to Abu Dhabi, and stays of varying lengths.  (While waiting for our cars, I chatted with one of the excited winners, Shohreh Aghdashloo, an actress I’m familiar with because of her excellent work on 24 and House of Sand and Fog.  We were laughing the whole time, and I told her, “You’re famous, and a world traveler–you don’t need this prize!”  And she answered that, despite those conditions, she could not wait to fly on Etihad!  I don’t blame her.)

That frivolity was followed by a chocolate cake dessert, which was a superb ending to the evening.  Or so I thought it was the end.

But the fun just kept on coming!  In her closing remarks, Dannii invited the assemblage to the “after-party” in a bar room beneath the terrace.  It was art deco, and gorgeous!  And it had a disco ball!!!  And music to match. (Mr. Ross told me that this structure was built eighteen years ago.  I would have never thought to improve this property, but it’s an exquisite addition.)  It was a wonderful place to wait for our cars.  When we handed in our valet tickets, they even supplied each party with one of those pagers they use in restaurants to call you when your table’s ready, so you could hang in the party room instead of standing outside.  Yet another brilliant touch!

The goodie bag and contents.

The goodie bag and contents.

My party-planning mind was thinking that maybe we’d each receive one of the airline’s beautiful amenity bags on the way out, because I had seen them in the mock-ups, and was drooling over them.  But, I guess I don’t think as big as the powers-that-be at Etihad Airways do because the gifts they gave were overwhelming!  I actually didn’t even see the bags at first, and by that time, I had lost all thoughts of parting gifts because we had had so many other delights throughout the evening.  But, as the cabin crew bid us each good night, they handed us the heaviest goodie bags I’ve ever received!  They were made of brown leather, and contained three lacquer or leather boxes.  In one was a tie and cufflinks for the men, in another was a bracelet and bag clip (for not putting your purses on floors in public places,) and the last had a little something for everyone.  Even Mr. X was impressed when he saw it, and he usually hates when I bring stuff home.

Since I’m planning to expand this e-zine’s Travel section very soon, (now that I’m done with my constant trips to New York,) what better place to start than Abu Dhabi?  And I know exactly how I’ll be getting there!!!  Etihad, here I come!


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