Schwarzman Leads Faithful at Met as Madonna Offers a Prayer

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(Bloomberg) -- Monday night on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Naomi Watts talked about “reverence and rebellion," as she smiled reverently at Michael Kors, the designer who dressed her in a gold-embroidered gown.

Steve Schwarzman focused on education, in this case the opportunity to see Vatican treasures in the new exhibition he and his wife banked, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination."

George Clooney and Jimmy Fallon recalled their years as altar boys. Their participation helped the museum raise more than $13 million.

The Met has a knack for choosing themes for its Costume Institute spring show and gala that capture the moment: fashion in an age of technology, fashion from China. This year’s Catholic theme was trusty, safe -- and equally relevant in these oh-so chaotic times. The news tremor of this night was the swift resignation of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, no friend of President Donald Trump, hours after the New Yorker published allegations that he physically abused women. Phone alerts pinged after the performance by the Sistine Chapel Choir.

The Catholic theme managed to clear most of the outlandishness and skin-baring the event is known for. Call it the night family values returned to the Met Gala and cue Republican Mitt Romney, who admitted the event was more glamorous than the campaign trail he’s on for Utah Senator Orrin Hatch’s seat.

“Are you missing your kids tonight?” a reporter on the red carpet called out to Clooney as he put his arm around his wife, Amal, dressed in cigarette pants and a voluminous floral half-skirt and train. “They’re under the dress,” Clooney quipped of their twins.

There was a pregnant Madonna -- the rapper Cardi B, in a white bejeweled gown hugging her baby bump -- and the actual Madonna, who showed up in a black veil, and performed “Like a Prayer” for the 550 guests. And so many crosses. Wendi Murdoch said she bought hers in a Christie’s auction. Being Jewish, Jordan Roth felt more comfortable wearing Maltese crosses. But other faiths’ iconography on display: Some women wore loosely draped hair coverings resembling the garb of Muslim women. Lynda Carter, aka Wonder Woman, wore a crown with Hebrew letters and a Star of David hair pin.

Besides Schwarzman, other billionaires attending included Len Blavatnik, Barry Diller, Joe Gebbia, Francois-Henri Pinault, Kors, Dirk Ziff, Miuccia Prada and Andres Santo Domingo, who stepped out during cocktail hour to get cigarettes.

And what to make of Schwarzman, whose heritage is Jewish, sponsoring a fashion exhibition with a Catholic theme? For starters, his Blackstone Group is an owner of Versace, that iconic Italian label that defines the opulent, playful Catholic. Also, Schwarzman’s wife Christine is Catholic. “We have both found inspiration in the work of his holiness Pope Francis as well as Cardinal Dolan,” Schwarzman said in remarks earlier in the day.

Another reason was offered from the red carpet:

“You have to hedge,” said Schwarzman’s daughter, Zibby Owens, a writer married to Kyle Owens. He said he’s working on a movie called “The Mensch," about a 40-year-old Jewish guy who plans his own adult bar mitzvah to bring in cash.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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