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“Everybody Must Get Stoned”: LA MOCA’s Far-Out Gala

Dinner at MOCA

Dinner at MOCA

The description of LA MOCA’s benefit gala last night, contained in a press release from the museum that just landed in my inbox, requires little comment. It operates as its own parody.

In her raised-eyebrow recap of last night’s festivities, Jori Finkel of the LA Times called the extravaganza, “one weird night.” Particularly strange, she said, was “a fake appearance by museum director Jeffrey Deitch, who was in attendance but didn’t take the microphone himself. Instead, an actor wearing a patch over his left eye was introduced as Deitch and stepped on stage, talking about his enthusiasm for working with “fashion designers, rock musicians, and celebrity chefs” in a skit that seemed like a premature roast—and just as uncomfortable.”

"Jeffrey Deitch" (aka Steven Nichols

“Jeffrey Deitch” (aka Steven Nichols)

The faux Deitch, soap opera actor Stephen Nichols, “played with some familiar criticisms of MOCA….’I’m very grateful to our gala host Larry Gagosian, who has generously supported a MOCA gala celebrating an artist [Urs Fischer] who he represents,’ the fake Deitch said.” (Touché!)

Below is MOCA’s own description of the evening, which also included a very detailed replay of the entire “Parisian Style Bistro dinner courtesy of Wolfgang Puck Catering.” In my next post, perhaps I’ll enumerate the equally fascinating menu options at CultureDaughter‘s upcoming wedding, where we’ll forego the “bevy of hula dancers,” “marijuana leaf logo” and “centerpieces included bong vases with hemp,” but we may find thematic inspiration in the “goat petting zoo.”

So, all you party planners, below is MOCA’s surefire a recipe for a successful “star-studded gala, which grossed $2.5 million.” (What did it actually net, we wonder, after subtracting the cost of the elaborate decor, abundant performances and Puck banquet, not to mention the “‘4/20 buffet,’ including stoner favorites like hot dogs, mac and cheese, pizza, Chinese food, and a never-ending supply of junk food”?)

The Geffen building was transformed by a variety of incongruous, fantastical and absurd images. More than 650 gala guests were seated, donning Hawaiian leis, at Italian trattoria style tables covered in red and white checked table cloths with Chianti bottle drip candles. Centerpieces included bong vases with hemp, Rob Pruitt napkins covered in seemingly drug-induced doodles and waiters wearing t-shirts with phrases from a poem by artist Marc Hundley, that when taken together said “Amazing things/Are happening/In this world.”

Burly men dressed as angels floated above the dinner guests, suspended from scissor lifts usually reserved for the installation of artwork and lights, while the music that filtered through the room included bird calls, whale songs, and the sounds of thunder and rain.

The ambiance was occasionally punctuated by the flurry of dollar bills that exploded from a nearby money cannon. [I hope the clean-up crew collected those bills at the end of the night, for deposit in the museum’s endowment.] In keeping with the pomp of the evening, a special Ferrari valet area was available at both locations to accommodate guests arriving via Ferrari. [What? I’d have to self-park my Lamborghini?]

Video projections streamed across the walls over the course of the evening, alternating between images of the latest YouTube sensations, Internet cat memes, how-to videos, deep sea creatures, wild life documentaries, and a “Wolfgang-Puck-making-dinner” video.

The outdoor lounge area, awash in underwater projections, was located conveniently close to the smoking area [what were they smoking?] and a “4/20 buffet,” which included stoner favorites like hot dogs, mac and cheese, pizza, Chinese food, and a never-ending supply of junk food. The marijuana leaf logo featured prominently on the menus and on glittery pillows and throw blankets that adorned the beds and lounge chairs for guests to recline on during the night.

Festivities continued with Renaissance Fair characters in costume, a goat petting zoo, and a giant panda directing the way to the restrooms. Guests had their pick between the taffy making area, the goat milk creamery, and an old-fashioned cotton candy machine spinning candy onto glowsticks.

Smokey the Bear welcomed smokers to the smoking section and guests lined up to make their own digital flip books, many of whom [grammar alert] donned the outlandish costumes and props that were on hand for them to have their fun. Guests sipped on fresh juice bar cocktails and wheatgrass shots while watching a bevy of hula dancers perform.

I’ll have to remember all this for my future grandchild’s Bar Mitzvah (especially the goats, panda and “cotton candy machine spinning candy onto glowsticks”).

an ArtsJournal blog