October 23, 2012

Partying Like It's 1922 at The Egyptian Theatre

Flapper Cleopatra

"I mean, is there anything like this in New York?"

I looked around at the flapper-clad crowd in the courtyard of the Egyptian Theatre, feeling transported back 90 years to 1922 and the day that the theater held its first-ever Hollywood movie premiere. The palm trees swayed gently against a cool night sky. A pharaoh scuffled past me. And Douglas Fairbanks was asking me the question.

"No, no there's not."

Perhaps this level of glitz and glamour did exist once in New York, but in the modern age, people tend to revel more in the grit of New York - flocking to gentrify its industrial waterfronts and warehouse-laden, cobblestone streets - rather than in the glory days of Broadway or the Gold Coast of Gatsby.

In LA, it's amazing how many people - at every level of the age spectrum - relish the opportunity to don a top hat and kick up their heels like there's nothing vintage about it. They're not being ironic. Some of them dress this way every day anyway.

But for me, the 90th Anniversary of the Egyptian Theatre Masquerade Ball was a special occasion. I agonized over my costume for weeks, convinced that I would be comparatively underdressed.

Despite my anxiety, I put on my best Cleopatra costume - foregoing other options of the Egyptian or flapper sort - and mingled among dozens of other Cleopatras, beads dangling from bangs, asps rising from foreheads, fabrics wrapped around waists and wrists cuffed and bejeweled.

I fit in just fine.

In fact, I didn't stand out very much at all, even lacking historically accurate choreography, not to mention a dance partner.

A few times that night, I stepped away from the crowd and advanced closer to the street, still within the confines of the courtyard, behind the neon "Egyptian" sign, and peered out at the tourists, nightclubbers and vagrants that frequent that very same strip of Hollywood Boulevard that the Egyptian Theatre occupies. We looked at each other as though from each side of a looking glass. Both existences were easily plausible for both of us that night. They chose theirs; I chose mine. And after a few moments, we broke the gaze. What the rest of the evening held for them was just as mysterious to me as my party was to them.

In such a huge, sprawling city, a night like this was reserved only for a very select few of us - those of us who chose to live our LA lives this way, to live out our fantasies and live in whatever era we darn well please.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Upon the 90th Anniversary of the Egyptian Theatre
A Tale of Two Tickets

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