THE INVITATION: At the Artbound pARTy: Fame

The Society’s Ashleigh Dempster and Amanda Blakley vamp it up at the Artbound pARTy fundraiser. Photograph by Sonia Recchia.

Story by Emily Blake.

The ’80s, despite being oft ridiculed for their fashion, music and hairstyles (hello crimping iron!), are perennially called upon as inspiration for costume parties. There is fun in the ridiculous, and those of us who have only vague memories of what our parents dressed us up in in the ’80s seem to take great joy in the excess, the schadenfreude, the truly over-the-top ridiculousness of an ’80s costume party.

Enter The pARTy: Fame, a fundraiser for Artbound, a non-profit volunteer initiative, in support of Free the Children, which encourages art programs and schools in developing countries.

While my original costume idea—Robert Palmer girls—was shot down by my girls in favour of something a little more Desperately Seeking Susan, I was still excited to see what the attendees would come up with. I wasn’t disappointed.

As we rolled up in front of Maison Mercer—the new club at 15 Mercer that played host for the evening—we spotted a Lloyd Dobbler costume complete with long coat and boom box. Any fear I had of being over-costumed was dispelled. Everyone—literally everyone—was fully decked out.

Continue reading

THE INVITATION: TIFF’s last great nights

Scott Speedman at the ET Canada party. Story by Emily Blake. Photography by Natalie Castellino.

TIFF never ends in a flash of lights. It sputters and flares and peters out. The tired troops of media, publicists, and film folk whittle their party schedules from three or four a night to one or two a night. Being a slightly lazy sort myself, on Tuesday and Wednesday (my last night of revelry), I was a one party per night girl.

Not to say I didn’t choose carefully. When an invitation came in from ET Canada, arguably the biggest kahuna of celebrity journalism in our fair city, to attend a party for a film called Good Neighbours starring one Scott Speedman (or, as I still think of him, Ben from Felicity), my choice was made.

Continue reading

THE INVITATION: A night with Steve Nash, James Franco & co.

Story by Emily Blake.

TIFF can be a celebrity whirlwind. Heads snap in all directions and the whispers of “Isn’t that…” and “So and so looks so different in person” echo throughout the city. So when a celebrity athlete makes a film about a Canadian hero, and hosts the party at the home of a famous Canadian artist, it can become the perfect storm of star sightings.

MVP Steve Nash is the athlete in question, our very own basketball savant and my hometown boy (both of us are from Victoria, B.C. leading to one degree of separation). His documentary about Terry Fox, Into the Wind, was the reason for the ruckus, which included an army of valets, Mounties in full costume, a red carpet and many, many, lit up bottles of Vitamin Water, the party’s sponsor.

Inside there was a scene not often found during TIFF—the sports crowd. Olympic athletes like Adam van Koeverden (Canadian gold medallist in kayaking) and members of the Canadian women’s gold medal hockey team, mingled with men who, due to their height, must either have been pro b-ball players or human ladders.

We also saw film producer Jason Reitman, TV and radio host George Stroumboulopolous, and Ben Kowalwicz, the lead singer of Billy Talent. What really made the night for us though, happened while we were standing in the open air Zen Garden on the bottom floor, discussing Electric Circus (what else?) with designer Philip Sparks and NOW Magazine’s adorable Andrew Sardone. Out popped Charles Pachter, owner of the incredible home we were ogling.

Continue reading

TIFF SPECIAL: Three big parties, one major night

The cast of Bunraku—Josh Hartnett, Kevin McKidd, Woody Harrelson, Gackt, Ron Perlman—in the Soho House on Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Grey Goose.

Story by Emily Blake.

Every year there is one evening during TIFF when the (figurative) stars align, and the perfect party night arises. Last Saturday night was it. While during the civilian party season it is unusual to be glammed up to go out before 9 p.m., TIFF requires a slightly longer window. Which is why I was dressed up and in a taxi, checking my teeth for lipstick, at 6:45. The mission? Three parties, in three places with three raisons d’être that illuminate the variety of festivals within a festival that are happening on any given night.

First up, Hello! Hollywood, as slick and glossy as the magazine hosting it. Held at the Royal Conservatory, the party had all the markings of sophisticated society. Champagne flowing? Check. Floor to ceiling windows? Check. Society swans? Double check. The party was simmering towards a boil when I made my early exit. There is no time to loiter when the night’s festivities have only just begun.

Southbound I went to the newly renovated Civello salon on Queen, home for the evening for the cast of Julia’s Eyes and hosted by Ray Civello and FILLER Magazine. As a fan of Pan’s Labryinth I was excited to spot Guillermo del Toro, the producer of the movie being feted.

Continue reading

TIFF SPECIAL: At the RED party & Fubar II after-party

Photographer Caitlin Cronenberg, the curator of the RED exhibition, in front of a photo of her filmmaker father. Story by Emily Blake. Photography by Louie D.

Last night, I solved one of the city’s greatly lamented questions: “Where are all the men?” My first night of TIFF-trotting found me at two deeply different parties, and at each was a veritable swarm of men.

First up was the party for RED, curated by Caitlin Cronenberg and held at PEARS on the Avenue, the condo showroom at Ave and Dav, currently converted into the TORO After Dark Lounge. I suppose one shouldn’t be shocked when attending an event hosted by a men’s magazine that there would be men there. But so many! And for an art exhibit? Shocking.

The event was uptown in all conceivable ways—suits aplenty, cold cocktails, hot apps, a candy bar, and plenty of bling. Perhaps all the men were there to get a peek of D. Cronenberg, whose films are practically universally acclaimed among the testosterone set. Though the photos themselves—a glimpse into the New York Times’s Canadian photo archive, recently purchase by the owner of TORO— are really enough of a draw. Some of the images featured well known faces (Jackie O nose to nose with a horse—adorable!) and some were more esoteric, but Miss C did an excellent job of placing them throughout the space; every time I found myself in a nook there was something fascinating to look at.

Also fascinating was the contingent of TV talent—Colin Mochrie, Spenny (sans Kenny), Natalie Brown—and scenesters like Jeff Stober of the Drake, communications maven Mary Symons and designer guy Anwar Mukhayesh. It was clear this off-the-grid TIFF event was one of the evening’s best fetes.

But in the true spirit of TIFF one must never linger in one location too long.

Continue reading

THE INVITATION: At the Peroni party (and the Thompson)

Stylish Peroni guests, including Tanya Kim (far left), Chris Sherman (middle) and Jeremy Freed (second from right). Story by Emily Blake. Photography by Dave Starrett.

As someone who lived in Italy briefly, I’m always thrilled when something I loved there pops into my Canadian life. This summer this came about when an invitation to sip Peroni arrived in my inbox. In the stifling heat wave that cloaked Toronto, there was no way I would skip an opportunity to lounge on the Spoke rooftop with a sweating bottle of birra italiana in my hand. The evening in question arrived, and up I went, wading into the crowd of scenesters, TV producers, and girls with impeccable sundresses.

Despite the exclusivity of the location, there seemed to be almost a block party quality to the evening—in the best way possible. Guests clinked glasses, talked summer cottage plans, and peeled off layers in the heat. The Society’s Amanda Blakely and Martina Stritesky engineered the trend of air kisses from a distance, as everyone came already sporting a fine glow. eTalk’s Tanya Kim held court in one corner, while the doyenne of Rogers, Suzanne, set up camp in the other, wearing a summer dress reminiscent of LV’s fall collection. My pals and I lingered longer than planned—the sun setting on the city was so lovely , the beers so refreshing, the crowd so mellow that we were loathe to carry on. However, the Thompson was calling—one of our travelling company had not yet seen it—so we were bound to the plan.

Upon arrival one thing was clear.

Continue reading

THE IT: The Unlovable

Pacman will lure ‘em in every time. Story by Emily Blake.

The Unlovable (1415 Dundas St. W., near Gladstone)

Not everything happens on Queen Street. While new nightspot Parts & Labour is the darling of the fashion crowd, the newest bar to push us west on Dundas will appeal to a slightly different set. Owner Pol Cristo-Williams has proven adept at drawing in the scenesters at his two other joints, Sweaty Betty’s and The Red Light, but his new home away from home has a couple of secret weapons that should do the dirty work for him: Star Wars Pinball and Pacman.

Opening night saw a constant stream of competitors cracking out their best moves, whooping in victory and wailing in defeat. The girls (and guys) not feeling competitive are sure to enjoy the chic curved bar, the blackboard wall for impromptu artistic expression, and the well-stocked jukebox.

A warning to those aiming to be the next pinball Luke Skywalker: Don’t challenge Pol. He’s had months of practice playing into the wee hours. Game on!

THE INVITATION: At the Thompson

Thursday night’s holy grail. Story by Emily Blake. All photography courtesy of George Pimentel.

There is one thing that will drive any Torontonian into a lustful tizzy, and that thing is a rooftop patio. We believe drinks taste better in the sky (probably true as there is no street dirt flying around up there like at your average roadside patio). This city-specific obsession explains in part why it seemed every glittering party-goer the city over (and some from elsewhere) bee-lined to the opening of the Thompson Hotel on Wellington last night.

Said rooftop patio reached capacity shockingly early in the evening and stayed that way all night, leaving an inconsolable line-up at the elevators downstairs, downcast at the thought of missing a chance to see wunderkind Tavi Gevinson’s outfit in person. While the inimitable Jeanne Beker and charming makeup artist Paul Venoit twittered pics of the scene in the sky, those trapped below comforted themselves with watching the NBA finals in the hotel’s screening room. (Well-played indeed, Thompson team.)

Continue reading

THE IT: Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae, pop star, burgeoning style icon. Story by Emily Blake.

Pop music is breaking my heart. It seems these days a slick mix + extravagant visual spectacle = success. I love theatricality as much as the next person, and I have been known to crank up the Britney on occasion, but I long for the musicality of The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds, the raw energy of Joan Jett singing “I Love Rock and Roll”, and the unadulterated hope that runs through me when I hear Sam Cooke croon “A Change Is Gonna Come.” I want to feel something, think something.

Enter Janelle Monae. Her album The ArchAndroid is based around the story of a futuristic society, with androids representing a segregated minority. In the video for the first single “Tightrope” featuring OutKast’s Big Boi, we find our heroine locked in a facility that forbids dancing. (Echoes of Footloose, anyone?) What ensues is one of the most mesmerising videos I have ever watched, both for the quality of performers, but also for its impeccable styling.

Continue reading

THE INVITATION: At the Hello! Style Icons party

Model Addison Gill with Ciara Hunt, editor-in-chief of Hello! Canada. Photography by George Pimentel. Story by Emily Blake.

Hello summer parties, heatwaves, sandals and bare legs! All of these were found at the Hello! Canada Style Icons event last week. Once again the Audi dealership on Bayview Ave.  was transformed into the epicentre of Toronto’s stylish set. A red carpet, paparazzi pit, and swishy door gals indicate the scene inside—as glossy as the magazine itself.

With blow-ups of style icons hanging on the walls—Grace Kelly overseeing all with her cool-as-a-cucumber stare—guests rose to the fashion challenge.

Continue reading