Bettina's Take: Save Venice - Un Ballo in Maschera

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"Black Tie and Masks or Venetian-Inspired Costumes." So read the dress code on the invitation for Save Venice's Un Ballo in Maschera, the annual benefit to help restore art in this unique city on the water.

I was warned not to arrive without a mask, and I'm glad I paid attention, because almost everyone complied—with some of the most elaborate, stunning pieces I've ever seen.

Fresh off the plane from London, Rena Sindi, the creative genius behind many of New York's most legendary theme parties, followed direction in a mysterious black lace mask. Last time I had been to Save Venice, Rena and I closed the place down.

"Do you remember, we were the only ones left?" I asked her.

"Which year was that?" she replied, as it was clearly not the only time for Rena, who is known for her unbridled energy and enthusiasm.

I spotted artist Will Cotton with Rose Dergan a few feet away, wearing silver glitter half-moon (Will) and shooting-star (Rose) masks. Will, the creative director behind Katy Perry's hilarious "California Gurls" video, reminded me that we had met in Venice. His mask had originally been created for a Studio 54–themed party—he recycles, too!

"There was a famous 'Moon with a Spoon' at Studio 54, but I got rid of the spoon; I didn't think it was appropriate for tonight," he said with a chuckle.

The sea of brilliant costumes and masks was overwhelming: Julie Macklowe in a chain mail Ann Demeulemeester, Carlos Mota in the typical Venetian beak mask, Francesco Clemente, who won the prize for best men's mask, in a simple concoction with raccoon eyes. I can't believe I managed to sleep after seeing it—a masterpiece of haunting subtlety.

Courtney Love was thrilled with the anonymity a mask brought. Wearing a vintage black and sequined Worth dress, she told me about her new, Edwardian-inspired clothing line, Never the Bride.

save venice

Amanda Hearst, Olivia Chantecaille, and Alexandra Lind, the Young Friends co-chairs—along with the always dapper Luigi Tadini—looked like perfect princesses in Valentino and Bulgari, the evening's co-sponsors.

The Plaza Ballroom was an enchantment of pearls and coral. Dayssi Kanavos, one of the co-chairs who has been involved with Save Venice for over 12 years, received admiring kudos from her husband, Paul, and from all her guests for her hard work, great taste, spirit, and devotion to the cause.

Venice is indeed very special. I've often heard it said that Amsterdam or Bruges is the Venice of the north—but have you ever heard anyone say that Venice is the Amsterdam or Bruges of the south? Exactly. It's an extraordinary city, and the world is lucky that organizations such as Save Venice exist to preserve the Jewel of the Adriatic. And that they're giving us some great memories in the process.