An event that is near and dear to my heart took place last Tuesday: the annual International Press Freedom Awards Dinner for the Committee to Protect Journalists. The dinner honors journalists from around the world who risk their lives to report from war zones and in defiance of brutal regimes. MrB is coming to the end of his term as chairman of the organization, and he’s going out on a high note: the dinner raised nearly $1.5 million, which is a record. On its website, CPJ explains what it does:
“By publicly revealing abuses against the press and by acting on behalf of imprisoned and threatened journalists, CPJ effectively warns journalists and news organizations where attacks on press freedom are occurring. CPJ organizes vigorous public protests and works through diplomatic channels to effect change. CPJ publishes articles and news releases; special reports; and Attacks on the Press, the most comprehensive annual survey of press freedom around the world.”
CPJ often gets journalists sprung from prison. Last year, it honored J.S. Tissainayagam of Sri Lanka in absentia, while he was in jail on trumped up charges. This year he was there to accept his award. He brought the house down by starting his speech with “Sorry I’m late.”
CPJ also provides financial assistance to the families of murdered journalists, as it is doing with the families of the victims of last year’s election-related massacre in the Philippines.
I wanted to dress spectacularly for MrB’s last dinner as chairman of CPJ, so I got out the infamous Patrick Kelly leopard-print dress. That dress was hated by WWD in 2008 …
… and loved by fashion bloggers in 2009.
This time the dress got a lot of stares. I don’t know if people loved it or hated it, but who cares? Let’s face it: the whole point of this dress is to make ’em stare.
Here’s my 2010 CPJ style.
What Wendy Wore:
Dress: Vintage Patrick Kelly
Shoes (unseen): 2010 Prada
Purse (unseen): Susan Farber
Earrings: My own Cleopatra design.
Ring: My own Hathor ring, carnelian side up
Makeup: Tennille from Kimara Ahnert with my usual Lasting Lust lip color.
Hair: Julie Matos
One unexpected benefit of wearing the dress was having New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham ask about it. He seemed pleased to hear Patrick’s name and told me that Patrick had been a very sweet man. “Sweet” isn’t a word often associated with designers, so I was surprised and delighted to get that bit of insight.
News anchor Brian Williams was supposed to emcee the awards, but was called away to report on North Korea’s bombing of a South Korean island. My old friend Tom Brokaw was called in to replace him. Tom commented on Brian’s very serious eyebrows and noted that such eyebrows were of vital importance when reporting this type of news. Being an eyebrow aficionado, I have vowed to spend more quality TV time with Brian Williams.
Tom’s being there had me agitated because I have embarrassed myself twice in front of him this year: in January and June. But I was out of stupid Family Guy references to use on Tom and feared I couldn’t manage a humiliation three-peat. So I decided that I would simply take Melissa’s picture with him. That proved to be a challenge as Tom was busy talking to other famous people at the end of the dinner. Birds of a famous feather flock together! We waited and waited and I was in favor of giving up, but Melissa was determined to stick it out. As soon as he turned around she said, “Okay, buddy, we’re taking a picture now.” Voilà!
Here’s another shot of the Patrick Kelly, just for the hell of it. This dress epitomizes my “Wear What You Want” philosophy. It’s been hated, it’s been loved, it’s been stared at … it’s a hell of a lot more fun to wear than a little black dress.
And here’s the best shot we could get of the hair artistry of Julie Matos.
My gorgeous sister Terri Berry was looking at these photos this weekend and suddenly remembered a time in the ’90s when I had a black-tie event to go to and didn’t own a single suitable dress. I borrowed a black one from her. After that — despite being a less-than-enthusiastic Girl Scout when I was a kid — I applied the Scout motto to my wardrobe: “Be Prepared.” Now you can take me anywhere! Except hiking. I don’t have the clothes for that.
On a serious note, 39 journalists have been killed in 2010. Protect press freedom by donating to CPJ here.