The Priests of Pallas Ball, it was called, and it was a KC tradition for many years. But then it mysteriously shut down in 1924. On October 14, though, it made a triumphant return at Union Station.
When we first heard about the ball a masquerade, Mardi Gras-type affair to benefit the Jackson County Historical Society and the Westport Historical Society we thought: cool idea. Then, we learned that tickets were $75. Granted, that included free food and drinks, but still. On the day of the ball, though, we got a call from our fairy godfather, Bob, who had been given four free tickets. So, off we went to the ball with Bob, newly deputized as a Research Assistant, and veteran RAs Laura and Cece.
First, however, there had been the matter of what to wear. The ball's organizers had encouraged "funky to formal" attire but then followed up with "no Halloween costumes ... suits and cocktail dresses would be most appropriate." Hmmpf. That mandate killed the funk, and we decided to rebel against it. Bob wore a pimptastic shiny red suit with black pinstripes from Harold Pener's, which he paired with a Willie Wonka wig, white goggle sunglasses and a top hat. The Night Ranger threw on a flapper dress, and when we met for pre-drinks at the Westin, we were the objects of many a bemused stare.
Around 8, we headed over to Union Station and made our way to the back hall. The first thing we noticed were many men in suits, who seemed to be security guys. They were wearing eye masks, which made them even more alluringly hot. We then passed through an archway made of gauzy white drapes and entered a beautiful space filled with even more gauzy drapes illuminated by colored lights. A band was playing at a relatively low volume, which insured that the famously crappy Union Station acoustics weren't too offensive. However, when the master of ceremonies spoke between sets, her voice sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher; we couldn't understand a thing she said.
So we headed straight for the open bar and, after loading up on free wine, looked for places to sit. This was a bit of a dilemma; the round tables dominating the space were reserved for big sponsors, so we weren't sure where we proles could park it. We ended up interloping at the Kansas City Star table. (We were all set to tell them we were food stylists, but no one asked.) Base of operation thus secured, we checked out the eats. All of the food tables had cool, giant-owl ice sculptures. One table was stocked with Mediterranean dip-type stuff; another had heartier fare, such as Spanish rice and other casserolelike items. On the dessert table were baklava and meringue cookies. (Our opinion: The food was meh. But it was all for a good cause, right?)
At first glance, the crowd seemed stuffy an older, schmoozy, society demographic. At events like these, we tend to know more of the waitstaff than the crowd, and tonight was no exception.
We did note some elements of interest, however, such as the group of leather daddies. One guy was even in a chain-mail vest and leather pants. That definitely stood out because most everyone was dressed in a black dress or suit and had merely accessorized with colorful masks.
Some attendees had gone all out with the costumes, though. We met Marilyn and Alan, a very nice older couple in elaborate sun and moon outfits complete with giant headdresses. We also spotted the Twat LaRouge Four, a quartet wearing huge puppet heads and furry dresses with exaggerated boobs and butts; they were wandering around spreading good cheer. Then we chatted with a guy in a Poseidon get-up who was posing on his specially made tuffet. He held a trident and wore an iridescent fish tail on his legs.
"Has anyone come up to you and asked if they can touch your staff?" we asked, leering suggestively at him.
"No, but I've gotten comments on how they'd like a nice piece of tail," he said, guffawing. "I told them it tastes like chicken. What do you think?"
Nice one. Standing next to Poseidon was a guy rocking the Renaissance prelate look; he was in a red robe, and his mask had a long, beaklike projection for a nose. We told him we liked his phallic mask.
"Sit on my face, and I'll tell you no lies," he parried. Reader, we declined that offer.
Just then, we heard a commotion near the entrance. The crowd parted, and an unusual procession slowly marched in, accompanied by the clash of cymbals and drums. They carried a banner: "Top of the Bottoms." To our delight, the Dirty Force had crashed the event.
A woman dressed as a spear-wielding, pelt-wearing Athena led the way. She was followed by a troupe dressed in Tibetan outfits and banging percussion instruments. They proceeded to the front of the room and banged on their drums, then made their way out again. (We later spoke with one of the members of the outlaw marching band, who said there had been no repercussions from their unexpected entrance. "No one's going to kick out a bunch of kids," he said, referring to the preteens from the Tibetan cultural troupe.)
After that entertaining diversion, we found quite a number of cool younger people to talk to, such as Shelly, 26, Brian, 32, members of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, and their friend Tony, 29. They all agreed that the event, though a boon for downtown, needed a younger crowd, music that people could dance to, higher tables to encourage standing and mingling, and less of a black-tie vibe.
Tony was sporting black Moschino pants (wide panels of fabric hung from the hem, making it look like he was wearing a long skirt) and carrying a red Prada purse he'd acquired on a recent trip to New York City. He entertained us by telling us about his love of Botox, which he gets injected around his eyes and into his brow every six months.
"I'm the most narcissistic, vain person on the planet. It's preventive maintenance. I'd rather pay $300 than $50,000 when I'm 60," he said. "I love it." (His face did look fabulous, even if he couldn't move his forehead.)
Speaking of pain and needles, we had to hustle to make it to our next stop: a fetish show at Davey's Uptown. The clock struck 11, so we took off before we turned into pumpkins.
Next week: razors, penises and whips oh, my!