Hollywood East

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 September, 2007, 12:00am

For a few hundred folks in town who are perceived to have, aspire to, or who have inherited, a certain high social status, autumn is a busy time of the year. It's when all the luxury brands kick-start their most lucrative sales season with fancy cocktail parties to launch new product lines and merchandise.

For most of these so-called VIPs, it means a lot of obligatory appearances and spending even more time and money than usual to make sure their arrivals are camera-worthy. It's a very big deal, if you subscribe to the notion that such vacuity and vanity is important (which many of the A-list crowd seem to).

In reality, it's a game. A well rehearsed and orchestrated, decadent game that a lot of society types with connections and money play like rounds of golf (at Missions Hills, natch). Right now, the David Beckham of this sport is Paris Hilton. We live in an age in which fame has become its own achievement.

As a newspaper columnist, I suppose I'm considered one of the lucky ones for being invited to a lot of these functions. From fashion shows to store openings, product launches to anniversary parties, it all sounds like a blast. For some people, it is. Perhaps I'm just too jaded, but it's all starting to feel like the movie Groundhog Day. The same people, doing the same things, talking about the same stuff. The only thing different is their ceaselessly updated attire.

Admittedly, every once in a while, it can be fun - especially if it's a big or outrageous event. There's a certain Fellini-esque appeal to these circuses. To enter the rabbit hole of such outlandish behaviour and surreal poshness can be a delicious experience. The amount of chocolate they offered us at the recent MasterCard Luxury Week events made me wonder whether Willy Wonka was one of the sponsors. Still, having to haul myself along to these schmooze-fests week after week can start to feel like having teeth pulled.

I know I shouldn't complain. Not everyone gets the chance to go to fancy shindigs. Some people assume I'm like a kid in candy store. Well, yes, that's what it's like, except you have to eat every single piece of candy in the store.

Of course, Hong Kong is not the only place that indulges in this kind of society/celebrity obsession, but we seem to be pretty good at it. For what it's worth, at least there is a democratic quality to the scene. Unlike in Europe, where old money and nobility is so ossified it's essentially impenetrable, or in North America, where status equates with entertainment celebrity and stardom, in Asia, any sycophant can get invited if they have enough money, date the right person, or know the gatekeepers of these events.

That's why there are so many fringe celebrities and smarmy social climbers who shamelessly show up everywhere. I've heard a certain tacky couple even go to events they are not invited to. There are also a few notorious gatecrashers who pick on junior event staff and make a lot of noise to slip pass the velvet rope. These people are usually a bit creepy and have a habit of sidling up to you and asking prying questions.

It's all quite surreal, and the people who preen so much for pictures seem to have turned narcissism into an art form. Although you couldn't call it a profession, serious socialites put in some serious hours for their peacock parades. Just showing up takes a couple of hours, but to get ready can be a full day's work. You have to think about hair, makeup, and - don't get them started - what to wear.

I don't know who came up with the stupid notion that you can't wear the same thing twice (probably some fashion marketing executive), but it has to be one of the most ridiculous social conventions ever - not to mention one of the most environmentally unsound. Why would any designer ever bother creating something that lasts forever if it'll only be worn once? Given the speed with which some stars feel compelled to change their threads at shows, they ought to just Velcro together ensembles.

So what actually happens at these fancy events? Usually not much, to be honest. They serve you canapes and drinks and the so-called beautiful people mingle about trying to look sophisticated for any camera in the vicinity. Mostly, you're just waiting for something to happen. At these moments, I feel less like Bill Murray trapped in a loop than a character in a Samuel Beckett play - with a glass of champagne in hand.