Carnegie International Gala's crowd swells to 1,650

| Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

nticipation was running at an all-time high ahead of the Carnegie International Gala Premiere and Opening Night Event, where the buzz on the street whispered of a sellout status for the late-night ticket a month in advance.

“Fire code interrupted our sales pretty quickly,” said Carnegie Museum of Art's Jonathan Gaugler.

Guests arrived in three separate and very distinct waves, swirling into a crowd that swelled to 1,650 by eve's end. First, VIPs — including gala chairs Nancy Byrnes, Kitty Hillman and Jessica O'Brien; International curators Dan Byers, Tina Kukielski, and Daniel Baumann; Women's Committee members Helene Finegold, Wallis Katz, Ina Gumberg and Melissa Ferrari; chairs of the Friends of Carnegie International Milt andSheila Fine, Jill andPeter Kraus, Maja Oeri and CMA director Lynn Zelevansky; and Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong,Barbara Barry, and Debra andWilliam Demchak — ushered in the first-comes for a special reception Oct. 4.

“Yes, we are ready! I think it's exactly what the International deserves,” Gaugler said.

As the second-tier ticket floated in, word quickly began to spread about the headliner. Of note: that drag queen Sharon Needles (she of “RuPaul's Drag Race” fame) would be arriving in a coffin.

Once nine o'clock struck, it seemed to be all anyone was talking about. Well, that and the fact that a sudden influx of tube tops, paper mache animal masks and a general artsy hipster crowd were making for interesting dance partners with the black-ties.

After making the rounds to check out the art installation that had brought them here, the partiers began to shift from one end of the museum to the other. Revelers included Bridget and Brandon Snyder, Michele de la Reza, Ryan Champagne,Anne Stone,John Gurman, Marcus Kim and Matt Bartko. But that all came to a screeching halt once the doors to the Music Hall Foyer swung open and in walked six pallbearers.

Suffice to say, it was a room divided as everyone waited on pins — and Needles. Encircling the 8-foot-high perch upon which she launched into a profanity-laced performance that lived up to her “rock punk sex clown” persona were a front row of raucous admirers loving every minute, a second layer that seemed cautiously intrigued, and an outer perimeter of jaws dropping as they made a beeline for the door.

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media and can be reached at or 412-380-8515.

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