From David Suzuki at the Luminato launch to Bruce Bailey at his farm fundraiser, the social gauntlet has been thrown down

A soirée for hot spot Vela on Portland featured a caviar station and a saxophonist breathing fire. Toronto’s social scene is making up for lost time.

“We had dinner once,” a man was telling David Suzuki, as we crowded around the bona fide Canadian icon at the Luminato fest launch party held last week under the fulsome arches of Brookfield Place.

“We did?” he asked.

“I styled you for a shoot once,” another woman chimed in.

“You did?” he said, eyes widening and lips a’curl, the man looking like the hippest 86-year-old there in his spiffy suede vest, like he had just walked in from the musical “Hair.”

“I interviewed you a few years ago,” I enunciated, adding to the zany chorus.

“I don’t remember,” Suzuki beamed.

With the world literally on fire and so much more on his mind … why hold on to the minutiae? My takeaway: that and, because the ecological warrior has been famous for more than 50 years, he probably gets barked at all day, every day.

It was not the only amusing part of the evening, though. That arrived a little later when the whole party suddenly descended into a full-on dance bash, full of multi-culti-cute things and complete with “Pose”-like walk-offs underneath the arches lit up in red and green. Rarely had the modern Toronto cathedral built by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava looked so lovely, and the energy! Commensurate with the buoyancy of the social scene in town these days. Talk about an overcorrection.

With the rush to make up for lost time — and also get in as many key “events” as possible in June, before the normal lull of July and August — there have been launches and lunches, mixers and blowouts. Exhibit A: the hot ticket that was a cocktail hosted earlier this week by Vogue darlings Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez for their fashion label Proenza Schouler. Held at East Room, it brought out a colourful menagerie of darlings.

“Event in Montreal on Wednesday. Back here for a gala on Thursday, an art event on Thursday and a private party on Saturday,” on-it party photographer Ryan Emberley filled me in the other day. He also described something I had innately felt, too. “As we all emerged from hibernation, my first interactions with scenesters were quite similar. They’d claim the pandemic had changed them and they were going to be much more selective about the events they attend. Of course, that was nonsense. A tiger cannot change its stripes. When I saw a room full of familiar beaming faces at the launch event of a canned espresso martini, I knew we were officially back.”

At the Rivoli on Queen West, for instance, it was a 1989-all-over-again shindig when Amazon Prime Video hosted a party for the fellas from “Kids in the Hall.” In celebration of their reboot, it was an easy, happy gathering that brought out actor Julia Stiles (a “Kids in the Hall”fan from way back) and had trouper Scott Thompson, in particular, basking in the new-again nostalgia. “It is like we have a whole new generation of fans,” he told me, in the back room of the bôite where the sketch comedians first honed their shtick way back when.

Some parties have themselves descended into a kind of déjà vu, even if it is merely a months-only déjà vu, celebrating “official” openings even if they have technically been open for a bit. Hey, why the hell not? That was the case with the buzzy, sky-grazing opening of the rooftop at the newly rejigged Park Hyatt, a.k.a. “The Writers Room,” where the faces included financier-turned-fashion “influencer” Amy Patel, actor Sarah Gadon and cocktail anthropologist, a.k.a. the Thirsty Traveller, Brenton Mowforth.

Likewise: a carpe diem soirée just the other night for hot spot Vela on Portland, which featured a caviar station, a saxophonist breathing fire, pretty people galore and lots of adults who went to camp together as kids. Long-time editor Suzanne Boyd, a fixture on the scene, summed up the feeling: “It’s good to be out.”

More pedantic revelry still was at hand meanwhile, at the Donner Prize book awards gala, held inside the round room at the Carlu, where the guests included people like former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, himself a nominee that night.

The National Ballet. Back in all its black-tie glory just this past week with its annual onstage dinner and a special tribute to the iconic Karen Kain.

Toronto Taste. Cranking the other night at Evergreen Brick Works with tons of chefs outdoing their doing and mobs of gung-ho eaters out to chow down for a good cause.

Scrubs. The long-running fundraiser party for SickKids hospital went Nashville, theme-wise, this year. Rhinestones were spotted.

Bata Museum stepped into its own future with a launch party for its sweeping new sneaker exhibition — rapper Kardinal Offishall included as emcee and, to my amazement, an Adidas prototype from the early ’80s that was digitized and not unlike an early iteration of a Fitbit.

Fashion magazine threw a Pride-leaning party in the east that was so full of new pretty young things that it caused one person I know to exclaim, “I feel like I am in an episode of ‘Euphoria.’”

Momofuku, meanwhile, is readying to celebrate its 10th anniversary in the city with a party happening in the next few days. Bring on the steamed buns. But wait … has it really been 10 years?

Newer restaurants are, of course, getting their share of beeliners: places like the ambitious new Matty Matheson restaurant Prime Seafood Palace on Queen Street West; Casa Madera, the WeHo-feeling Mexican-ish place inside 1 Hotel; and Adrak, the chic new Indian spot resembling a high-end train car on Avenue Road.

The most la-di-da affair? It came perhaps via arts patron Bruce Bailey, who hosted about 600 people on his farm outside Toronto a few weekends ago for an el fresco sit-down held to raise funds for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. While the event was notable for the extent to which some ladies just do not know how to dress for the country — too many came de trop, as the French say, over-made like princesses Beatrice and Eugenie at the wedding of William and Kate — it was a lovely gathering by all other accounts, a meal prepared by chef Cory Vitiello topping off things.

Notably, it was also the only event where, in addition to a million raised for the museum, the swag included a painting by the esteemed Scottish artist Peter Doig. Bailey announced he was donating the painting he owns to the museum. Social gauntlet thrown.

Party on, kids.

Shinan Govani is a Toronto-based freelance contributing columnist covering culture and society. Follow him on Twitter: @shinangovani


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