Peeps Wide Shut

Masquerading Atop the Hotel Andalucía

With the holiday season over, I had assumed the last thing I’d be doing the first weekend of January would be donning a dress and heading to a black tie event. But this was no ordinary event: It was the second “Maszque” masquerade ball, the latest fundraising fête to hit the scene, scheduled to go down once a season at Hotel Andalucía’s rooftop bar, El Cielo, on the Friday night closest to the full moon. And, the invitation read, masks were a must.

I was in, if a little creeped out, as the first thought that comes to mind when I think masks is Stanley Kubrick’s ultra-creepy flick Eyes Wide Shut, which featured the masquerade ball to end all masquerade balls, a password-protected affair where masks were the only thing attendees wore, and that came complete with danger, fear, and loads of illicit sex set to a soundtrack provided by a blindfolded piano player who was a little too loose-lipped for his own good. (As tempting as all that might sound, if you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talkin’ about.) Regardless, I’m always up for a costumed affair. And the possibility of a little dark intrigue doesn’t hurt, either.

And so, with that hair-raising tink-tink-tink-tink-tink-tink score playing in my head, I dashed down to Scavenge to pick up a mask. The guy behind the counter offered some sage words of advice (“You know, you won’t be able to drink anything if you wear one of those full-face ones,” he said, saving me from making a disastrous decision) and steered me toward a green, gold, and purple, Mardi Gras-inspired choice that he said complemented my eyes. Who knew? At home, while the wind began picking up outside, I wandered around the house with my new mask on, crashing into doorways while trying to get used to its handicapping effects on my peripheral vision, and spooking the crap out of my dog. By the time my girlfriend/date for the evening arrived, I felt I’d gotten the hang of it.

We headed out, and, although the moon — big and bright though it was — wasn’t technically full, the wind had gotten stronger and chillier, filling the requisite creepy nature role to perfection. So imagine our surprise when we arrived, and discovered a perfectly mellow scene: A pared-down crowd (due, no doubt, to that crazy wind in combo with the holiday hangover) sipped champagne and chatted, while a masked, but not blindfolded, Orlando Napier tickled the ivories beneath a large screen, on which a slideshow played. Organizers Justin Michael and Brianna Winn successfully raised quite a bit of loot for Santa Barbara Middle School, and, after a scandal-free spell, we said our goodbyes and set off, masks on, looking for a little — just a little — bit of trouble.

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