When Truman Capote threw a masked ball to celebrate the phenomenal success of “In Cold Blood,” everyone who was anyone vied for an invitation to the lavish event, held on November 28, 1966 at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Capote knew his unique concept — a black and white ball where the world’s most famous people would have to cover their faces with masks — would galvanize the media.

This year’s planning committee for the Princeton University Art Museum’s annual gala were inspired both by Capote’s famous ball and Willem de Kooning’s “Black Friday,” which is part of the museum’s collection.

Well, there was plenty of white — as in snow. Committee members, museum staffers, and university personnel started their day at 5 a.m., exchanging e-mails and phone calls about the storm and posting almost hourly updates on the museum’s website. Finally at 3 p.m., the word was final: the party would go on. The message said, “Wear sensible shoes” but of course no one did. Instead they donned their L.L. Bean boots under their party dresses, suits, and tuxedos, tromped through the snow, then made a quick change in the foyer or the ladies’ room, pulling high heels and dress shoes out of totes, purses, and bags.

“Income from the museum’s annual gala goes directly toward underwriting programs such as outreach to regional schools, lectures for adult visitors, family programming, and teacher workshops,” says museum director James Steward.

After cocktails in the museum’s galleries, dinner was served at Prospect House, where guests enjoyed signature cocktails and cuisine that evoked the flavor of Manhattan society in the 1950s and ’60s and danced to the music of the acclaimed Alex Donner Orchestra. As guests got ready to walk over to Prospect, the rush for coats at the packed coat check was so overwhelming that Tim Andrews, president and CEO, Advertising Specialty Institute in Trevose, PA, and president of the board of the Arts Council of Princeton, jumped over the table and started taking tickets. “I made three bucks in tips!” he announced happily as he and his friends dashed out the door.

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