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Mon Sep 22 22:16:22 SAST 2014

The party to end all parties

Craig Jacobs | 01 January, 2011 22:390 Comments
JEANS AND HAUTE COUTURE: Lee-Ann Liebenberg, Nicky van der Walt and Anthony Hamilton-Russell Pictures: MICHELLE ATTALA

Local glitterati battle to mix with global celebrities, writes Craig Jacobs

Ar12-million price tag and the country's most exclusive guest list put any other New Year's Eve bash to shame.

Forget Sol Kerzner's annual braai down in Hout Bay, or any sushi-on-models-as-platters party Kenny Kunene could have thrown, the party you really wanted to go to on New Year's Eve took place at a palatial house in one of Cape Town's exclusive suburbs.

Among those gracing the event was international star Cheryl Cole, who suddenly, it would seem, lost her taste for publicity as she refused to be photographed, and local celebrities Lee-Ann Liebenberg, Nicola Breytenbach and Vanessa Carreira. Proteas captain Graeme Smith also put in an appearance.

Texan billionaire Preston Haskell has gained a reputation over the past few years for throwing the most lavish New Year's Eve parties the country has ever seen, with desperate partygoers going so far as to offer organisers of the soirée, held at the Texan's Fresnaye pile, up to R10000 a head for an invite.

In fact, Sarah Cort - who put the event together after months of planning - admitted that on the eve of the party she felt like she was "the most popular girl in Cape Town" with everyone wanting her to add their name to the guest list, which is carefully created and reflects a blend of Haskell's rich, famous and powerful friends worldwide - and the Who's Who of local glitterati and business.

Others have gone so far as to try to forge their invites, forcing the party planner to take the unusual step of getting the coveted access wrist bands, which this year were gold and featured the words "Preston's NYE 2010/11", manufactured in Moscow to keep them a secret.

And in a further move to keep out the riff-raff, Cort admitted that a team of bouncers had been flown in from one of St Tropez's trendiest clubs to handle security.

This is not surprising, because the extraordinary party, which in the past has featured a glittering fireworks display (cancelled this year's because of neighbours' complaints and environmental sensitivity) has had guests including Madonna and Elton John flying in to attend.

While there were rumours that this year Princess Caroline of Monaco would be one such guest (Prince Albert was spotted at the knees-up last year), the night's most talked-about attendee was British singer Cheryl Cole, who famously separated from her English soccer player husband Ashley in September after discovering he had cheated on her with several other women.

Cole, flanked by a phalanx of bodyguards and on the arm of her new beau, British Dancing with the Stars dancer Derek Hough, arrived at the party during the first half of the evening.

Although the guards swooped whenever a guest got too close to the pop star - and barred any photographs of her being taken, the 27-year old brunette seemed to be in a good mood, clapping enthusiastically as Circ de Soleil-style trapeze artists and performers led by Cape Town personality Irit Noble put on a show that mixed vaudeville and circus themes.

She was sporting the £10000 diamond bracelet Hough apparently gave her as a New Year's gift and smooching with him on the dance floor when not chatting to Haskell, an American property developer from a wealthy Texan family.

Since Haskell bought the three-storey villa a few years ago in a multimillion-rand real handled by estate agent Denise Dogon, his New Year's Eve parties have become legendary.

Taking some six months to plan, the night begins with a VIP dinner and dance for just 150 people, many of whom fly in from around the globe to savour a decadent feast, including sushi, oysters and endlessly flowing bottles of the finest French bubbly. Then, at 11pm a further 300 "non-VIP" revellers are allowed in as the night moves into full swing and partygoers dance on a special platform built over Haskell's pool. As the party moves into the early hours of the morning, female guests are given comfy slippers to put on after taking the strain of spending the night in their Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks.

Dresses dripping in sequins seemed to be in vogue this year, with both Cole and Victoria's Secret model Breytenbach dazzling in their skimpy gowns.

Breytenbach, who had just come back from London, where she raised a million rands for the two Johannesburg schools she supports as part of her charity work, was also one of the most active on the dance floor, dancing with her brother Bjorn, father Richard and good friend and actress Lee-Anne Summers.

New-moms-to-be Vanessa Carreira (with husband, nightclub owner Chris Coutroulis) and Lee-Anne Liebenberg (with her beau, Nicky van der Walt) were a couple of the early guests who attended the dinner, where snake charmers draped with pythons and fire-eaters meandered around the throng.

So too were Dogon, who brought along her daughter Callie (who is rumoured to be dating CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer's son), cricket captain Graeme Smith and wine-maker Anthony Hamilton-Russell with his wife Olive. Amongst those who arrived after 11pm included Joshua Lindberg and his wife Zuraida Jardine, TV personality Natalie Bekker, Kitty Spencer with her soccer player boyfriend Larry Cohen and the cap-wearing politician Tony Yengeni.

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