‘Metro Gala’ at Union Square serves as eclectic, down-to-earth riff on the more extravagant Upper East Side affair

Michelle Joni, center, surrounded by fabulousness
Michelle Joni, center, surrounded by fabulousness
Photo by Bob Krasner

Everyone knows about the Met Gala, but considerably less know what the Metro Gala is all about. Here’s one key difference between the two red carpets: there’s a slim-to-none chance that a reporter will ask about a fabulous outfit outside the Metropolitan Museum and hear the response, “Oh, I just threw this together about two hours ago.”

The word is spreading, though, about this very DIY event that was created a few years ago by artist/performer/visionary Michelle Joni, whose resume includes being the owner of Glinda the Good Bus, which finds itself frequently celebrating anything from Purim to birthdays to Tutu Tuesday.

Monday evening, May 9, was the third time that Joni and her crew, dubbed “The Permanent Magical Culture Society,” set up their makeshift stage, taped a red carpet to the space adjacent to the Union Square subway station and celebrated fabulousness on parade.

Anyone was welcome to walk the runway to the sounds provided by DJ Vito Fun, with some spending weeks on their outfits and some grabbing something out of the closet that was just waiting for a special occasion. At times the very snazzy MC Christopher Hardwick grabbed onlookers out of the audience and cajoled them into being the center of attention.

Outfits ranged from specific characters like Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgewick to absurd versions of chic to conceptual overkill.

“America is obsessed with boobies and babies,” proclaimed Elisa Blynn, “and I have all the tools. I’m a motherf—ing Machine!”

Mike and Michelle’s little star Skylo Jazber gets the last wordPhoto by Bob Krasner
Miu Soda and Melissa Valentina hit the runway in wheels instead of heelsPhoto by Bob Krasner
Adventure Dave rolled through in his own personal snow globePhoto by Bob Krasner
Archie Goats tok his time putting this look togetherPhoto by Bob Krasner
Gala organizers Sara Rose and Heather MorowitzPhoto by Bob Krasner

Marz Katz, a senior marketing manager, was glowing in an outfit that took about ten days to complete. She converted her headpiece — a tag sale find from a retired drag queen — by attaching lights that are controlled by an iPhone app.

Jessica Stewart, a love and relationship coach, recalled the last time that she walked a runway.

“It was a department store fashion show, when I was eight years old,” she recalled. “But this is a whole different paradigm.”

Christopher Hardwick, who has been to all three Metro Galas and emceed for the second time, loves “that it’s so informal. It’s not perfect, it’s wacky and it’s random. It’s a lot more crowded this year. I predict that we will take over the park one day.”

Michelle Joni pulled off the parachute dress with the help of Elizabeth Belomlinsky ( far right ) and a whole bunch of willing handsPhoto by Bob Krasner
Jessica Stewart, a love and relationship coach, called her look “back of the closet sparkle chic”Photo by Bob Krasner
Returning MC Christopher Hardwick leads Pat Brown onto the runwayPhoto by Bob Krasner
Bhavana Jonnalagadda manifested herself as the “Squirrel Queen”Photo by Bob Krasner
The past, present and future of abortion as represented by Mina Madani, Ariella Mandel and Elisa BlynnPhoto by Dean Moses

Over 40 fashionistas walked the runway, he noted, “including the dogs and rats.” He’s referring to the one real dog, two people in French poodle outfits and something you may never see at the uptown soiree — a man wearing a rat mask while feeding two baby rats.

Joni declared the evening a success after giving credit to the crew that made it possible. The producers included Sara Rose, Sidney Oolongo, Heather Morowitz, Elisa Blynn, Christopher Hardwick, Dana Humphrey, Adventure Dave and Alexandra Clausner.

“It was like, wow , amazing, really cool,” Joni mused. “It was so vibrant and it really flowed. The Metro Gala proves that the world has the potential to be fabulous even on a random Monday night.”

Yes, they came together: Samara and Doug NightwinePhoto by Bob Krasner
Photo by Bob Krasner
Lone Path and Meadow Le’Elle catch the sun before walking the runwayPhoto by Bob Krasner
Marz Katz spent some quality time in the Metro before heading up to the GalaPhoto by Bob Krasner
Dana Humphrey, one of the organizers, came as a “Rising Phoenix”, with a headpiece created bty Summer StrandPhoto by Bob Krasner

Michelle Joni is on Instagram at @michellejoni and her chariot is @glindathegoodbus.