About Town

Inside the Pirelli Calendar's 50th Anniversary Gala

Sophia Loren, Carmen Kass and Karolina Kurkova joined the Italian tire brand in celebrating their iconic calendar -- which for 2014, is a previously unpublished work by Helmut Newton.
STRIKE A POSE: The celebration was filled with plenty of good times.
Courtesy of Pirelli

Flanked by a bevy of supermodels, Sophia Loren and leotard-clad dancers on stage, host Kevin Spacey ramped up the drama at Pirelli's 50th anniversary calendar gala in Milan last night.

"Is everyone happy – how could you not be after seeing all those boobs?" Spacey asked the 800 guests after they watched a film on the making of the iconic Italian calendar, first published in 1964. Looking sharp in a blue velvet-trimmed Burberry tuxedo, an upbeat Spacey later joined contemporary Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo on stage after the singer's energetic pop-tinged operatic performance for a few notes of "O Sole Mio."

MODEL BEHAVIOR: Kevin Spacey (in blue) celebrated Pirelli's 50th anniversary with a number of beautiful women.

"I jumped at the chance to come here, because the Pirelli calendar is a cultural icon, an amazing representation of artistic collaboration," Spacey told The Hollywood Reporter. "The calendar works with brilliant photographers and some of these are photographers I've worked with too and respect immensely -- and frankly, any excuse to come to Italy."

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Thursday night's event unfolded in Pirelli's vast Hangar Bicocca, a contemporary art gallery located in a former factory. Tables were arranged among the striking permanent exhibition – German artist Anselm Kiefer's Seven Heavenly Palaces – seven 14-meter-high wonky concrete towers that resemble a Dr. Suess illustration. Italy's fashion industry greats and high society turned out for the event, including designer Miuccia Prada, her husband Patrizio Bertelli, Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani, Roberta Armani, Italia Independent founder, and Gianni Agnelli's grandson Lapo Elkann – clad in an oversized black-and-white plaid tuxedo, part of his collaborative collection with Gucci. They were joined by an exclusive coterie of the world's most beautiful women who posed for "The Cal" over its five-decade history, including: Karolina Kurkova, Carmen Kass, Bianca Balti, Eva Herzigova, Margareth Made, Chandra North and Sophia Loren.

SUIT AND (BOW)TIE: Lapo Elkann (center), accompanied by Karolina Kurkova (left) and Franca Sozzani, donned a custom black-and-white Gucci tuxedo.

Model Alek Wek, in a yellow satin gown, grabbed the microphone from Spacey onstage. "I'm just a girl from a small village in Sudan who made it all the way to Pirelli calendar -- Pirelli forever," she trilled.

Other fashion cover girls recalled posing for the famous calendar's pages.

"I never agreed to be nude, so my image is mysterious and provocative, I'm still really proud of it today. Mario [Testino] shot me for it in 2001 and that's when I knew I'd hit a career high," said Carmen Kass, sparkling in a sequin-encrusted Dolce & Gabbana gown.

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"I'm Italian, so for me it was a gig I revered and aspired to. I used to dream about doing the calendar. Then when Karl Lagerfeld asked me to shoot it for the 2011 edition, and he wanted me to pose like a Roman goddess, I was on the plane in an instant," said Milan-based model Bianca Balti.

The night's big reveal focused on the 2014 anniversary calendar. Instead of a new shoot, Pirelli unveiled an unpublished calendar shot by Helmut Newton in 1986, portraying scantily clad models and Pirelli tires in dreamy Tuscan landscapes. Forced to abandon the project due to family problems, Newton's assistant completed the shoot. After Pirelli decided to use American photographer Bert Stern's pictures for that year's calendar instead, Newton's images were kept under wraps in the company's archives. The calendar capitalizes on the coincidence that 1986 and 2014 have the same calendar year.

"It's a stroke of luck," said Pirelli CEO Marco Tronchetti Provera. "And we think it augurs well for a fantastic 2014."

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