Eloise has a ball -- and snubs her guests

A year after her creator's death, Eloise plays hard to get at the Plaza.

Published October 14, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Eloise, the unruly heroine of Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight's 1955
children's book, behaved very badly on Tuesday night. It was billed as her
"Introduction to Society," a lavish "Pink and Black Ball" on three floors
of New York's Plaza Hotel. Harpists twiddled, feather boas were tossed, mountains
of shrimp were consumed and Joan Rivers skittered about interviewing
everyone from Mister Adrian, the hotel manager (he confirmed that Eloise's
Nanny takes a little drop of something just to keep the cold out), to female
impersonator Lypsinka ("It was the only book for a recherchi 8-year-old
-- and that was me!" she cried).

But where was Eloise?

The partyers were celebrating Simon & Schuster's relaunch of Thompson and
Knight's long-out-of-print sequels. "Eloise at Christmastime" hits
bookstores this month, and "Eloise in Paris" has been on children's
bestseller lists all fall. Guests were also tilting back pink cocktails to cheer the 6-year-old hooligan's movie deal with the itsy bitsy Entertainment Co. The film will be scripted by J. David Stem and David Weiss, perpetrators of the "Rugrats" movie, and produced by Denise Di Novi ("Heathers," "Little Women," "Edward Scissorhands," "Batman Returns"). Women wore pink hats, pink gowns and pink flowers; the male staff of itsy
bitsy wore pink shirts, and acted embarrassed by them. While Di Novi
retained her dignity, itsy bitsy executives decked the screenwriters in
glittery pink feather boas and fake noses, after which they all sprayed
each other with silly string.

Author Thompson, who died in 1998, had blocked the sequels from being reprinted during her lifetime. Illustrator Knight, however, was present at the party. He received a statuette and spoke not a word, though earlier he told Rivers, "I gave Eloise life ... and a little stomach."

In honor of the occasion, the Plaza, where the fictional Eloise lives with Nanny, Weenie the pug and Skipperdee the turtle ("the Plaza is the only hotel in New York that will allow you to have a turtle," Eloise informs us in her first book) exploded with pink
roses. It was the perfect setting to attract our heroine, an
unabashed party girl: Eloise often scampers to the Terrace Room "where
those debutantes are prancing around," goes to wedding receptions in the
White and Gold room and claims she has "been to 56 affairs including
Halloween." Nevertheless, when Kenn Viselman, chairman of the itsy bitsy board and the marketing mastermind behind TeleTubbbies, presented "the debutante of all debutantes" -- Eloise was nowhere to be found.

A frazzled Nanny appeared in the spotlight to explain: "She was here,
but ... she can be rather unpredictable." TV monitors around the reception
hall then switched over to "concierge cam," where a jolly Plaza employee
explained that Eloise had just scooted into the elevator. A chase ensued,
involving a French waiter carting around a single raisin for Skipperdee, a
much-harassed maid wiping Eloise's lipstick drawings off the mirrors, and
Joan Rivers crying, "We've got to find Eloise. Where are you, you little

Needless to say, the tiny terror never made her formal debut, though a
small blond girl wearing Eloise's signature black pleated skirt and a
strange pink party mask was briefly seen running past the cheese table and
ducking into a back room. Sad as her absence made them, guests took home a
piece of her nonetheless: The "Eloise Emergency Hotel Kit," a modern
knock-off of a 1950s promotional item, contains a copy of her first book,
raisins for a pet turtle, cat-eye sunglasses, a comb, Post-it notes that say, "Charge it please!" and an Eloise lipstick for writing on mirrors. All in pink, of course.

By Emily Jenkins

Emily Jenkins is the author of "Tongue First," "Five Creatures," and a forthcoming novel: "Mister Posterior and the Genius Child."

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