We may have ourselves a new ritual—Saturday night’s sparkling arts fundraiser at the panoramic-tacular Space Needle was such a success that folks are talking about making it an annual thing. A thousand marvelously attired humans showed up, ten thousand dollars were netted for the Genius Awards alone—that’s two entire awards—plus funds were raised for the arts-supporting Shunpike, and, well, hundreds of actual Seattle residents enjoyed the Needle for a change. The most commonly heard exclamation? “I haven’t been here in forever, and it’s amazing!”

It felt like reclaiming something very cool that you barely realized was yours. Good on you, Space Needle, for weaving a big old web of non-tourists. The Needle is, it must be acknowledged, a great, great, great, great, great fucking place for a party. Unfathomably infinite water for contemplative purposes, check. Moon and sky for the same, check. Peeks into the windows of other buildings and down streets you’ve never seen from this angle at night, check. And the Space Needle donated the space, the staff, and all of the food for this event, folks: Thank you to the Space Needle from the arts community. (Another thank you goes to party sponsor Alaska Airlines Visa, and one to Amazon, which has recommitted to funding the Literature Genius this year.) However: I did have a chance to look down on the construction site for Chihuly Garden & Glass, set to open in May, where the art, alas, looks to me to be just as exciting as I thought it would be.

The VIP level was crawling with Geniuses and geniuses. Folks HIT IT fashion-wise (why Seattle, we grow and learn!). A short annotated slide show by Lead Pencil Studio was full of beautifully illustrated lies and fantasies about the Space Needle. One half of the Cody Rivers Show went into antebellum character and wore a shit-brown knitted beard that kept messing with his upper lip. Poet Heather McHugh spontaneously auctioned off a vacation at her island home. Lynn Shelton spoke sweetly of collaboration; Lesley Hazleton spoke, and all were mesmerized, because THAT VOICE. The Satori Group did performances for a single audience member at a time. And glasses of green absinthe—distilled in Seattle at Gnostalgic Spirits (dangerously yum)—kept emptying and emptying, causing widespread addling and upping the gayness.

Several stories higher, the general admission level was decked out in dancing fools and crinkly silver spheres reminiscent of Warhol balloons with the helium sucked out—you imagined a back room somewhere bouncing with leprechaun voices.

Anti-authoritarian Genius Gary Hill was spotted immediately brushing with authority: He was accosted by an irritated security guard for carrying a paper cup of tea out onto the observation deck. The Man is never far from Gary Hill (whose intense, deep, and hilarious exhibition of large-scale installations opened the night before at the Henry Art Gallery).

Pictures or it didn’t happen, you say? Click on the image above for the full slide show; a few are right here on the jump.

See you there next year!











all photos Kelly O and Grant Brissey

This post has been updated since its original publication.