The much-anticipated annual Studio Museum gala recently took place and, more than ever, it lived up to its reputation of being the social event of the season. The ladies spend days preparing for the night; no hit-and-miss, last-minute, slapped-together outfits going on here. Everyone–men included–is done up to the nines. Ahhh, it’s so refreshing, and though we don’t have a fairy godmother waving her wand, it’s a lot of fun to be able to spend time preparing for the ball. Perfect hair, perfect gown, perfect tux–oh, what a night. This year’s event raised a whopping $1 million, with the beautiful queen of the ball herself, Thelma Gooden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum, leading the pack with charm and grace.

Held at Cipriani Wall Street, the event was packed, but you knew it would be. Everyone looked so beautiful, it’s hard to say who looked the most fab, but there were some standouts. Carol Sutton Lewis looked divine as the lady in red; she carried the dress off like a star, which isn’t easy when your dress has a slight train. Corice Canton Arman was the height of sophistication in a sleek black gown with red sandals peeking out from underneath; as was Pat Bransford, with husband Don. Now her dress was interesting, black velvet with see-through lace in all the right places. I think I could see myself in that dress.

While Susan Fales-Hill didn’t disappoint, the title of “prettiest ballgown of all” has to go to the one worn by Jean Shafiroff. It’s not that the gown was to die for, it’s just that she was put together so nicely; a strapless number, necklace to cover up the bareness and long elbow-length gloves in black, which must not have been easy to find. She was photographed with the dashing b. Michael, who of course was the ultimate in class. Honored was art collector Agnes Gund.

This week’s raspberry award goes to Verizon. Dealing with them is like trying to follow a strand of spaghetti in a bowl the size of a vat. First of all, speaking with customer service is like speaking with someone from Mars, while Mercury is in retrograde. Everyone is very nice, and can read from the script so well; however, the quality of service is far below par. I could see if it was a company like Joe Shmoe, but this is Verizon we’re talking about. Though Verizon is a multi-billion-dollar telecommunications corporation, they operate like they are still in the Stone Age, and somehow the words “deplorable” and “unconscionable” come to mind. There is definitely a yin-yang thing going on here. I spent a day and half just trying to get an already existing phone number transferred from Time Warner Cable (another story) back to Verizon on a line that was already “open.” Simple in theory, yes, but, technically speaking for Verizon, no. The process was a megillah. Trying to get to one person who actually understood my request was like asking an Eskimo to fix a hot tamale.

To give you a clearer idea of my experience, picture this. Imagine you are trying to go from New York to New Jersey. In Verizon terms, instead of using any of the Hudson River crossings, it would be like going down to the Panama Canal, up the Pacific Ocean side of the continent, across the North Pole, down through Buffalo in a snowstorm and finally, you reach New Jersey. That is what it was like, trying to get to the right representative–or any representative for that matter–to help solve my Verizon issue. This included trying to get them to understand that NO, I don’t want Fios.

While my experience and subsequent remarks may irk Verizon lovers everywhere, tempting them to write a scathing reply, to this I say “Baloney!” Whatever happened to Ma Bell? She would never let this mayhem happen. Verizon should give the consumers who are subjected to their chaos and frustrations one month of free service. How about that for justice?

On a much brighter subject, St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church, known as the oldest Black Episcopal church in New York, is welcoming the gospel choir from St. Thomas Episcopal Church, the oldest Black Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, to sing at its Feast of Absalom Jones, to be held at St. John’s the Divine on West 112th Street at Amsterdam Avenue. Jones was the first Black priest anywhere in the United States, or so the story goes. Every year, a celebration is given in his honor, and this year promises to be the start of something big. Festivities and praise will be held at the church on Saturday, Feb. 16, beginning at 10 a.m.

Black history, “Straight, No Chaser,” will be commemorated at the 16th annual Black History Month celebration taking place Feb. 23 from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Bishop Perry Hall, 138th Street, between Lenox and Seventh avenues, hosted by the Black History Committee Local 1320. At the core of the program and event is the Letter to the Ancestors, calling all peace-loving people to show solidarity with the victims of Katrina, Sandy and Newtown School, and solidarity with “all Trayvons,” young people, senior citizens, Mother Africa, Haiti, the Central Park Five, Black firefighters, Palestine, Indian and Greek people. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture; and there will be a special award presented to Corris Shepard, who is 101 years old; music by DJ Royce; a fashion show; plus prizes and other entertainment. Sounds like a party to me. For more information, call Mitch at 917-874-0736.

Speaking of Greek, have you heard what’s going on in Greece these days? No, not the deficit. Seems as though many in protest and many in need have started to use their wood-burning fireplaces in lieu of buying heating oil this winter, since the government has raised the price of heating oil by 450 percent. Luckily, fireplaces are still common in Greek homes. In any event, the sight of people walking the streets with bags collecting wood has become the norm. Can you imagine? Just had to tell you this to keep you worldly, you know. P.S.: I found it interesting that it is winter there, just as it is here.

Once again, Valentine’s Day is here, my favorite holiday. I love to tell the story of St. Valentine, as every time I research it, I come up with a different tale of origin. I’ve heard some truly romantic stories, though all with a twinge of sadness. According to Wikipedia, St. Valentine “was a widely recognized third-century Roman saint commemorated on February 14 and associated since the High Middle Ages with a tradition of courtly love. Nothing is reliably known of St. Valentine except his name and the fact that he died on the 14th of February in Via Flaminia in the north of Rome.” According to legend, while he was in jail, he gave sight to the jailer’s blind daughter and before being beheaded wrote her a love letter signed “From Your Valentine.” One thing is for sure: He is an actual saint, and “saints are not supposed to rest in peace; they’re expected to keep busy: to perform miracles, to intercede. Being in jail or dead is no excuse for non-performance of the supernatural.”

In keeping with the spirit, this Valentine’s Day, show someone the love: be gentle, sweet, soft and kind. St. Valentine is watching.

Until next week … kisses.