This year is my first year! I am only attending Cup day however. I can't do them all for lack of funds/outfits/days off. Apparently you used to pay $9 to enter Flemington and had access to all areas. Now $50 will only get you onto the plebian grassy nole!
Increasingly, the Melbourne Cup seems more like a day for celebrities, models, sports stars and CEOs to be pampered and fawned over in the most lavish settings possible.
Each year, the attention paid to the goings-on in the exclusive marquee area grows. Who's in, who's not, which celebrity is where, who's wearing what, and which marquee is the standout — that is, which cup sponsor is overindulging the beautiful people to the most extravagant degree.
The Birdcage is like a burgeoning gated community. It's enclosed, tidy and fiercely guarded. And like all gated communities, the Birdcage allows only a certain kind of person inside. Within its walls, a comfortable uniformity prevails and it's as if poverty never existed.
Having grown outwards in recent years, the Birdcage is now growing upwards — several marquees this year are multi-storey, and one has four levels and features a curved bridge over water features. The exterior of this marquee is meant to bring to mind the Doge's Palace in Venice.
Other fanciful features this year include a grand staircase, a stone water wall, a century-old palazzo gate and cypress hedges. One marquee has a two-storey chandelier with 1000 flowers, while another has a bar made from six tonnes of sculpted ice. WHAT!!
The airline Emirates reportedly spends $2 million on its marquee. This works out to about $2800 per guest. (It's one of modern life's sad ironies that the very people who can most readily afford fine food, drink and entertainment are the ones who most often don't have to pay for it.) The politics of envy is apparently a big no-no these days, so I'm sure the commentary of envy is frowned on too. But with the Birdcage culture growing more excessive by the year, it's time to call this what it is: obscene. The marquees, in playing games of one-upmanship, are indulging in an odious kind of extravagance porn. Private companies are free, of course, to spend money however they please. But this shouldn't stop us from saying that their sucking up to the beautiful people, their cloying desire to link celebrities to their brand, to overindulge the privileged and bask in the reflected glow, is over the top and repellent.
The larger the marquee village grows at Flemington, the longer the shadow it casts over the more simple, traditional and, dare I say it, egalitarian pleasures of cup day. The more the media turns its powerful gaze to what Jennifer Hawkins is wearing, which marquee is graced with her exquisite form, and what delectable morsels are passing her beautiful lips, the more the average person feels disconnected from an event they've grown up with.
There is no perfect golden age, of course. Cup day has always showed up disparities in wealth and privilege. In the event's early decades, the aristocracy and well-to-do were in the grandstand, which, according to a journalist writing in 1876, "thronged with all the fashion and beauty, and a good deal of the intelligence of the colonies". Those of more humble means, meanwhile, gathered on the Flat, which was free to the public until 1913.
So, yes, there were clear class divisions at the cup going back to its inception in 1861. But for everyone witnessing the great race there was still some commonality of experience. The rich and famous weren't spirited off to a gated community to indulge in an opulent, hedonistic, gastronomic orgy.
The Victoria Racing Club has no doubt gained a lot in sponsorship dollars and media attention from the rise and rise of the Birdcage. But the august club should be paying more attention to all that it is in danger of losing.
I am appalled and this year's Derby Day has turned into a gridge match between Hawkins and Gale. Get over it people. (Gale looked better on the day I think!)
Kate Waterhouse was the only one dressed appropriately in black and white for the occasion.
Does anyone else think that Lindy Klim looks like Posh Beckham these days?
And where do I start with these two? Just because it's Dior doesn't make it ok, ok Mrs Packer?