Absolutely Fabulous Manhattan Premiere Brings Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Saunders

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Those outrageous aging Brit party girls, Patsy Stone and Edina Moonsoon are back in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. So break out the Bolly (champagne) and Stoli (vodka) sweetie darling!

Eddy and Patsy, played by writer-creator Jennifer Saunders and actress Joanna Lumley respectively, attended the New York premiere Monday night at the SVA Theater on West 23d Street. The Fox Searchlight big-screen adaptation of the popular television show, which ran from 1992 to 1996 and again in 2005 and 2012, will open Friday and is already a hit in England.

Absolutely Fabulous
Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley at the Absolutely Fabulous Movie Manhattan Premiere | Paula Schwartz Photo

Lumley arrived in character as Patsy, in 1960’s makeup and wearing her signature early Ivana Trump bouffant French twist. She hammed it up on the red carpet in a pink and black duster coat with an applique of the Virgin Mary on the back. Saunders was dressed more demurely in black slacks and a satin blue jacket emblazoned with the New York City skyline.

It seemed like every drag queen in Manhattan attended the premiere, including Lady Bunny, Amanda Lepore and Milk Queen. The guest list also included Chris Colfer and Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness from the film; along with guests Frankie Grande, Jeff Beck, Jon Hamm and the Tony-winning star of The Color Purple Cynthia Erivo.

Absolutely Fabulous
Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness at the Absolutely Fabulous Movie Manhattan Premiere | Paula Schwartz Photo

Lady Bunny, who wore her usual towering wig and very short mini, told me of the Ab Fab film, “We need to laugh because this has been a contentious election. There’s blood and death and explosions and shooting everywhere. We’re a mess,” he said. “Honey, we need escapism and we need silliness and it is the summer.”

Absolutely Fabulous
Lady Bunny at the Absolutely Fabulous Movie Manhattan Premiere | Paula Schwartz Photo

I asked Lumley – who was busy posing with Amanda Lepore and Lady Bunny and other Ab Fab groupies – how Patsy has changed since the show went on the air. She gave me a blank look. Patsy is still doing drugs, stumbling around drunk and desperately trying to pretend she’s still young. “Darling, she was pretty much fully formed from the word go,” she told me.

“Welcome to the Republic Convention,” Lady Bunny joked as she introduced Saunders and Lumley to a packed audience. Saunders and Lumley thanked everyone for coming and added, “This is just the most exciting night for us. The London premiere was big but New York just feels so glamorous and show businessy.”

Absolutely Fabulous
Joanna Lumley at the Absolutely Fabulous Movie Manhattan Premiere | Paula Schwartz Photo

The plot of the movie revolves around the fashion industry, where Patsy is a fashion director of sorts and Eddy is a publicist constantly on the prowl for clients. There are lots of big-name fashion cameos, including Stella McCartney, Kate Moss, Jerry Hall, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Suzy Menkes. For diehard Ab Fab fans, most of the original cast from the television series also make appearances in the film.

The action begins when Edina hears through Patsy that Kate Moss has fired her publicist. Edina, desperately in need of clients – she now only has Lulu and Emma Bunton, and they both want to dump her – is determined to be Moss’s new publicist. She rushes over to introduce herself to Moss at a big glossy fashion party – at which Moss is chatting with Jon Hamm, who plays himself – and accidentally knocks the model off a ledge into the Thames River. When Moss doesn’t resurface everyone assumes she’s dead, which is covered by the media as if it were an international tragedy.

Absolutely Fabulous
Jennifer Saunders at the Absolutely Fabulous Movie Manhattan Premiere | Paula Schwartz Photo

Hounded by the news media camped outside her door and now hated by the entire nation, Edina, who faces jail time, goes on the lam to Southern France with Patsy. In desperate need of cash, their plan is for Patsy to hook up with a rich man. They hunt down one of Patsy’s old lover (Barry Humphries) who once proposed marriage but is now happily ensconced with a much younger woman. In an homage to “Some Like It Hot,” Patsy masquerades as a man and begins to woo the richest woman in the world, who’s about a hundred and nearly blind. Patsy looks great in a tuxedo and resembles David Bowie.

Absolutely Fabulous
Drag Queens at the Absolutely Fabulous Movie Manhattan Premiere | Paula Schwartz Photo

The afterparty was at the Grammey Hotel. In a scene that could have been lifted out of an Ab Fab episode, a publicist guarded the door to the VIP area where Lumley and Saunders mingled with a small number of guests, who included drag queens and Jon Hamm. Meanwhile, the rest of the party guests partied outside as servers passed out lamb chops and poured from bottles of Bollinger.

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Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley at the Absolutely Fabulous Movie Manhattan Premiere | Paula Schwartz Photo
Absolutely Fabulous
Cynthia Erivo at the Absolutely Fabulous Movie Manhattan Premiere | Paula Schwartz Photo
Absolutely Fabulous Movie
Chris Colfer at the Absolutely Fabulous Movie Manhattan Premiere | Paula Schwartz Photo
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