The Queen Bee - Betsey Johnson takes a bow at the National Arts Club dinner in honor of her Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo: Ben Gabbe

"My mother is so nervous," Lulu Johnson was overhead saying as her famous cartwheeling mum of a designer, Betsey Johnson, worked the room at The National Arts Club on Tuesday night.

The fashion industry icon - who has been bestowed with top honors from the CFDA and has a star on the Fashion Walk of Fame - was on hand to accept the prestigious New York club's highest honor - the Lifetime Achievement Award. Upon entering the art adorned dining room she was greeted with audience applause and one never would have guessed that Johnson was all aflutter.

For the occasion, Johnson wore a chartreuse suede coat, a T-shirt emblazoned with Andy Warhol's print of Marilyn Monroe, electric blue leggings and her trademark pink tutu.
In today's transient society, it is remarkable that Johnson has been able to maintain her business over the course of four decades.

"I remember our first show 31 years ago," said Chantal Bacon, her longtime business partner. "I was worried about getting everyone into their seats and then I had to go back and change to walk in the show. It was literally just the two of us."

During her tribute, longtime Johnson pal and legendary fashion writer MaryLou Luther lead the crowd (which included "Gossip Girl" actor Matthew Settle, but unfortunately not Susan Lucci as the tip sheet had promised) into a cheerleader-like spelling of her first name. "If I could I would be turning cartwheels for Betsey," she said referencing the designer's gymnastics move that take place at the end of every runway show.

While guests were supping up their chocolate souffle, the club's Vice President, Dianne Bernhard presented Johnson with two paintings of her likeness that she completed in under two weeks. "I just love you Betsey," she beamed.

By the time Johnson accepted the award, the jitters dissipated into gratitude. After accepting the medal of honor from president Aldon James, she commented on the "affectionate objectivity" of his remarks and threw rose petals from a strategically-placed shopping bag at the crowd.

"I'm too knocked out by this," she said with a mega-watt smile. "This is beyond, beyond, beyond."

The designer (far right), with her daughter Lulu (far left), and business partner Chantal Bacon (center). Photo: Ben Gabbe