We don't know exactly what Napoleon III's direction would have been had he organized the Liaisons au Louvre II bash that began in his apartments at the Louvre on Tuesday night. But we would bet that with his penchant for all things gilded and opulent, he would have embraced this extraordinary evening that raised more than $3.8 million for the vaunted museum and featured a full-blown rock show by Janet Jackson.
The president of the Second Republic surely would have been impressed with the glamorous coterie that poured through his salons swooning over the massive crystal chandeliers, the lavish furnishings and the golden stucco ornamentation that all but obscured the velvet-covered walls.
The champagne reception was billed as the first ever social event to be held in the richly-appointed apartments since the palace became a museum. As partygoers strolled through the ornate rooms, including the vast dining room with a table that seats 46, a quartet of costumed musicians performed on period instruments. Credit for the coup of opening the apartments, unrestricted, goes to Liaisons au Louvre II chairwoman Becca Cason Thrash, who orchestrated the three days of fundraising parties in Paris.
She also gets credit for assembling the international collection of philanthropists and A-listers, a tony group headlined by Prince Albert of Monaco. He was among the last of the 300 formally-attired guests to arrive for bubbly on the balcony and open views of the Louvre courtyard and the iconic I.M Pei-designed pyramid. The doors to this balcony had not been opened in 100 years, another coup orchestrated by La Becca. We're not sure if she also orchestrated the perfect weather but the night was beautifully calm and cool.
Film star Diane Kruger and her steady Joshua Jackson, designer Naeem Khan and wife Ranjana, French actress Fanny Ardant, Duran Duran's John Taylor and wife Gela Nash Taylor were among those sending the paparazzi into a frenzy as they stood in wait at the Richelieu entrance to the Louvre. U.S. ambassador to France Charles Rivkin and his tres fashionable wife Susan Tolson (wearing Naeem Khan) were among those stopped for comments by the crush of television reporters.
"This evening," he said, "is so symbolic of the relationship between America and France. More than 1 million Americans visit the Louvre every year . . . The American Friends of the Louvre serves as a model for museum fundraising."
The party moved for dinner from Napoleon's lair to the Cour Marly (a former courtyard now covered with a glass roof designed by I.M. Pei). Here, LA-based party planner Ben Bourgeois executed La Becca's dreamy decor vision beginning with fuchsia uplighting to give the vast space a feeling of intimacy. Dinner tables, dressed in fuschia and black, were situated on all three levels of the space amid the over-sized statuary that had originally lined the gardens of the Chateau Marly.
Soaring arrangements of white orchids and fuchsia-hued hydrangeas, candelabra with battery-operated candles (no flames allowed in the Louvre) and fanciful Versailles chairs covered in fuchsia fabric provided the backdrop for the dazzling tableau of diamonds and designer gowns created by guests. Becca's design plan was perfected.
As Houston party planner Richard Flowers observed, "The room was opulent and elegant. The use of the fuchsia-accented with black was just enough to set the room aglow and at the same time paid homage to where we were. Napoleon would have been proud if he would have been here himself."
Following dinner, this jet-setting contingent adjourned to the pyramid for the live auction and entertainment. Champagne and desserts awaited at each unassigned table as guests gathered around the stage in a congenial informality. Within a matter of minutes, Becca had concluded the live auction bringing in more than $1.1 million. (At one point, she stumbled and quipped, "Who will give me $100,000 to catch me when I fall?") Add more dollars from the silent auction of opulent watches. And by night's end, the total raised under the auspices of the American Friends of the Louvre inched toward $4 million.
Once the money was committed, attention turned to Jackson and her crew, who surely rocked the foundations of the Louvre with their energized concert. Before you could say "wardrobe malfunction," this otherwise sophisticated crowd was on its feet at the edge of the stage rocking to the sounds of the pop star. For those who still had the energy after the show, there was disco dancing and more libations in Cafe Marly, which is tucked in a nearby corner of the Louvre.
It was royal success for the Louvre and for director Henri Loyrette, an ardent Becca supporter, who acknowledged, "It is very important to us. This evening brings in so many friends from around the world. Becca did a wonderful job. It's marvelous to see the Louvre like this. This is what it's supposed to be. This is Paris, the place for lively celebration."
More than three dozen Houstonians attended the events including Monsour Taghdisi, who flew in for just the big night, and Stephanie and Bill Perkins, who are spending the summer in Paris with their two children, as well as Phoebe and Bobby Tudor who were off for a yachting adventure on the Italian coast and Karen Pulaski Tyrell and Steve Tyrell who were on their way to London to help Rod Stewart celebrate his wedding anniversary.
On Thursday, Shelby Hodge reports on the gowns the ladies wore. Think fashion dish. Editor's note: Becca Cason Thrash's husband, John, is a CultureMap investor.