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Houstonians in Paris

Houstonians light up U.S. Ambassador's residence at gala Paris dinner — then dance the night away

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 Susan Tolson, US Ambassador Charles Rivkin, Becca Cason Thrash, John Thrash at U.S. ambassdor to France dinner
Susan Tolson, from left, U.S. Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin, Becca Cason Thrash, John Thrash  Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
DInner at US Ambassador to France dinner June 2013
Guests dined on two long candlelit tables. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Elizabeth Petersen, Gary Petersen at US Ambassador to France dinner June 2013
Elizabeth and Gary Petersen Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Ceron, Greggory Burk at US Ambassador to France dinner, June 2013
Cerón and Greggory Burk Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
 Sydney Picasso, Meghan Thrash, Charlotte Forbes Escaravage at US Ambassador to France dinner, June 2013
Sydney Picasso, from left, Meghan Thrash and Charlotte Forbes Escaravage Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Sarah Wolfe, Stephanie Laurent at US Ambassador to France dinner June 2016
Sarah Wolfe, left, and Stephanie Laurent Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Jared LeBlanc, Caroline Starry LeBlanc at US Ambassador to France dinner June 2013
Jared and Caroline Starry LeBlanc Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Fady Armanious and Hallie Vanderhider at US Ambassador Dinner in Paris June 2013
Fady Armanious and Hallie Vanderhider Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Rachel Boyens, Christian Boyens at US Ambasador to France dinner
Rachel and Christian Boyens Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Diane Lokey Farb and Mark Sullivan at US Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013
Diane Lokey Farb and Mark Sullivan Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Alma Duarte, Manuel Camelo at US Ambassador to France residence, July 2013
Alma Duarte and Manuel Camelo Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Jan Shrem, Maria Manetti Shrem at US Ambassador to France dinner, Junen 2013
Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Alan Benz, Sallymoon Benz at US Ambassador to France dinner June 2013
Alan and Sallymoon Benz Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
11 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Greg Holt, Mackinzie Amadon
Greg Holt, left, and Mackinzie Amadon Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
8 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Yurie Pascarella, Andrew Gn
Yurie Pascarella and Andrew Gn Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
7 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Mike Hood, Marcia Backus
Mike Hood and Marcia Backus Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
6 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Robert Holmes Tuttle, Maria Tuttle
Robert Holmes Tuttle and Maria Tuttle Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
5 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Greggory Burk, Patrick Burk
Greggory and Pat Burk Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
3 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Monsour Taghdisi, Henry Richardson
Monsour Taghdisi, left, and Henry Richardson Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
13 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Victoria Cummock, Cynthia Friedman
Victoria Cummock, left, and Cynthia Friedman Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
14 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Hoyt Richards, Ana Pettus,Valerie Cooper, Harry Cooper
Hoyt Richards, from left, Ana Pettus and Valerie and Harry Cooper Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
15 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Judith Oudt, Jamie Creel
Judith Oudt, left, and Jamie Creel Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
18 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 John Thrash, Kip Forbes
John Thrash, left, and Kip Forbes Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
19 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Joyce Echols, Melissa Mithoff
Joyce Echols, left, and Melissa Mithoff Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
21 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Molly Laub, Derek Blasberg
Molly Laub and Derek Blasberg Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
22 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Frank Klein, Maria Klein
Frank and Maria Klein Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
24 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 castle mansion venue
The back yard of the residence of the U.S. ambassador to France. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
 Susan Tolson, US Ambassador Charles Rivkin, Becca Cason Thrash, John Thrash at U.S. ambassdor to France dinner
DInner at US Ambassador to France dinner June 2013
Elizabeth Petersen, Gary Petersen at US Ambassador to France dinner June 2013
Ceron, Greggory Burk at US Ambassador to France dinner, June 2013
 Sydney Picasso, Meghan Thrash, Charlotte Forbes Escaravage at US Ambassador to France dinner, June 2013
Sarah Wolfe, Stephanie Laurent at US Ambassador to France dinner June 2016
Jared LeBlanc, Caroline Starry LeBlanc at US Ambassador to France dinner June 2013
Fady Armanious and Hallie Vanderhider at US Ambassador Dinner in Paris June 2013
Rachel Boyens, Christian Boyens at US Ambasador to France dinner
Diane Lokey Farb and Mark Sullivan at US Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013
Alma Duarte, Manuel Camelo at US Ambassador to France residence, July 2013
Jan Shrem, Maria Manetti Shrem at US Ambassador to France dinner, Junen 2013
Alan Benz, Sallymoon Benz at US Ambassador to France dinner June 2013
11 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Greg Holt, Mackinzie Amadon
8 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Yurie Pascarella, Andrew Gn
7 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Mike Hood, Marcia Backus
6 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Robert Holmes Tuttle, Maria Tuttle
5 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Greggory Burk, Patrick Burk
3 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Monsour Taghdisi, Henry Richardson
13 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Victoria Cummock, Cynthia Friedman
14 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Hoyt Richards, Ana Pettus,Valerie Cooper, Harry Cooper
15 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Judith Oudt, Jamie Creel
18 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 John Thrash, Kip Forbes
19 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Joyce Echols, Melissa Mithoff
21 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Molly Laub, Derek Blasberg
22 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 Frank Klein, Maria Klein
24 U.S. Ambassador dinner in Paris June 2013 castle mansion venue
Clifford Pugh newest column mug head shot

PARIS — With all the dashing men in white dinner jackets amid palatial surroundings, one might have mistaken the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to France on the fabled Rue Faubourg-Saint Honoré Sunday night for the set of a James Bond movie.

The invitation to dinner, which kicked off three days of lavish fundraising events organized to benefit the International and American Friends of the Louvre and chaired by Houston's Becca Cason Thrash, asked men to wear light-colored jackets and women to wear long dresses ("not formal but long") or short cocktail attire.

A glamorous crowd of around 140, including around 50 Houstonians, complied.

On a slightly warm but near-picture perfect night, the guests gathered on the terrace of the ambassador's residence, a famed 60,000 square-foot palace completed in 1842, for cocktails before adjourning to a gold-gilded room on the first floor for a dinner prepared by the staff of the Ritz Hotel. The hotel, a favorite of the world's rich and famous, is closed for renovation until December 2014, but general manager Christian Boyens told guests "this is a great way to see our loyal guests beyond the four walls."

 "I thought it was a modern take on Sabrina," Thrash said, recalling the 1954 movie. "I was inspired by the Larrabees in Long Island — all the men had white dinner jackets." 

Large floor-to-ceiling windows were open to let in the evening air (no pesky mosquitoes in this part of France) as guests gathered at two candlelit tables that stretched the length of the long room. The lavish meal included a first course of a half-head of Bibb lettuce with lobster (Diane Lokey Farb marveled that it would make a great first-course at Houston restaurants), followed by grilled sole with summer vegetables and, for dessert, a heavenly hazelnut and chocolate concoction that promised to satisfy any sweet tooth. 

It was the second time that U.S. Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin and his wife, Susan Tolson, opened up the residence for an American Friends of the Louvre fundraising dinner. The couple had previously hosted a similar dinner in 2011, when Thrash oversaw a well-received series of parties to raise funds for the treasured French museum. Rivkin noted that the Louvre has increased its global outlook, with more than 35 collections on loan around the world.

He also cited a recent magazine article that asked, "Can art help you live?" "The resounding answer is yes," he said, "if and when you have access to art."

Rivkin also welcomed former U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Robert Holmes Tuttle and his wife Maria, along with the new Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinezand praised Kip Forbes and Thrash for heading up fundraising efforts for the museum. Rivkin described Thrash as a "force of nature."

Also headlining the guest list were Ritz Paris Hotel president Frank Klein and wife Maria, Louis Vuitton head of private client relations Stephanie Laurent and designer Andrew Gn, who was pleased to see Tolson and San Francisco arts patron Yurie Pascarella wearing his designs.

Among the large Houstonian contingent were a number who had attended two previous Paris fundraisers for the Louvre organized by Becca, including the inaugural Liaisons au Louvre event in 2009. They included Becca's husband, John Thrash (an investor in CultureMap), his daughter Meghan Thrash, Farb, Monsour TaghdisiJudith Oudt, Elizabeth and Gary PetersenGreggory and Pat Burk, and Andrew Echols.

While the dashing dinner jacket theme reminded me of a Bond movie, Becca had another film in mind. She wore a floral skirt she designed from fabric she found in San Francisco and made by Houston designer David Peck, along with a white blouse, inspired by a classic Audrey Hepburn movie.

"I thought it was a modern take on Sabrina," she said, recalling the 1954 movie. "I was inspired by the Larrabees in Long Island — all the men had white dinner jackets."

As guests were leaving after midnight, Becca was already looking forward to hosting a dinner at the Palais du Luxembourg, the home of the French Senate, on Monday night as well as the big Tuesday night gala at the Louvre, with entertainment by Diana Ross, for guests who have paid $10,000 each for the opportunity to attend these trio of gatherings.

But already some Houstonians (lips sealed) were heading across town to dance the night away at the trendy club Chez Raspoutine.

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