The ambassador is in the house
Naeem Khan, Duran Duran's John Taylor, Kip Forbes & more join Houstonianspartying in Paris
With a light drizzle in the Paris air, the chauffeur-driven Maybachs and other hired cars pulled up to the heavily-guarded entrance of the U.S. Ambassador's residence on Sunday night, disgorging a dazzling parade of designer-clad notables, dressed to the hilt for an evening in the historic dwelling's palatial salons.
It was the start of three days of lavish fundraising events organized under the auspices of the International and American Friends of the Louvre and chaired by Houston's Becca Cason Thrash.
Umbrellas aloft, ladies in their three- and four-inch stilettos teetered across the cobblestone courtyard to the doors of the Hotel de Pontalba, the famed 60,000 square-foot palace completed in 1842 for the Baroness de Pontalba, a wealthy heiress from New Orleans.
On this night, the essence of wealth could not be ignored among the coterie of 168 guests whose net worth could probably fund the Louvre's entire operation for a decade. Consider that each of the attendees had ponied up $10,000 for the trio of soirées including this dinner with Ambassador Charles Rivkin and his fashion-savvy wife Susan Tolson. The swell throng included oodles of millionaires as well as a sprinkling of billionaires.
As the ambassador said in his remarks to the assemblage, "Tonight promises to be a most unforgettable evening." Indeed, who could fail to appreciate the sense of grandeur amid the gilded boisserie of the reception rooms with soaring ceilings and brilliant crystal chandeliers. Uniformed waiters circled through offering champagne and hors d'ouevres from the kitchen that is overseen by three chefs.
It was here only a few months ago that Cason Thrash was awarded the French Legion of Honor, a prestigious accomplishment that the ambassador applauded before turning to the importance of the Louvre to an American audience. More than one million Americans pass through the portals of the museum each year, he said, adding that the work of the American Friends of the Louvre presents the opportunity to reinforce the "enduring friendship of these two countries."
"In France," he said, "the American Friends of the Louvre is considered a model for museum fundraising."
Becca took the podium to thank the various guests including the evening's host Sotheby's, represented by Michael Moore, who had come in from New York for the festivities.
There was much chatting and a steady flow of air kisses as the guests divided into their assigned dining rooms to be seated at tables of 10 and served a bountiful three-course meal that began with white asparagus and arugula salad, continued with Bresse chicken with truffles and risotto and concluded with a deconstructed pear Helene for dessert.
Headlining the guest list was designer Naeem Khan with his wife Ranjana, Duran Duran's John Taylor and wife Gela Nash Taylor of Juicy Couture fame, Kathryn Stockett (author of The Help), Touched by an Angel's Roma Downey, New Yorker Christopher "Kip" Forbes, international society blogger/fashion writer Derek Blasberg, record producer and singer Steve Tyrell and wife Karen Pulaski Tyrell and loads of international guests.
Among Houstonians in the mix who had made this trip for Liaisons au Louvre in 2009 were Becca's husband, John Thrash (who is a minority investor in CultureMap), his daughter Meghan Thrash, Diane Lokey Farb, Judith Oudt, Nick Florescu, Elizabeth and Gary Petersen, Greggory and Pat Burk, Valerie Sarofim and Andrew Echols.
The Houston contingent is scattered across the heart of Paris with most bunking at the city's five-star hotels (starting rates around $1,200 a night for a basic double). The George V, Le Meurice, the Ritz, Hotel Costes — these are the locals that appeal to the well-heeled coterie of Houston partiers.
They're having pre-dinner cocktails at Costes and the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz, doing after-dinner partying at Le Meurice and wining and dining at various hot spots across the city. More on that later.