In the latest exceprt from Lance Avery Morgan’s book, The Society Chronicles, we are in the middle of a dinner party that will have the City of Lights ablaze with Parisian gossip about Texans for many days to come.
“Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” Sarah Bernhardt
“I’ve spent too much time in the media,” I said to Kit, when we were able to speak. “Clearly my B.S. filter is broken.”
“I wasn’t sure Sabrina could pull off something this big, but look.”
Sabrina’s theme was magnificent. It was only later that I realized it was also the gods winking (or razzing) through creative inspiration – a cosmic double entendre if there ever was one – but right now, it just seemed impossibly magical.
Sabrina had spent months creating a shimmery experience intended to feel beautiful, diaphanous and transparent, from our hostess’s sheer silver gown to the heart-stopping price tag of the gala’s signature champagne at Jules Verne, the most expensive restaurant in Paris, located at the base of the structure and Altitude 95 suspended far above. Being poured is the 1907 Heidsieck, found shipwrecked in 1997 and preserved in perfect order. At $275,000 a bottle, we were drinking in both delicious history and modern excess, communicating life is fleeting, n’est pas? So let’s savor it. Cocktails at Jules, the main gala party under the Eiffel, and the after-party at Altitude 95. Sabrina has found, in her vast years of hostessing, that one venue for everything works best.
Many of the guests knew each other, many didn’t.
The pièce de résistance was the cavernous white tent at the base of the expansive tower, literally lit by thousands of the most delicate lights intended to illuminate the luminaries, with clear Lucite chairs, delicate morning glories and thousands more votives and tapers, all of which made everyone look more tan, beautiful and handsome than when they walked in.
Duck confit, Boeuf Bourguignon, lobster swimming in freshly churned butter, baby potatoes from the nearby countryside, freshly harvested green peas, and a host of dessert pastries complemented the meal’s champagne, a 1961 Château Haut-Brion.
Unfortunately the candles were just a bit too pear-scented and fought with the food’s aroma and the sweet smell of success – the most precious perfume, if anyone knew how to bottle it. Instead the air was filled with talk of the French government’s latest sex scandals, along with the troubles of Joshua Miller, left many theories and opinions on the table.
“Darling, are you having the most marvelous time ever?” I heard nearby my seat.
Sabrina is up and working the room, more rail thin than usual, hobnobbing and being the perfect hostess. Her jewels refracted the candlelight and made the lady more luminous than ever, and she obviously willed herself not to think of her brother at a time like this.
The twenty-one piece orchestra played concertos by Chopin, Ravel and Debussey before dinner, creating a fantasy-like mood that Napoleon and Eugenie would envy in their homeland. The best swing band in Europe, that came on at dinner, were flown in from Hamburg, playing tunes from Count Basie to Bobby Darin to Ella Fitzgerald, appeared from behind a stadium-sized video wall that separated when they began to play, astonishing the guests.
The seating was arranged strategically, a well-known trait of Sabrina’s. She had engineered countless transactions between potentates and moguls. Couples, as is the custom, were seated apart from each other to induce more interesting conversation, and to double the chance for strategic social advantage. Wives are usually on the husband’s team of trusted advisors and can be counted on to advance whatever business or personal agenda they share. Others call that pillow talk.
There was a greater sense of optimism that was infusing the room by the second, as if Sabrina had willed it to happen on her own.
Regarding economic affairs, I was seated in between Gia Woo and Guy Wetherall, the Duke of Gloucester who had quite the reputation for his amazing ability to identify opportunities and make fortunes, while entertaining himself with adult pleasures that are illegal in some countries. His week-long hookah parties in Tangiers are legendary.
“Gia, weren’t you at Giselle Greggory’s memorial service?’ I ask, knowing that she, too admired one of the 20th century’s most notable luminaries.”
“Oh, no I wasn’t.”
“I loved what Dominick Dunne said about her at the eulogy about it taking extraordinary effort to be extraordinary, and I am looking around thinking that can be said of so many of you in this room.”
“What a compliment, Jake. It’s totally unwarranted in my case, but you? I love Dazzle.”
“I just work hard to celebrate others, and think of myself as someone who lights up well-deserved pedestals.”
“Woo is the same way, and always makes sure others benefit from his success,” said the lovely lady.
“Why don’t you do Dazzle for the telly?” interjected the Duke. “The lovely Gia can be your star, and there’s no better backing than her mate,” he said, half jokingly.
Okay this is a little over-the-top in the lucky stars department. Did a third party just do the heavy lifting for the pitch?
“Good Lord – no pun intended! Funny you should mention television, because I was just on the phone with L.A. this morning, discussing a tasteful type of reality show, if that’s not an oxymoron. Gia, are you at all interested?” I said, careful not to overstep any bounds.
“When I was at Sarah Lawrence, I studied acting and well, it might be fun.”
“Perhaps we should table this until after the party, Gia. You see, the thing is, without a magazine, there is no TV show, so I’m doing an investment raise to
“Done,” Gia states as she took a long sip of the exorbitantly priced bubbly. “We have plenty of excellent titles in the WooCom portfolio, and you could take advantage of the team’s expertise.”
“I said, let’s take this worry off your plate, Jake. I’ll set up a meeting with Lee and our people will handle the details,” she repeated, with a sly grin.
“But, but… we hardly know each other,” I countered.
“Please. We believe in good karma. You’ve got it, I’ve got it. Woo has challenged me to pursue my interests and develop good ideas… so tag, you’re it.”
“I really don’t know what to say.”
“Hush and dance with me later, Jake. That’s the one thing my sweet husband never learned how to do, and I’m from Louisiana – I don’t get to dance nearly enough. You’re fabulous that way, and I know you won’t put your nose where it doesn’t belong,” she smiled.
I jabbed my thumbnail into my hand to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, then did the same to the duke. I was grateful that he had opened his mouth correctly at the table, but really. A man can only go so far to return a favor.
He had uttered the line Kit fed him perfectly, and I will make sure my former Moroccan host is amply rewarded as promised… in the pages of Dazzle.