Luxe Be a Lady Tonight

It’s good to be rich and it is good to be rich in Paris at the American Friends of the Eiffel Tower gala weekend is in full bloom, as seen in this excerpt from Lance Avery Morgan’s book, The Society Chronicles.

It is better to live rich than to die rich.

 Samuel Johnson

“Darling, you should wear white every day,” Sabrina enthused about my black-tie alternative for summertime (my bespoke tux was getting embarrassingly threadbare), as she grasps my hands with her own, cold as a New England clam. Must be nervousness for the big evening.

“And Kit, you look absolutely precious,” Sabrina says to my companion, who catches my eye with one of her overly arched ones. Being damned with faint praise does not amuse her, but really, Kit needs to lay off the Botox for a few months like everyone else there.

I, on the other hand, arrived in good spirits – all things like Sabrina’s errant brother Joshua’s mobster exploits taken into account and having kicked off the festivities last night at Ambassador Hammond’s mansion, where some of the best examples of American art is displayed on magnificent French walls. Diplomats are the most party-giving people of us all, but it is amusing to know that Sabrina’s guests have better artwork in their downstairs powder room than what is displayed here above the French ambassador’s fireplace.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s classic Continental swank. Gilded gold furnishings. Peau de soie and gros de Londres drapes that puddle at the floor and ceilings – a state gift from Portugal to spiff things up a bit. Someone needs to tell the State Department that Philippe Starck is alive and kicking around the corner and could modernize this fossilized shell of a former palace… tell them diplomatically, that is.

As the shocking news of Joshua Miller’s polo exploits with mobsters continued to spread and sink in, most of us awakened to the memory, groggy and terribly hung-over with “The Girl From Ipanema” pestering our pounding brains and the piss-elegant rowdiness of the Ritz bar as we had re-gathered. It was Alexandra Medford’s favorite tune and Zeke had spotted the band a hundy every time they played it wherever we went.

Nevertheless, we fell in line mid-morning at the home of the commanding chief executive of The House of Hermes, taking a tour of the home, with many glasses of Dom Perignon gulped in between rooms, and finally, receiving our parting gifts of lovely orange and black boxed reminders of our visit; equestrian-themed desk ornaments for the men, and the signature $700 scarves for the women. As the hostess, Sabrina was gifted with a specially commissioned scarf. Little did she know how much of a presence the scarf would have her last day on this planet at her tour de force, The American Friends of the Eiffel Tower ball.

Iconic and powerful as the Egyptian pyramids or the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower’s twisty metal is the epicenter for countless lovers doing their passionate deeds. It’s also a cultural racket that practically mints Euros for the French, but that symbolism is lost on our hostess.

This weekend, there’s no such thing as excess, with the thousand-dollar-a-bottle bubbly and gowns that cost the annual wage of the average American worker. All that and 81 stories of the Eiffel, lit up like an octogenarian’s birthday cake:  to be expected at this rarified social altitude.

Here at a party like this is where marriage is as much a business as anything else, and certain social mores must be observed. High black tie for men, which meant long gowns only for ladies. A dashing but down-on-his-luck viscount with a Hungarian accent, Hans von Friedlander, greeted guests at the check-in table, looking over Alexandra Medford as she rushed in late, her dress train gathered up to show a sizeable amount of leg real estate. An actual count was late, too, explaining that vineyard business kept him in Bordeaux and he missed an earlier train.

Friends and frenemies alike were in the receiving line at the entry of the lush gardens at base of the tower, most breathless at the thought that Sabrina might be in line to possibly receive an ambassadorial appointment like the one attained by her professional hero many decades before, Claire Booth Luce. Luce who was once described as the ideal female, both a woman’s woman and a man’s woman, was the kind of gal Sabrina and I would have wanted as a pal.

Media scion Trip Forrest, Brandon and Bunny Jamison (in vintage Bob Mackie), were in from La Jolla with Ivan and Rachel Kohler (she was in a brand spanking new Kenzo). Victoria Baron Magee still ready to sign any random autograph as the real person behind the Erin Rosswell role in the Oscar–nominated film about the covert arms movement in Libya, repurposed her mother’s cream chiffon John Anthony of New York couture gown – there’s nothing tonier in the fashion world now than a fabulous vintage piece.

Marquessa Sloan and her husband, Hampton (son of 1950’s western star Shep Sloan) were in line behind Mrs. Magee, she in a navy sequined Ellie Saab, who had also designed her Crillion Hotel’s Cotillion Ball gown several years back. Her mother in law, Laurette Sloan, French by birth and goddess by earned reputation, was with them since she lived in her Paris apartment six months out of the year. She looked resplendent in her Philip Treacy hat of spun cashmere and lame’ to match her brand new Phillip Lim 2.0 off the shoulder gown of black and turquoise. Laurette’s guest, Princess Tita von Kohlenberg, in a vintage Charles James gown her mother had made during the early Eisenhower years, was standing on one foot and then the other, her eagerness to walk in the party barely uncontainable. For her the term professional guest had been coined decades before.

Behind them were Alexandra and Zeke Medford, she in Alexander McQueen as a tribute to the fallen fashion icon and close personal friend. They stood in line in front of box office stars, iPhone app millionaires, and of all people, Brie Sorenson, with a post teen vampire co-star who had much more bark than bite in Young Hollywood. Her stylist apparently didn’t get the memo about glamour, and whatever raggedy Melrose Avenue slip dress she packed for the occasion was way too junior, and most assuredly short on taste. The shoes were worse. But at 18, she was irrelevant and clueless, and infinitely better dressed than Sabrina’s own offspring would have been had they attended.

Everyone is pretty much the same, naked, Sabrina thought to herself while welcoming her guests and looking them over as astutely as one could in a receiving line. For their sakes, thank God most of the women are covered in couture. It was over a year of planning; through her brother’s maddening decline, her husband’s affairs, the divorce mess and her dirty little secret that, if all goes well, the evening would stay dirty and little. Here’s hoping.

Let’s get this party started.

“Take me up, Pierre. I want to get a good look below at what I created tonight before my party starts. ” Sabrina said to the Eiffel Tower’s elevator operator.

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Rossana Leeper

Associate Publisher

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