The Palais du Luxembourg, the home of the French Senate, is a sedate— dare we say, stuffy? — place. But on June 17, the stately building that Maria de Medici commissioned in the 17th century rocked with 20th-century tunes as Liaisons au Louvre Trois entered its second phase.
A glam dinner at the palace — the latest installment of three days of social activities organized by Houston's Becca Cason Thrash to raise funds for the American Friends of the Louvre — was transformed into a raucous sing-a-long when the Gypsy Queens appeared after the first course. The band, which has become a favorite at exclusive private parties in Europe and around the world, materialized seemingly from nowhere around a table of guests in the middle of the room and burst into a robust rendition of "California Dreamin'," the '60s classic by the Mamas & the Papas.
I was only slightly embarrassed when I noticed that Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes didn't join in the chorus.
Led by lead singer and guitarist Didier Castani, the five-member band visited each table, with covers of such songs as "Country Road," Sweet Caroline," "Twist and Shout," "Satisfaction," "La Bamba" and "All My Lovin'" as guests sang nearly every word.
When the band stopped at our table, my seatmates and I loudly sang along to The Eagles' classic "Take it Easy." I was only slightly embarrassed when I noticed that Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes, who was at the table with his stunning girlfriend, Italian stylist Nefer Suvio, didn't join in the chorus.
Would it have been different if the band had sung "Hungry Like the Wolf" or "Rio?" At least he tapped his fingers to the music.
Chatting up Rhodes was Ana Pettus, the former Dallas socialite whom the Wall Street Journal made temporarily famous for spending $74,000 at Balmain in Paris (and then, later, declared to FD Luxe she was run out of town by haters).
By the time dessert was served, the large Houston contingent, including Diane Lokey Farb, Fady Armanious, Sara Dodd, Henry Richardson, Monsour Tagdishi, Melissa Mithoff, Tami Dias, Andrew Echols, Hallie Vanderhilder, Joyce Echols, Mark Sullivan and Thrash turned the room into one big dance floor, along with many of the 150 guests.
Also joining in the fun were Vogue's Hamish Bowles; Harper's Bazaar contributor Derek Blasberg; vbeauté founder Julie Macklowe, in a tomato-red Tom Ford dress with a plunging back; Philo Ebata, the wife of Forbes Afrique magazine founder and Orion Oil Company CEO Lucien Ebata, one of the evening's sponsors; Hoyt Richards, who gained fame as one of the first male supermodels in the '80s and '90s; and Bulgari's Stephane Gerschel.
Because the Italian jewelry and luxury goods company sponsored the dinner, each table was named for a precious stone (tourmaline, topaz, pearl, etc.). Thrash changed outfits at the last minute, wearing a Prabal Gurung gown with an open neckline to showcase a glittering Bulgari necklace.
"It goes back at 10 in the morning," she quipped.
No one could recall the Luxembourg Palace ever hosting a dinner like this. It came about after American Friends of the Louvre supporters Kip Forbes and Max Blumberg put Thrash in touch with Alberic de Montgolfier, a member of the French Senate representing the Eur-et-Loir region in northern France, who was intrigued with the idea.
"Maria de Medici was one of the great early supporters of the Louvre, so tonight this [dinner] makes total sense," de Montgolfier said.
Prior to cocktails in the Luxembourg Gardens and dinner in the Salons de Boffrand, guests took a private tour of the Senate chamber, the library adorned with Delacroix's cycle of paintings representing Dante's Inferno and other rooms adored with gilded-gold walls and priceless artwork.