Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

You're Invited

It seemed easy this time, the assignment: Throw a dinner party, invite any 10 guests you would like (qualifier " famous/well-known dead or alive, no relatives and not Jesus") plus you and your significant other.

Not long ago I wrote a post similar to today's By Invitation Only group challenge. Years ago I had written a story for the International Herald Tribune about how to give a perfect party in Paris. At the time I interviewed Françoise Dumas, the ultimate event planner who continues to produce the most spectacular, take-your-breath-away-even-if-you're-jaded-or blasé (even if you're French) fetes one could never imagine. She was responsible for the 2009 party celebrating the re-opening of L'Opera Royal du Chateau Versailles after two years of renovation. She does most of the LVMH parties as well as  over-the-top luxury product launches and on and on.

The gala at L'Opera Royal du Chateau Versailles
Obviously then, I would call on her to handle the details which would dazzle my guests. I'm thinking a tent with crystal chandeliers in our garden, small orchestra, intimate dance floor, everything trés cozy. I'll leave the menu and flowers to her, but I remember one gorgeous party she coordinated at the Picasso museum with ornamental apple trees in full bloom, maybe she could dot them around the space. I know she will insist upon Cristal champagne passed instantly upon the guests' arrival, and she's right of course.

She said back then, and I doubt she has changed her mind, the perfect dinner table consists of: "a princess, a politician, a writer, a philosopher, two good listeners, a businessman, a designer and 'perhaps' a journalist."

My-Reason-For-Living-In-France and I will be responsible for the "two good listeners" role, with these guests I can only assume the conversation would be vibrant and fascinating.

Madame Dumas did caution at the time that at large events wives and mistresses should be seated on opposite sides of the room. This will not be a consideration at our dinner -- no wives, and I seriously doubt we're in mistress territory.

Reputations have been made or destroyed; romances commenced or finished; careers enhanced or ended; and friendships created or demolished at dinner tables. Nicolas Sarkozy met Carla Bruni at a private dinner party in Paris.

For all those reasons and many, many more, choosing who sits at one's dinner table and who sits next to whom is a deliciously delicate exercise in diplomacy.

Good conversation is a fine art, highly respected and diligently cultivated in this country.  A perfect table is one where the women look beautiful (you understand my meaning I trust, they look elegant and appear ageless because of their charm and scintillating intelligence), the food is perfection -- in taste and presentation -- and the talk is lively, witty, informed and perhaps a little naughty.

When I sent out the invitations -- need I add black-tie (?) -- I figured it made no difference whether my potential invitees were dead or alive, the chances of their showing up would be about the same. The only difference might be that those still on this earth and possessing good manners might formally decline. But I shall not be dissuaded. 

A useful tactic in this case perhaps: Legend has it that aspiring hostesses (social climbing hostesses?) would build their dinner parties around one stellar guest and then invite others using her or him as the draw. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were of course a huge coup for a hostess. Supposedly the Duchess would choose a bauble -- at the hostess' urging -- from one of her favorite jewelers as "payment" for her to attend a soiree.

I'm thinking what could I offer one of my guests to use as leverage for the others. . .?

Here then is our guest list:*

The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge = royalty, youth, good genes, great jewelry. 

(After consulting with the palace I was assured there was to be no la-dee-da protocol and that their body guards would be discreet. Her secretary said, "They simply want to enjoy you and your guests -- no pomp, no ceremony." You can imagine what a relief that was considering my next guest.)

President Barack Obama = a politician. (Remember, I'm apolitical.) The White House social secretary also assured me the secret service would be "practically invisible."

Christine Lagarde = the stunning, brilliant, president of the International Monetary Fund.

Clint Eastwood = actor, director, musician, composer.

Meryl Streep = What can one say?

Karl Lagerfeld = hilariously funny, erudite, wicked.

Nora Ephron = sharp wit, sharp intellect, smart dresser. She's our writer.

Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones = the charismatic Welsh genius who turned L'Oreal into the largest cosmetics company in the world and in so doing made some of the most intelligent far-sighted brand purchases in the history of the industry. He is our businessman.

Diane Sawyer = our journalist featuring that fine cocktail of glamor and brains. (I imagine she will be in great demand and I did consider her peer, Christiane Amanpour, but decided I would invite her to another soiree with a different mix of intellectual elements including my favorite philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut.) .

Et voila, a perfect evening which will end I trust early in the morning when a light breakfast and mimosas will be served.

To see who my By Invitation Only friends have invited to their gala evenings, please visit our leader, Marsha at Splenderosa.

Oh, I almost forgot. I'll be wearing this little Elie Saab number with "my" Harry Winston earrings and Loree Rodkin bracelets.

I'll be wearing 10 of Loree Rodkin's diamond bangles.
*This is another one of those times when I wish I were an artist so that I could present the scene as it duly deserves to be portrayed. 

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