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DORIS DAY: It seems no one forgets when he or she first met Doris Brynner, a widow of the actor Yul Brynner and a woman with a nonpareil flare for decorating. In 1968, the Farah Diba Pahlavi, then Empress of Iran, was attending the Olympic Games in Grenoble, France, and Brynner was among the VIPs gathered to watch the U.S.S.R. play Czechoslovakia in hockey.
“She was sitting behind me with Audrey Hepburn,” Pahlavi recalled Tuesday night in Paris, as a swath of Europe’s beau monde gathered in Dior’s salons to see Brynner receive a medal from the French Culture Ministry.
Head of Dior’s home furnishings and gift department for the past 15 years, Brynner was applauded by the likes of Bernard Arnault, Princess Marie-Chantal and Prince Pavlos of Greece, Pierre Bergé, Georgina Brandolini, Lee Radziwill, Jacques Grange and the actor Alain Delon.
“We met, I would have to say, 40 years ago in Los Angeles,” Delon recalled, before Brynner interjected with a raised finger: “Forty-eight years, Alain!” Delon said he was in California then shooting a movie with Ralph Nelson, the American director of “Once a Thief.”
Marie-Chantal said she was only eight when she met Brynner, long acclaimed for her impeccable taste in decorating and home objects. “She had a little shop in Morges and Gstaad (Switzerland) called The Veranda. I used to go in and steal her M&Ms,” she related. “She had an eye before the world became global.”
Former Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand hailed Brynner a “symbol of chic” who was came to Paris in 1965 and won fans immediately in fashion with her beauty and charm. He noted it was the American architect Peter Marino who introduced her to Arnault, who brought her into the Dior fold. (She has worked at Pierre Cardin, Chanel and Valentino.)
Brynner was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, which recognizes significant contributions to the arts.