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Ask and you shall receive — even if you’re asking a French waiter to let you break the rules. That was the lesson learned by Paris’ jeunesse dorée Tuesday night at a lavish dinner sponsored by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior to celebrate the opening of a new exhibition, “Gaugin — Tahiti” at the Grand Palais.

As every year, the annual LVMH party proved to be a social and cultural high point of the season. French First Lady Bernadette Chirac attended the dinner hosted by Bernard and Helene Arnault at the École des Beaux Arts, as did Ambassador Howard Leach and his wife, Gretchen; Diego Della Valle; Carla Fendi; Farah Pahlavi, the Shabanou; Pierre Bergé; Guy de Rothschild; the Duke of Lugo; Jacqueline de Ribes; Olivier Picasso; Delphine Arnault; Lee Radziwill; Nicholas and Eugenie Clive-Worms and Betty Lagardere.

This story first appeared in the October 6, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

As they all settled at their tables, a gaggle of chic young things — including sisters Elisabeth and Maria von Thurn und Taxis — fired up a pre-prandial cigarette.

Waiters quickly descended, sputtering that favorite French phrase, “C’est interdit!” — It’s forbidden. In vain did the smokers protest that John Galliano, at another table, was smoking, or that the Beaux Arts was not, in fact, a museum, and so they had the right to smoke.

“C’est interdit!” the waiters replied coldly.

Then Princess Alessandra Borghese, who attended with best friend Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, interceded with the headwaiter, distinguished by his gold-braided uniform. After a whispered conversation, he produced the wished-for ashtray with a smile.

Did she explain that Antoine Arnault — whose papa was pa-paying for the soirée — was one of those at the table who wanted to smoke?

No. She tried the one approach no one else had thought of.

“I just asked him,” said la Principessa. “And he said, ‘Yes.’”

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