Byline: Aileen Mehle
An array of the grandest of Paris society will be out in full fig for what promises to be one of the most splendid balls imaginable, Le Grand Bal de Versailles. It takes rather a lot to get the terminally blase Paris creme de la creme crowd out and cooing — how do you say been there, done that en francais? — but this is it. And it’s not only the Parisians who are excited. Lovers and supporters of Versailles, the magnificent palace that is the jewel in France’s crown and the largest museum in the world, are coming from everywhere for the six-day celebration before and after the ball on June 22. Actually, it is the American Friends of Versailles, and they are legion, who are hosting the festivities. This will be their last ball for years to come and with it their fund-raising, begun with the 1999 ball, will be complete.
The glittering night will begin with a cocktail reception in the glorious Royal Chapel vestibule at Versailles to view the recently restored Paolo Veronese masterpiece and the famous Salon d’Hercule with its gorgeous ceiling painted by Francois Le Moyne. At the same time, there will be a reception on the terrace with an extraordinary perspective of those gardens and playing fountains that feed the soul. Those guests who choose — who wouldn’t? — may take a leisurely stroll through the Royal Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors. It’s supposed to be a surprise, but nevermind — there will also be a brief performance by the Royal Opera featuring this and that etoile.
The guests will then sweep on to the splendor of the Grand Trianon, the palace built as the private residence of the royal family, for dinner and the ball. The cuisine will be exquise and Pierre Celeyron, the renowned party planner, is in charge of the decor and the flowers. And of course for the grand finale, the sky will be illuminated with feux d’artifice, because what’s a big French blast without fireworks? To add the right American touch, the Michael Carney Orchestra will be flown over from New York. To add the ultimate French touch, Mme. Jacques Chirac is the distinguished honoree.
Just to give you an idea of what to expect: On June 19, there will be a tour of the world famous Chateau de Courances and its fabled Le Notre gardens hosted by the Marquis and Marquise de Ganay and Mme. Anne-Marie de Ganay, followed by a luncheon for 40. The brick and stone chateau, considered one of the most exquisite in France, is a perfect example of a Louis XIII palace, surrounded by moats and superb lawns and plane trees. Later there will be cocktails at the enchanting house of Prince Amyn Aga Khan, the Aga Khan’s brother, and a dinner at the grand hotel particulier of the Count and Countess Edouard de Ribes. (She is Jacqueline, the exotic Parisienne who has ruled over international fashion for decades.)
On June 20, there is a reception given by the utterly, utterly M. and Mme. Jean d’Yturbe at their Paris apartment (tres joli) and perhaps a visit to Yves Saint Laurent’s private museum, where he has kept a sample of every garment he has created during his 40-year career. On June 23, cocktails and dinner will take place at the breathtaking Chateau de Champs-sur-Marnes. Built in 1706 by two of Louis XIV’s finance ministers, it was first lived in by the Princess Conti, Louis XIV’s natural daughter, and then briefly by Madame de Pompadour. Filled with an exceptional collection of fine art and furniture, it was a favorite of Charles de Gaulle. But more of all this on Friday when you will perhaps be ready for even more foie-gras — and more adjectives.
Over here, on Friday, such young beauties as Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robin Tunney, Natalie Portman and Summer Phoenix are hosting what they hope is a glamorous party at the Miu Miu store in Hollywood. It’s to benefit the Independent Feature Project/West, whatever that is. But it’s dear to their little thespian hearts, as the reason behind it is to allow filmmakers to make more films. Makes a lot of sense, no? Expected are Kirsten Dunst, Chloe Sevigny, Jessica Capshaw and Shiva Rose McDermott, all done up in their Miu Mius — or else.