1972 bizarre Rothschild dinner – The New York Times

PARIS—The invitation to a “diner de totes surrealistes” had to be read in a mirror.

Instead of giving their annual ball at rerrieres, their chateau outside Paris, the Baron and Baroness Guy de Rothschild decided to make it a simple dinner for 150 close friends. The dress was boring black tie, with full‐blown surrealism from the shoulders up.

Some say this sudden craving for in timacy is due to the Rothschilds’ present financial difficulties. But is that a reason for hurting the feelings of half of Paris?

The press was strictly not invited. Gate‐crashers were discouraged by the local police force and by rumors that hounds used for hunting on the estate had been loosed in the park.

The hostess, Marie‐Helene de Roth schild, was fittingly dressed as a stag at the kill, with towering antlers and jewel tears on her face. The Baron simply wore a huge fur hat.

A pitch‐black entrance and maitre d’hôtels disguised as cats and holding candles greeted the chosen guests. Many dashed off to Alexandre’s emergency salon in the chateau to have their “heads” put on, since even the ceilings of Rolls‐Royces were too low.

Salvador Dali was wheeled in by his masseuse and escorted by his muse, Amanda, dressed up in a jawbone. “I don’t need a mask. My face is my mask,” he boasted. However, for the occasion he had rigged up an auto matically folding and unfolding umbrella.

Enough men to make up quite a few barbershop quartets appeared in bowler hats in honor of Magritte, the surrealist painter. The more ambitious ones included David de Rothschild, who sported a large green egg; Valerian Rybar, with three extra pairs of eyes, and Bernard Lanvin, disguised as a gas lamp post. Many of the males shed their disguises in time for dinner.

“Men are simply not accustomed to suffer to be beautiful,” said Princess Ghislaine de Polignac. As Revlon’s public relations director here, she had designed a “make‐up” head of eyebrow pencils, brushes, mascara and powder puffs.

On the dinner tables, instead of flowers there were surrealistic statues. Each table had its theme, such as “The Golden Sleeping Cat,” depicting sleeping cats and mice eating cheese. The tablecloths were in pink and blue clouds, the plates in mink cradling red plastic lips instead of napkins. The rolls were green.

“Fortunately, the food wasn’t surrealistic,” said one guest with relief. The reference was to the foie gras, game and other realistic things. At one point, clutching a handkerchief to her lips, Audrey Hepburn, who was attired in a wicker birdcage, made a hasty exit. “Maybe she’s pregnant,” one guest murmured.

And what dieter could resist the cake, a life‐size nude in frangipane flanked by caramel roses?

Afterward, some adjourned to the “nightclub,” but dancing was more risky than risque. What with all the headgear, the dancers kept hooking onto their partners, like mastodons battling in the primeval forest.

It was more fun to size up the competition. Baroness Denise von Thyssen was voted the “most droll.” Her costume was totally understated, a second head placed on top of her first. From a distance, her friends marveled, “Hasn’t Denise grown?”

Minka Strauss, who won the door prize, even though no one could discover what it consisted of, was wearing a silver snail. Duchess Claudine de Cadaval was disguised as a white brick wall, while Nicole Salinger carried on her head a green and mauve cauliflower.

The only his‐and‐her costumes belonged to Count and Countess Pierre Cheremetieff, who wore twin rhinoceros heads and were very proud indeed.

Baron Alexis de Rédé had tucked four Mona Lisa heads under his large top hat. Helene Rochas bore an old‐fashioned gramophone aloft, a vision created by Yves Saint Laurent, who was there to admire his work.

So was Marc Bohan, the Dior designer, who transformed Cappy Badrutt into a green park and Mrs. Edmond Dory into a cage of birds.

Also in the back‐to‐nature feeling were the actress‐model, Marisa Berenson as a pink tulle pyramid of flowers, Brigitte Bardot as the snow queen, and Mrs. Pierre Schlumberger, fluttering with exotic, if dead, butterflies.

Charlotte Aillaud, wife of the architect, covered her bust and face with bronze armor cast‐to‐order by Claude Lalanne, the sculptor. The lips and chin were re-movable on a stem.

Francois‐Marie Bannier, the author, also Galled on Mrs. Lalanne in this time of need, and floated around with hands and winged feet protruding from his curly wig. In one hand he carried a compact containing gold powder and made of a crushed bronze foot.

Meanwhile, Francois‐Xavier Lalanne had painted the face of Claude Lehon in a seascape, complete with sinking steamer. With it, the walking painting wore a white‐haired woman’s wig.

Michel Guy, who, in this case, had the good fortune to be bald, was terribly at ease with a dagger planted into his skull. He accessorized it with a silver wobbly halo. “Am I grotesque enough?” he asked anxiously.

Most of the women guests wore “recent” couture dresses, but Princess, Jean de Caracciolo had on a yellow net that was a relic from 1925. It went delightfully with her green octopus turban. The prince brought his headwear to the party in a carton. It was a huge globe shadowing four white masks, with antennae.

“If you’re surrealist, you’re supposed to know what it is,” he explained.

Unsurrealistically, Helene David‐Weill, a blonde, came as Cleopatra, with a floor-length black wig supporting a plastic of hands, legs, lips, frogs and snails that flashed in red like a traffic signal.

“I can’t stop wondering whether this is horsehair or Chinese hair,” said Mrs. David‐Weill, whose disguise was meant to represent “a thinner Elizabeth Taylor.”

Some nasty tongues say that this may well be the last supper at Ferrières. The alternatives, in their opinion, are tearing down the chateau, burning it down or turning it into an orphanage, which sounds surrealistic enough.

Anyway, after all this fun, what could the Rothschilds think up for a simple dinner next year?

In the Rothschild Manner, a Simple Dinner for 150 Close Friends – The New York Times

In the Rothschild Manner, a Simple Dinner for 150 Close Friends – The New York Times

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