Max worked feverishly on planning the “Happy, Happy, Happy” party for Lilou. Peeking in the door of his studio, I saw him pacing, thinking, drawing.
Twiddling his moustache, he said, “Lilou spent her life giving to people. She was a famous beloved actress. She contributed to the French Resistance during World War 2. She delighted many French orphans with her gifts. Her life blessed many people. I’d like to make her happy for a change. Give her something to make her weep with joy.”
Hoping to cheer him up I said, “You could always tell her she looks fifteen pounds thinner. Any woman would be thrilled to hear that.”
Her life blessed many people. I’d like to make her happy for a change. Give her something to make her weep with joy.
Max grimaced. “You know what I mean, give her something special – like a handsome young man jumping out of a cake and twirling her around the apartment.”
I frowned. “She’s in her seventies. What if she can’t twirl anymore?
“Hmmmmm…., “ he said. He threw his hands up. “Okay. I’ll think of something.” He went back to his studio.
In the days that followed, he was not only sketching but also making a lot of phone calls. I couldn’t imagine what he was doing, since I was in charge of ordering for the party. He was very secretive. I had recovered from the flu and was involved in speaking with the purveyors. But what was he doing?
On the afternoon of the party, Max and I arrived at Lilou’s penthouse. She was staying in East Hampton with friends wanting to be surprised by the party along with the guests. She would make a grand entrance at the last minute.
The crew and I set everything up. Garlands of leaves circling the ceilings were decorated with bunches of flowers, radishes, cabbages, berries and herbs. Vases of bunched vegetables shimmering with hidden lights burst from crystal and silver vases. Mini strings of lights, tiny white stars, candelabras glowed.
We had taken down and carefully stored Lilou’s artwork. On the walls we hung large photos of Lilou in various films. On the wall behind the buffet, a photo, the one that was in the book about Lilou when she received the Legion of Honor hung illuminated by pin lights. In the drawing room, we set up a projector. We would run scenes from her films continuously.
Max labored feverishly as he assembled the centerpiece on the buffet table. I watched it being created piece by piece. It was a garden, Max’s interpretation of Lilou’s “Happy, happy, happy!” Max used all his vegetable garnishing tricks with carrots, radishes, jicama, cabbage, arugula, carnations, bee balm, hyssop, bachelor’s buttons, leeks, chives, garlic, borage and basil. Trees were crafted from broccoli, green olives and watermelon rinds. Tiny birds fashioned from purple and green grapes and colored peppers peeked from the trees. Small candles shimmered throughout the landscape.
On the sides of the centerpiece, tiered trays were laden with lobster and avocado biscuits, pate toasts with pickled grapes, oysters Dupont, crab toasts, smoked trout blinis with crème fraiche and dill, three cheese gougeres, gravalax on herb toast, and lettuce wrapped steak bites.
Crates and crates of chilled Taittinger champagne waited at the ready.
It was half an hour before the guests would arrive. I had hired four young men as wait staff. They all had great haircuts, and looked stylish in their modified tuxedo outfits. I wore a simple black dress as I always did. Max looked handsome in a tuxedo with tails. We all moussed our hair and put on yard wide smiles.
The string quartet played movie themes.
Emile, the butler and Lilou’s right hand man, had guarded the guest list. No one knew who was coming but it was sure to include New York and Hollywood glitterati. We were not disappointed at the elegant turnout of guests.
My eyes popped. Through the front doors walked legendary luminaries: David and Mick arrived together with their partners. Gloria, Andy, and Tennessee drifted in. Many of yesteryear’s directors and producers strolled in. Famous vintage faces rounded out the guest list. I recognized Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Gregory Peck and Gene Kelly. Wow!
When the Taittinger had been liberally poured, a spotlight shone on the entrance. Drum roll! Lilou!
The party was about to begin!