Wow yourself. That sounded remarkably like Holly Golightly, but it was the word from Audrey Hepburn, her chin resting on her hand in a certainly Holly-manner, as dress after gown after creation of her friend Hubert de Givenchy sashayed and bumped and wiggled and glided down the runway Friday night at the Beverly Wilshire.
Wow was right. Givenchy, his fabulous clothes from the past 36 years and his dear friend Audrey were together again for a retrospective of his extraordinary designing talent and his being awarded the first State of California Lifetime Achievement Award for the Arts.
“I think we are on, kid,” the red-spangled and feather-boaed Hepburn said to John Forsythe. Then she added, “Would you mind looking after my feathers?” to her dinner partners, Louis Vuitton president Henry Racamier (who underwrote the event) and Edward Finkelstein (the department store magnate who underwrote the retrospective) and his wife, Myra.
And, boy, was she on. “Hubert every spring, summer, fall and winter creating loveliness . . . that has cloaked me in his talent and nurtured me in his gentleness,” Hepburn told the audience. And, she pointed out that “by your generous presence here, each and every one of you are opening up the floodgates of so much potential creativity.”
A beaming Della Koenig should have been happy--a chairperson who used every ounce of her social power to pull off what she said would net out to $500,000 for the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts Foundation. In a gold-touched black Givenchy, she sat beside her great friend as his fashions paraded before them.
“Timeless, timeless,” Finkelstein and Hepburn agreed, playing the game echoed around the room, of observing how many of the clothes from the 1950s and 1960s could be worn today.
Yet nothing was as timeless as Hepburn’s face watching the fashions Givenchy created for her films--the clothes that made him known to millions who could not afford a single dress, but bought his beauty with the price of a movie admission.
There was the dress she wore while jewel gazing at the window in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” as well as the little black dress she whipped from under the bed before she went to visit Mr. Tomato in prison in that film. And there was the fabulous gown “Sabrina” donned to be waltzed around by Bill Holden before Humphrey Bogart got his act together and met her on the ship. Finkelstein, who heads R. H. Macy’s and has recently acquired I. Magnin, Bullocks Wilshire and Bullock’s, looked longingly at one creation that had been copied by many designers, and kiddingly said, “We sold a lot of that dress--at various prices over the years.”
A Designer Figure
Only a few Givenchy creations were seated at dinner--on Hepburn, on Lili Zanuck, on Katherine Domyan, on Mrs. Paul Mellon, on Elizabeth Kennedy Sheinbaum (back from a months-long honeymoon). Actress Donna Mills said no, her red gown was a Valentino, not a Givenchy design--"He’s too expensive and he hasn’t offered to loan me one.” Connie Selleca, in a slinky red sheath, proved you don’t need designer clothes if you have a designer figure.
The bubbly Shirlee Fonda, insisting “I do have designer dresses, but I wouldn’t wear a non-Givenchy tonight,” showed off her black ruffled gown--"right off the rack of Saks Fifth Avenue Junior Department, dear.” The ever-elegant Frances Bergen had a show-stopping embroidered coat--"It went to the opening of the Music Center 25 years ago.”
The gussied-up ballroom had a crowd that needed no social refurbishing. Caroline Ahmanson, who along with California State University Chancellor Ann Reynolds dreamed up the award and benefit, hosted former Ambassador William and Betty Wilson, their daughter (and now his business associate) Marcia Hobbs and back-from-Japan Giney Milner (insisting a cup of hot water there cost $7) who wore Novarese. Marvin and Barbara Davis chatted away with Juli and Herb Hutner and cuddling newlyweds Yvette Mimeux and Howard Ruby. Nancy and Tim Vreeland were busy socializing and seemed to be having a good time (although the two of them did not join in the massive standing ovation at the end of the show).
Fred Hayman and Betty Endo hosted the Plaza Athenee’s Franco and Anne Marie Cozzo. Givenchy’s presence in town made possible great “auxiliary parties” with and without him. The Cozzos made a special stop in Los Angeles for their designer friend (after several days in San Francisco planning an upcoming “gastronomique” visit by Cozzo’s chef at San Francisco’s Fairmont). The Westwood Marquis’ Jacques Camus hosted the Cozzos on Thursday night at a small dinner party with longtime friends and patrons Henry and Ginny Mancini, Henry and Jayne Berger (she was one of Givenchy’s very first customers, but Friday night wore a classic emerald-green spangled Dior with emeralds) and fashion maven Doris Field Heller.
Everyone had expected to see Givenchy at the special, fancy showing of his collection at I. Magnin earlier Thursday, but the designer simply was not there. The reason given by a publicist was that Givenchy’s models and fashions were late coming in and he was too busy, although Givenchy had been sighted “knee-deep” in fashions the day before.
Also in the Friday night benefit crowd--Virginia and Gerald Oppenheimer hosting the Bergers, Mary and Brad Jones. At a nearby table were Loretta Young and Sir Daniel Donahue. Connie Wald had a great time laughing with photographer Victor Skrebneski and Hepburn’s constant, Robert Walders. Certainly a great close-up was to watch Hepburn during the show, throwing comments like kisses across the table at “Robbie” and to Givenchy.
When Givenchy took the stage to receive the award, he told the audience “how glad and honored” he was. “It was beyond expectations,” he said.
“Now I stop. My speech is over. As we say, merci beaucoup. With all my love.”