Surrealist Dinner Party

Château de Ferrières, the suburban Parisian mansion of Baron Guy de Rothschild and Marie-Hélène

 

 

On December 12, 1972, Baron Guy de Rothschild and his wife Marie-Hélène hosted a costumed ball stranger than fiction. Château de Ferrières was on fire, sleeping cats the size of men littered the staircase, and all-enveloping cobwebs lined the hallways.The acid-laced zeitgeist of the 70s had trickled up and finally reached the ranks of the Parisian elite in the form of the Rothschilds’ theatrical Dîner des Têtes Surréalistes.

 

The MenuMenu

 

Detail of a table with a fur dish, Mae West red lips and blue bread

 

the dîner des têtes surréalistes invitation with reversed writing inspired by a magritte sky

 

The invitations for the ball—scrawled backwards so that it had to be read in a mirror—stated simply: black tie, long dresses, and Surrealist heads. When such requests are made of those with limitless time and money, the results are impressive. What manifested at the chateau that evening was a trippy tableau vivant comprised of the most notable personalities in the worlds of art and literature and their perception-bending headdresses.

 

 

The actress Jacqueline Delubac came as René Magritte’s Son of Man painting, a large green apple hiding her face. Audrey Hepburn’s head was ensnared in a bird cage. There was a two-headed woman, a horse, a grotesque Mona Lisa, and more than one bouquet of flowers. Not to be outdone, the hostess wore a giant stag’s head that wept diamond tears. And, of course, the master of Surrealism himself was there—Salvador Dalí came dressed as himself.

 

Audrey Hepburn

 

The Baroness Thyssen-Bornemizza & Guy Baguenault de Puchesse

 

Salvador Dalí and the Italian princess Maria Gabriella de Savoia

 

Charles de Croisset, Marisa Berenson snd Paul-Louis Weiller

 

Claude Lebon and Charlotte Aillaud

 

Hélène Rochas & François-Marie Banier

 

For desert: a sugar made woman laying in a bed of roses

 

Table of the swaying dolls

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I Saw It First

“That guy merely makes it easy for me. Now I don’t have to draw ’em any blueprints…We are both in the same business…Except I saw it first.”

Mae West
An Open Letter to Dr. Kinsey from Mae West
Cosmopolitan, March 1949

 
 

Nightclub Singer Julie Wilson reading the Kinsey Report at the Mocambo Club (Hollywood, California). November, 1948. Photo by Peter Stackpole

After the Lips of Mae West

Photo of Mae West used by Dali for Mae West’s Face, 1934

 
 

Mae West’s Face which May be Used as a Surrealist Apartment, Salvador Dalí, 1934–35

 
 

The Mae West Lips Sofa (1937) is a surrealist sofa by Salvador Dalí. The wood-and-satin sofa was shaped after the lips of actress Mae West, whom Dalí apparently found fascinating. Mae West’s Lips Sofa. Edward James, a rich British patron of the Surrealists in the 1930s, commissioned this piece from Dalí in 1936

 
 

View of the Mae West room at the Dalí Museum in Figueres

 
 

Photograph taken by Oriol Maspons at the artist’s home in Port Lligat, 1975

 
 

The precedent for the furniture designed by Salvador Dalí, for which Bd Ediciones de Diseño has the exclusive world marketing rights, is the famous sofa in the shape of a mouth which the artist created together with Spanish arquitect Óscar Tusquets and French designer Jean-Michel Frank in 1972 for the Mae West room at the Dalí Museum

Liz and Dick’s Private Lives

Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Taylor and Dominic West as Richard Burton in “Burton and Taylor” (Richard Laxton, 2013), a BBC film about this legendary couple.

 
 

The melancholic Burton and Taylor stars Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West, and it focuses specifically on a few weeks in 1983 when the two, divorced and in their 50s, reunited professionally to star in Noël Coward’s Private Lives on Broadway.

Eschewing the height of Le Scandale, Burton and Taylor focuses on a quieter, less-sexy, less-triumphant moment in the pair’s love story. They are middle-aged, dancing to disco, not sleeping together, in relationships with other people, ensconced in various addictions, and, as celebrities, well into the trashy phase of their fame, a state of being the staging of Private Lives did nothing to remediate. Private Lives is a comedy about a divorced couple, newly married to other people, who passionately, dysfunctionally fall back into bed together, a tale that, obviously, tracked closely with the real story of Burton and Taylor. (In the play, as in life, the woman Burton left for Taylor was named Sybil.)

In Burton and Taylor, Burton is frustrated by the parallels: He insists that Taylor not play to the crowd, not winkingly acknowledge that the audience is there to see Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, not their characters, in bed. But Taylor takes the opposite view, arguing that if that’s what the audience wants to see, then that’s what the audience should get. Simply by existing, Burton and Taylor takes Taylor’s side of the argument: What, after all, is the appeal of a movie like Burton and Taylor except as front row seat to Liz and Dick’s private lives?