"Meet me at my church, Saint Germain-des-Pres." said my girlfriend when I came to Paris. Born Muslim in Iran to one of those families that always kept a Paris apartment she had kept the name of her Jewish Doctor ex. Now, Saint Germain-des-Pres had turned her into worshipping Christian. Walking into it, I understood. It could inspire an atheist to accept the teachings of Christ.
Odile de Schietere-Longchampt and Michel Longchampt. (Photo: Annie Watt)
"Victor Hugo did not believe in God but he wrote his book inside that church," Odile de Schiétère-Longchampt, Co-Chair (with Guy N. Robinson) of the French Heritage Society's New York Chapter, said, at the Society's 30th Anniversary Cocktail Dinatoire at the Union Club. Harry Winston was behind it, donating serious baubles to the auction block.
The chic women at French Heritage are Winston's customers. This year, the invitation suggested "1920s Period Dress," and the room was a vision of flappers in black low-waisted costumes, beaded headbands, plumes and pounds of pearls. After all, this is the church across the street from the iconic Deux Magot cafe, that defined cafe society in the 1920s, when Hemingway, Sartre, James Joyce, Bertold Brecht, and Picasso
were among its pontificating patrons.
Since that time, Deux Magot has closed its doors to the public only once -- to benefit its neighbor, the oldest church in Paris. Now, it was French Heritage Society's turn. Dedicated to preserving the French architectural legacy, they have restored nearly 500 French architect buildings and gardens, as well as fostering relationships between France and the US, with cultural trips and student internships.
"Everyone wants to be married there," De Schietere-Longchampt told us of the church, "because it's the best area in Paris, the Latin Quarter. I had been to so many weddings there, but I had never really seen it. With 300 or 400 people inside, you don't pay attention." One day, when she and a sick friend went in to rest, he gave her a tour of the original alcoves and frescoes. "It was empty and I realized how beautiful it was. The design of the paintings are very simple, like modern art."
A decorator, herself, with a penchant for restoring historical architecture from the Renaissance to the 19th Century, when Harry Winston CEO Frederic de Narp called to ask for her help to raise funds for Saint Germain-des-Pres, a gala was born.
Turning out in their best 1920s flair were Hamptons ladies CeCe Black
, Elizabeth Stribling
, Jean Shafiroff
, Ann Rapp
, Margo Langenberg
, Kim Larson, Liz McDermott, and Janna Bullock
to name but a few.
Jean Shafiroff, Betsy Santarlasci, Ann Van Ness, Liz McDermott, Margo Langenberg, and Cece Black. (Photo: Annie Watt)