At the French-American Foundation, nobody had more fun than Nan Kempner in her towering heels and sheer dress. She said that when she was going out the door, her maid said, "Oh, Mrs. Kempner, you can’t wear that dress, you can see your underwear under it."
"No you can’t," Nan said. "I’m not wearing any." Oh, ha ha ha.
Michele David-Weill was honored with the Benjamin Franklin Award at the foundation’s gala dinner in the Four Seasons pool room. The dear man was overjoyed and nearly overcome when he was presented with a rare copy of a first edition of "Memoirs de la Vie privé de Benjamin Franklin ecrits par lui-même," Franklin’s autobiography, when he was in Paris — it was published there in 1791. David-Weill, an international financier and a director of several arts and civic institutions over here and over there, was for a moment without words. Then he spoke volumes.
The room was a sensation. Bill Tansey used colors of the fall season, filling plump pumpkins on pale orange cloths with flowers around the still empty drought-stricken pool. This warm site welcomed nearly 200 serious Francophiles who said the hell with the weather, which had been dreadful all day, and everyone showed up. Annette de la Renta, Anne Cox Chambers, Princess Firyal of Jordan and Patsy Preston were all in long silvery gray satin skirts and a variety of tops. Elizabeth Strong-de Cuevas, the sculptress, looked like a piece of her own work in Issey Miyake’s extraordinary creation, a horizontally stiff-pleated samurai dress in two shades of gray. Mary Sharp Cronson and Liz Fondaras each wore those tiny red rosettes that signify membership in France’s Legion d’Honneur.
During cocktails, Arthur Haas played French Baroque music using all 122 keys on an exquisite hand-painted copy of a 17th-century harpsichord. Among the patriots were Hélène David-Weill with her daughters Beatrice Stern and Agathe David-Weill; Tony Smith, the president of the Foundation; Catherine and David Hamilton of Chicago; Jayne Wrightsman; Cécile and Ezra Zilkha; Consul General and Mrs. Richard Duque; John Richardson, and the aforementioned Nan Kempner in Balmain’s new black dress with tiny tucks sewn on the diagonal. She looked very vertical and tall in those heels as high as champagne flutes. Her maid was right. You could see right through her.