There have been some pretty special evenings breaking bread with friends during these last red-hot weeks of summer, but none more as sui generis than the Dîner en Blanc, the pop-up dinner picnic that finally launched in Los Angeles Saturday before last and has spread over 5 continents to some 15 cities worldwide.
Thankfully for the dress code police, it was an evening that took place before Labor Day. Every attendee must wear white, and every tablecloth, napkin, candle, flower, balloon and whatever else is carted to the location must be white. Organizers don’t call it the Dîner en Blanc for nothing.
The French name for this now-international flash mob phenomenon is due its origins. The first took place in 1988 when a Parisian, François Pasquier, now 68, came back to his city after years abroad and to reconnect with friends he asked them to come to dinner at the Bois de Boulogne clad in white so they could spot one another. Two decades later, some 15,000 enthusiasts attend the Dîner en Blanc in Paris, and at the most beautiful landmarks there—one year it was the area around the Eiffel Tower, another the Carousel du Louvre, Château de Versailles and so on.
Be it in Paris or in New York (where 3,000 convened at the Lincoln Center Plaza on August 19) or in Singapore this week (the first Asian city participating and already under controversy) or in downtown Los Angeles, where our inaugural DeB took place on August 25 with more than 1,500 attendees, this now massively organized affair retains a very spur of the moment, flash-mob style. Guests learn of the location only a couple of hours before the evening begins. Except for chairs and tables, they must bring everything imaginable. And I mean everything. We were remiss in bringing a tablecloth or even a cloth napkin to twirl above our heads—a ritual marking that dinner is on.
Oh and is it ever for those who came fully prepared. There is a very Gatsby tone to the whole event down to the live jazz; most attendees strive for a sense of formality. Many brought white crockery, along with all sorts of finery from silver candelabras to ornate floral arrangements. Others even toted gas-powered cookers and large coolers filled with Champagne. One table went so far as having handwritten menus posted alongside silver domed dishes for each guest.
While we pulled out what might be our only white looks for the evening (and, thankfully, they were evening looks), we went decidedly low key. Andy and I were coming from setting up our new A+R on La Brea, so we changed at the shop (he into Jill Sander white seersucker trousers he wore at our wedding five years ago and a white Jill Sander jacket he picked up recently; me in a white feather chub jacket and white tuxedo custom made for me by Richard Tyler for my white Oscar party…in 2002!).
We did take the white car for the ride to the Natural History Museum in downtown, where the dinner was taking place on the back lawn at dusk. I even brought my white Pentax. In a brown bag from Joan’s on Third, we had a delicious dinner, plus plastic cutlery and paper plates. At least they were white! At least I nabbed a couple of glass tubes for our bubbly.
Well, to say the evening was magical is truly an understatement. We shared our table with a wonderful group of women who had done this before in New York and San Diego and came fully prepared. They even let us share the other half of their tablecloth and their extra cloth napkins for the big twirl, as well as some of their delicious mac n cheese, spare ribs and wine.
By the second bottle of bubbly that our artist pal Bettina Hubby had brought, Andy, Bettina and I were already making grand plans for what we would bring to dress our table and feed our friends next year. We’re really going to make a time of it.