1. THE SEATING HIERARCHY AT A ROUND TABLE: M. Valentino was throwing a dinner party at his chateau just outside Paris and tout le monde was coming. His lover/business partner Giancarlo Giammetti and his major domo were standing by a large round table next to a window that overlooked the gardens, discussing the seating chart. Giancarlo said: “The most important person (in this case me) is seated FACING THE WALL.” That seemed counterintuitive to me – you’re making your prized guest look at a brick wall instead of the gardens? – until I realized that the most important person does not GET the view, they ARE the view. The star is framed against the backdrop of the gardens for everyone to admire. I LIVE for shit like this.
2. NEVER EXPLAIN WHO YOU ARE. Martha Stewart was at the dinner party, and at one point slipped off with the camera crew to peek into the kitchen. She ooohed and aaahed appropriately and had her assistant take pictures of the bread baskets made of bread and other weird rich people things. Then she marched over to the chef, shook his hand like she was pumping a well, and announced in a loud, honking American accent: “Hi, I’m Martha Stewart, I write cookbooks and have a magazine.” I kid you not. She might as well have said she owned a chain of dry cleaners back in Minnesota for all the eye rolling she received. It made me realize that we may think of her as MARTHA STEWART, but put her in a chateau with a bunch of French aristocrats, and she’s just another boorish American tourist. I remember one time my idol, Dianne Brill, advised me “never go to a party where you have to explain who you are.” I didn’t get it at the time, but watching Martha do it REALLY HIT HOME how gauche it is.
3. NAPKIN FOLDING AT HOME : While preparing the table for a luncheon at Valentino’s house in Gstaad, the major domo said with a sniff: “Like most private homes, the most important thing is that the napkins shouldn’t be too handled. We keep it as very simple as possible.” Meaning: no origami swans or dragons or starbursts, even at dinner parties. Because if something is too pretentious for VALENTINO, it’s too pretentious for you. (ARE YOU LISTENING, LISA VANDERPUMP?)