Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Storming the Bastille

storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789. The storming of the Bastille was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern French “nation” and though some opposed marking a day of bloodshed as a national holiday (the 1789 uprising) others noted it should be an observation of the more peaceful anniversary the happened in 1790 and the celebration is all about the unity that the second date holds for France.

Unless you are not French and do not live in France. For us, it is an opportunity to celebrate all things French, hold a summer party and not compete for guests who might be otherwise occupied on the 4th of July. In other words a big gay party.

Lyle and I had been discussing the idea of a Bastille Day party since early April. We will have been in our new digs one year as of July 1st and finally (FINALLY) we felt the house was ready to show off. In May, our friend Ellys phoned asking questions about restaurants to hold a birthday party in for his boyfriend Phillip. After I gave him some suggestions I said, “Oh by the way, save the date of July 14th. We’re having a Bastille Day party and I wanted to invite you both.”

“No way. That is Phillip’s birthday! I am inviting you both.”

“No,” I told him, “you will come to MY party.”

“No,” he told me, “MY party.”



“I Said it first!!!!” (I can be so childish.)

“Girl,” (he can be so gay), “we should COMBINE our parties.”

Et Voilá, it all began.

Party preparations were well underway by Thursday of last week. Gallons of French Vodka (seriously, GALLONS) had been acquired. Over 100 bottles of Kronenburg Beer (French of course) were procured from 4 different BevMo stores in Southern California, mixers, water, mini-quiche, baguettes, grapes, cheese cubes and a birthday cake were all headed for the homestead.

Lyle specifically requested no colored liquids consumed over his carpets. So the mixers were white cranberry juice, grapefruit juice and tonic water.

I built a 6 hour playlist of classic French tunes. If you’re having a French party let me know...
A small sample of which:

Maurice Chevalier - I Love Paris
Josephine Baker - En Avril Paris
Triplettes de Belleville - Belleville Rendez-vous
Brigitte Bardot - Je me donne à qui me plait
Charles Aznavour & Edith Piaf - Le Blue De Tes Yeux
Gilbert Bécaud - Je reviens te chercher
Edith Piaf - Non, je ne regrette rien
Jacqueline Francois - Paris Je T’aime
Pink Martini - Sympathique
Les Damoiselles Du Rochefort - Chanson des jumelles
In-Grid - Tu Es Foutu
Dalida - Laissez-moi dancer
Charles Aznavour - Non Je N’ai Rien Oublié
Francis Lai - Un homme et une femme

To some it may be shocking that I have 6 (plus!) hours of French party appropriate music, but remember I have over 20,000 songs in my i-tunes library. Okay, even I was surprised. I also mixed in some very French feeling lounge music then paired it in i-movie with video clips from French movies or movies with Parisian scenes. Beauty & The Beast (en Français, bien sur), Funny Face (Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Kay Thompson est tres magnifique) , Moulin Rouge, Amelie, The Devil Wears Prada and the James Bond flick View To A Kill (or as I called it, that one with the Duran Duran song and Grace Jones jumping off the Eiffel Tower).

So with a video music multi-media presentation on our hands, we hauled out the projector TV and screen from the living room and installed it on the patio. Oh yeah, the whole party took place outside.

Now let’s back up just a little and give out some thanks to people. Ellys came over Thursday night (in secret) and helped prep the space with furniture arrangement, bar tables, curtain hanging (oh yeah, I borrowed a bolt of red velvet drapery from a friend and we wrapped the outdoor patio in red drapery. That would also help dampen the noise bleeding over to the neighbors- strangely no one else in the neighborhood seems to consider that when they throw parties or have blow out fights where I can hear them. Anyway... On Friday I picked up my brother Scott at the airport and he began his indentured servitude of following me around and running errands for Lyle and I. Including building the bar we bought at Target, additional beer pick up, ice run and so much hand holding. Merci!

From the moment you arrived your party experience began. The driveway was stantioned off so no cars could park there. Over the archway of the driveway hung a large French flag, candelabras flanked the sides of the entrance and a red carpet was laid down for you to walk across.

Down left side of the fence hung red crushed velvet fabric interspersed with large gold fleur-de-lis. Above you, ribbons of bright white LED Christmas lights led you back towards the bar, and the party space.

Ellys hired a cute bartender to serve the guests and freed us all to mingle. We brought in our housekeeper to man the kitchen, keep the food moving to the table outdoors, keep stragglers from touring the house unattended and clear things as needed. Again, very freeing as owners of the host house.

The invitation said we started at 8 p.m. This being L. A. that meant no one showed up until 8:45.
Marie Antoinette greeted the arrivals with a wave of her fan and photos were plenty. If only they were also in focus. I am hoping to get some more photos in the next few days from other party attendees.

At 9:15, the birthday boy was brought in, blindfolded to our back deck. Or as it was now being called, The Stage. Our borrowed Klieg lights were flicked on the blindfold was removed and Phillip was blinded by light and still had no idea where he was. As the shock wore off and the realization downed on him that he was practically in Paris for his birthday, a 3 minute birthday video played on the screen (9:38 on the dot).

At 10 o’clock the Klieg lights were once again turned on for the stage and three performers took their places for a ten minute dance spectacular. Ellys used to dance with a troupe and hired us a phenomenal group of women to perform on our back deck, er, brand new stage.

Though we had invited the neighbors just North (who would most be affected by the lights and noise) to come by for the party, they didn’t come by. However during the show, I did see one of them poke her head past the back curtains and take a gander. Then the back door came open and she threw something out into her garbage... and kept the door open and watched from the safety of her back door. The next day, she and Lyle were exchanging pleasantries over the back fence and she told him we had “very pretty ladies” at our party.

One of our guests mentioned how sorry she was that she had missed the performance. She had arrived about 10:15. I told her the invite said special performance at 10 p.m. It went off at EXACTLY 10 p.m. I run a prompt party!

Show completed, birthday cake presented and guests soaked in booze, I could finally relax and enjoy.
Part of the beauty of pre-planning all the video and music is you can light a party, build a party, and then kill the party. At 11:30 the music turned mellow and people starting bidding us adieu. The video stopped being moving pictures and went to one steady photo. Our circle shrunk to about 10 of us. And that is when we started talking trash about everyone who had attended.

That’s not true. We finally put our feet up and sat down! We had been running in the 90˚+ heat all day long and it was bliss to stop and relax. Phillip opened a few gifts and before you knew it, it was 2 a.m.

A few people who weren’t able to attend, sent their deepest regrets and said they’d make the next party. Lyle told them he’d keep that in mind in five years when we considered doing this again.

It took all the next day to tear down what had taken three days to put up, but what a good time we had.

Happy Bastille Day!


Rachel said...

It was a lovely part-ay and I am very happy to have attended!

Silly Billy said...

I never knew Bastille Day could be so much fun.

Emory Rundle said...

It looks like it was a great party, and so much diferent than what it was on the 4th.

Jim said...

Well yes, Bastille Day can be fun, but you don't want to go and lose your head over it.

Christina said...

Your backyard looks amazing. I'm happy it turned out so well. I was surprised by the dancers, it was fun to watch the clips. Love the last picture with that little skirt. Do you have it on or are you just holding it up?

Christopher said...

Looks Fabulous!....my invite must've gotten lost in the mail....hmmph!