OOH, LA L.A. LOUVRE
When Houstonian Becca Cason Thrash hosts an event, it is a happening. On par with few other galas in the world, the lady raised in Harlingen, Texas continues to raise the bar for not only herself, but also for other international organizations like the Musée du Louvre, who has benefitted from her latest largesse. Join us in this exclusive look at the party of the decade in Los Angeles, according to our very own social chronicler, Lance Avery Morgan.
Photography by Linda Posnick
The halo of a crisp, late spring evening in Los Angeles, with its bright blue satiny sky, hovered over the festivities like a sparkling jeweled tiara with freshly cut gems placed into it. The occasion? Another Becca Cason Thrash extravaganza, of course. The Texas-based philanthropist has a nearly perfect record of creating successful events. However, this was unlike any Thrash Bash before it.
No stranger to rolling up her shirtsleeves to help a cause she believes in, Thrash received the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 2011 for her philanthropic talents at home and abroad in France…and certainly for her tireless fundraising for the Musée du Louvre. Also, her ongoing championing of Franco-American relations continues to support the Louvre and Notre-Dame de Pâris organizations. So, based on her experiences, she knows a thing, or more like it, several thousand things, about the nuisances of both France and fundraising.
The events Thrash has created in the past is a roster of hundreds of philanthropic causes far too long to list, yet they include a range from Best Buddies, on which she serves as a board member, to the Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Holocaust Museum Houston, and more. Although those amply fill her fundraising dossier in Houston, in the late 2000s, she took her show on the road to Europe with the first Musée du Louvre event in Paris in 2007, when she was invited by then Louvre director Henri Loyrette to chair the first-ever fundraising gala for the Louvre…in the Louvre. That was followed by other substantial Louvre galas that she also helmed again in Paris, then Venice, and Palm Beach. Whether hosting an event in her Houston home, or in monumental internationally known venues, her events attract hundreds of guests who arrive to support five-star cultural institutions with every intention to also have fun. Her fundraising, in her and her husband John Thrash’s estimation, is likely well north of $110 million (so far and counting) …and that might well be a conservative assessment.
“Becca is the ultimate fun-lanthropist,” muses international style setter Cameron Silver who attended the recent festivities. “She is so passionate about supporting the world’s cultural institutions. The Louvre needs international support and Becca is so successful at raising funds from every corner of the planet. I have nearly twenty-five years of attending events hosted by her…from Paris to Houston to Los Angeles. When an invite comes from Becca, it is a guarantee of a memorable evening because she works her butt off as if she’s producing a 150-million-dollar action film. Truthfully, Becca is a super heroine.”
CHERCHEZ LA FEMME
Much like the Pied Piper, those who follow her lead to offering their support, comprise today’s current roster of Jet-Set names from Europe, Mexico, and throughout the U.S. When Thrash throws a party, people show up to support her and her causes. Her latest wildly successful venture had her taking the show stateside, this time to the City of Angels, where fundraising is a true sport. With a geyser of sociable names, all dressed to the nines, the three-day Los Angeles affair, La L.A. Louvre, consisted of private art collection visits, luncheons, and parties, each captivating those who would attend this latest incarnation to raise money to restore the Roman galleries in the Louvre. Thrash, in her usual accomplishment-driven manner, approached the event with confidence. Confident she would wow her guests with artful tours and tons of fun…and, all the while, raise boatloads of money for a cause so near to her heart.
Beyond relationships, the simple fact of the matter is Thrash’s hard work began well over a year ago to create this event. With the pandemic waning last November, I caught up with Thrash in L.A. to attend Houston’s Sir Mark Haukohl’s seated dinner party at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art honoring his photography collection exhibit. Thrash was also in town and up to her swan-like neck in arranging significant private art tours of some of the most important collections in the world that just also happened to be in the Los Angeles area.
The event, originally scheduled for mid-March, shifted to May, in hopes the pandemic would subside more, which it did. The pandemic also posed logistical problems and therefore, some collections were not able to be viewed because of the restrictions the city had imposed for over two years. “There is no city in the country with a more vibrant art scene, and architecturally iconic homes, than Los Angeles,” confides Becca Cason Thrash. “So, I dove into LA and began by contacting friends who had great homes, fabulous collections, or both. Asking if I could bring a hundred strangers in to see their private spaces was a different story. In the end, 14 said yes…with two I couldn’t get to budge.”
Thrash’s attention to the platinum-level event creation had been in the works for over six months by the time she arrived in Los Angeles in early May to oversee the happening of the festivities. “The Covid restrictions and mask mandates were still an issue, which affected the guest list quite a bit, but we got around those by May,” shared Thrash. “With the date being postponed to May, American graduations and European art fairs prevented several guests from attending. I was heartbroken but there is never a perfect date for everyone. Gratefully their contributions helped us raise over two million dollars.”
The dozens and dozens of hands-on meetings with Houston’s Richard Flowers, of The Events Company, and his team, as well as vendors in Los Angeles, was the only way the event could flawlessly occur. Whether the event is in the Louvre in Paris, or in a tent on the grounds of a historic Los Angeles estate, Thrash is 100% in. For the seasoned fundraising veteran, the challenge becomes…what next? As with this gala in L.A., anyone in the serious world of fundraising knows of Thrash’s abilities to lead the way in bringing serious money to organizations. The LA L.A. Louvre happened only due to the sponsorships of John and Becca Cason Thrash, Sotheby’s Fine Art and Auction, and fine jewelers Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Kip Forbes, David Yurman, Tiffany & Co., and Bulgari. The wines and champagnes were provided by LVMH, as well as Kastra Elion vodka, and Casa Dragones Joven tequila for additional libations.
Vibrant and full of stories about each guest she hand-picks to attend, Thrash is a captivating international hostess who is pretty peerless these days. Her style, charmingly precise and over-the-top at the same time, is in the mold of the great hostesses of the past like Pamela Harriman, Marella Agnelli, Babe Paley, or, on a more Texas playing field of yore, Martha Hyder and Baroness di Portanova. Few, if any, compare to her today. “When hosting an event, you really have to curate your guest list,” admits Thrash. “You want chic, like-minded people but need the occasional, or unexpected, controversial guest. That’s what stirs it up and keeps it from feeling like a night at the club. I am so fortunate to have cultivated so many friendships through the years from all over the world and that I can extend these opportunities to them.”
MISE EN SCÈNE
Thrash’s essence, like her hair, also now in the shade of pandemic platinum, has captivated a room with flair and finesse for decades, as she flawlessly sets the stage for every event. Philanthropy, at the highest level, takes ingenuity and brains, both of which Thrash has plenty. It was her goal that the Paris-meets-Los Angeles’ 72-hour whirlwind, a three day experience of private art collections, luncheons, dinners, and a gala offered guests something smart, exclusive and unique.
The private collection visits offered to the fortunate guests were some of the most important private collections in the world. It began with film and television producer Michael Phillips’ Asian art collection, T.V. show creator Darren Star’s art-filled collection at his Beverly Hills home, philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick’s collection at their Beverly Hills estate, real estate developer James Goldstein’s collection housed in his mid-century masterpiece, John Lautner-designed Beverly Hills home, prolific gallery owner and collector Larry Gagosian’s Holmby Hills home, the home and private art museum of entertainment executive Steve Tisch, the art foundation of Frederick R. Weisman in Bel Air, as well as opportunities to see the latest exhibits at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, and the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
“There isn’t anyone who knows how to create memorable experiences the way Becca does,” shared Dallasite entertaining guru Kimberly Schlegel Whitman. “When her name is on an invitation, it is guaranteed to be filled with friends and fun and is sure to be a night you will remember. The LA L.A. Louvre event introduced us to private corners of Los Angeles that we often drive past and don’t even know. It was incredible treat to get to go inside their homes and see their collections with other art enthusiasts and hear the stories of the collectors and their remarkable collections.”
The event hosts included entrepreneur Ronnie Haft, with his husband Andrew Nagel, who had a welcome cocktail party at their Beverly Hills Forever home on Tuesday evening. Real estate developer Richard Weintraub, and his wife Liane, hosted the Malibu brunch on Wednesday in their historic, 1921 five-story beach front home, Villa Tramonto, while contemporary art collector and Jumex Collection owner Eugenio Lopez hosted a glorious al fresco seated dinner in his art-filled Beverly Hills home on Wednesday evening. In Lopez’s estate, one was as likely to see a Basquiat, Donald Judd, Cy Twombly, or a Warhol Brillo box, as an incredible Jeff Koons poolside sculpture among the other treasures that were feasts for the guest’s eyes.
The coup de grâce was Thursday evening’s culmination of the tremendous effort, a seated dinner for over 250 at the home of Colleen and Bradley Bell, high above the City of Angels in Holmby Hills. Longtime friends of Thrash through their mutual support of Anthony Kennedy Shriver’s Best Buddies organization, she’s the former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary and a T.V. producer, and he’s a seasoned television executive who has won over 20 Daytime EmmyÓ Awards. Their home, formerly the residence of Rod Stewart, and before that, Gregory Peck, served as the perfect backdrop for the Le Grand Nuit.
LA VIE EST BELLE
Many of the guests upon arrival at the Bell’s estate, entered the Mediterranean-style villa and were captivated by the impressive contemporary and classic art collection the Bells have assembled. Friendly, charming, and outgoing, the Bells are the perfect hosts for this kind of event. Never one to miss an opportunity to incorporate the French theme, a rendition of The Ritz Paris’ Hemingway Bar was recreated in the oak-paneled library of the residence. “The Bells are such lovely people, and their home was perfect for this event. The Hotel Ritz barkeep Colin Fields, who was flown in to create the pop-up, lost his mind when he saw the facsimile,” noted Thrash. As the Old Fashioned, Martini and signature Serendipity (nicknamed France in a glass) cocktails flowed, so did the guests who greeted longtime friends and eagerly made new ones.
In fact, as the event spilled onto the estate, with a magnificent view of the city, guests were so entranced by each other that dinner was served over an hour later than planned. After all, it isn’t always easy gathering guests to be seated. The gigantic tent was festooned with vibrantly pink lighting. With an abundance of one-story high greenery perched on the tables, it was the perfect counterbalance to the fuchsia pink carpet. Much of decorative elements and rentals were driven directly from Houston to Los Angeles. “We incorporated the natural beauty of Southern California with palms, elephant ear leaves and banana trees to add to the gradations of green,” offered Thrash. “The chandeliers dripped in long, cascading ivy, while the shapes of the plants were projected onto the ceiling, adding to the tropical theme.”
Creative, sublime, yet extremely elegant was Thrash’s goal in creating the décor. Never one to miss an opportunity, Becca Cason Thrash’s dress of glittering olive green sequins, designed by her close friend, designer-to-the-stars Naaem Khan, who also attended, matched the environment perfectly. “I find inspiration everywhere in creating a gala’s theme. Naaem sent me the dress he designed for me, and we built the evening around that,” revealed Thrash.
The synergy between the olive beaded gown and her pink kunzite and diamond jewels that punctuated the green and pink theme wasn’t lost on anyone. “It was so appropriate that Becca’s Naeem Khan gown had a cape attached,” shares Austinite philanthropist Carla McDonald. “She is a philanthropic superhero, and her superpower is bringing the world’s most interesting people together to advance the work of the world’s most important organizations.”
Guests raved over the entirely green table palette, highlighted with Yves Klein French blue tableware accents, that graced the silk table coverings on the many Continental and square tables, as guests were perched on green Chiavari chairs. In fact, every place setting was a feast for the eyes, and shortly thereafter, the cuisine palette. Guests dined on elegant French fare of filet mignon, asparagus in a light Bearnaise sauce, as well as pears in Champagne with crème fraiche. To pair with the meal, bottle upon bottle of Baron de Rothschild Champagne’s Chateau de Meusault 2016 and Le Petit Haut Lafitte 2015 were poured. For après dinner, Casa Dragones Joeven sipping tequila, Kastra Elion expresso martinis, and an array of French chocolates was served.
While dining, and as the evening progressed, the live auction, deftly helmed by Michael Macauley of Sotheby’s Fine Art and Auction, raised the pulse of the evening even more. As Becca Cason Thrash shared a few moving words about the importance of fundraising for the cause, with a video greeting by the Louvre President Laurence des Cars, the auction was off to a flying start. Some of the artists who donated works and who also attended the event were Chris Levine of London, California-based artist James Verbicky, Niki Haas of the Haas Brothers duo who grew up in Austin, to name a few. The Impressionist collector Lionel Sauvage (and longtime Louvre’s International Friends’ board member) was spotted huddling with the current American Friends Of The Louvre board chairman, Kip Forbes of New York (Becca Cason Thrash serves as the vice-chairman), while collector Mary Ellen Marziale flew in from Italy for the gala and was accompanied by her actor/director son, Antonio Marziale.
The bevy of guests who attended the event also included Michael Chow, founder of Mr. Chow restaurants, who bought the custom Tiffany watch for $85,000 at the auction, and Former Ambassador to Great Britain, the Honorable Robert Tuttle and his wife, Maria. Since the event occurred in Los Angeles, some local star power added to the guest list including Jacqueline Bisset, Chris O’Donnell, Jennifer Tilley, a few Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast members, producer Mark Burnett and his actor wife, Roma Downey, to name a few. Paris was also well represented with Parisian residents Ina Giscard d’Estaing (her father-in-law was Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the former President of France), Baroness Rose Anne de Pampelonne, Ritz Paris Director Mark Raffray, Fabrice Pasqual of Air France, and Parisian Lucas Somoza, among many other dear Paris-based friends of Thrash’s. The creative clout of the guests included designers like Juicy Couture co-founder Gela Taylor, and Monique Lhullier. Many other notables comprised of investor Francois Schramek, German technologist Patrick Hessler, philanthropists such as Sydney Holland, Carolyn Powers, and Orange County-based Elizabeth Segerstrom.
In fact, philanthropists Gregory Annenberg Weingarten and his wife, Regina, were overheard marveling about the vast turnout and enthusiastic support from so many Texans, too. The laundry list of Thrash’s Texas fans and supporters who would show up to support her for anything, anywhere would be too long to list here, yet we were all there. “Most were eager to show up to make a contribution to the event by doing their part: looking as glamorous as possible, donning fashionable new ensembles and jewels, and bringing their irreplaceable Texas exuberance by bidding vigorously…and to show the international guests how to let their hair down.” laughed Thrash.
COUP DE GRÂCE
As with previous Louvre galas, the dinner and auction ended, and with the attendees ready for more action, Sinatra-esque singer Chris North took to the stage in a white dinner jacket, ready to rumble with the crowd. “He tore the ceiling off the roof with his 35-minute, non-stop set of mega superstar hits of the last 50 years,” enthused Thrash, who was referred to North’s talents by their mutual pal, event producer Colin Cowie. “Chris had the guests dancing on their seats and in the aisles. It was a fabulous, high-octane performance that left people begging for more.”
“The events hosted by Becca Cason Thrash are legendary, as I have read about them in Brilliant, The Society Diaries, and Society Texas for years,” confided Texan-turned-Angeleno Natalie Bond Bloomingdale. “How cool that my first party to attend helmed by Becca was in Los Angeles, and for such a wonderful cause. It was a meticulously orchestrated, very well-planned, with a well-organized itinerary, and incredible access to the best private art collections Los Angeles has to offer. Her grand vision was beautifully executed, and I am hopeful the funds raised will do a great deal for the restoration of the Roman Galleries at The Louvre.
With the evening raising over a whopping two million dollars, we will all have to stay tuned to learn of Thrash’s next fundraising adventures…here and across the globe. “I have been contacted by so many wonderful organizations,” confides Thrash. “I’ll probably take on an entirely different project next, so stay tuned.”