More than 1,200 people wearing white descended on Rodeo Drive with tables, chairs and lots of Champagne and cheese Wednesday night during a global flash-mob dinner called Diner en Blanc.
The Beverly Hills street was closed to traffic and instead a giant picnic extended from Wilshire Boulevard to just past Dayton Way. The event, which started in France 25 years ago and has since expanded to dozens of cities around the world, was a year in the making, but the location was revealed to attendees only just before they arrived by bus from several meeting points across Los Angeles.
"This is the location I had my heart set on," said Sandy Safi, director of development of Diner en Blanc International, wearing a white organza sari and sitting on a white sofa near the DJ booth at the intersection of Rodeo and Dayton (which also served as the dance floor), the Louis Vuitton store looming in the background. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with it. A big part of the event is always its secret location. I could have just tweeted to meet here, but that would change everything.”
Within minutes of arrival, tables were set up in orderly rows complete with white tablecloths, china, silverware and elaborate centerpieces that included flowers, a glowing Eiffel Tower, topiary and a Barbie diorama. Passersby stopped to gawk at the spectacle: “What is this? A wedding?”
Founder François Pasquier, 69, flew in from Paris with his family to take part in the first Los Angeles Diner en Blanc. “Such a chic pique-nique,” he noted of the party, the first of which he held in 1988 with friends who dressed in white so that they could spot each other at the Bois de Boulogne park in Paris.
Angelenos didn't ignore the call to bring their own gourmet dinners. Marcello Picone, whose business card said "freelance carney barker," brought an all-white dinner that included raw corn chowder with cashews and white pepper, and poached chicken breast with farro and pickled white grapes.
Remil Mangali of West Covina prepared a six-course meal of charcuterie and cheese, vichyssoise, duck rillettes, salad Nicoise, quiche Lorraine, and macarons, all served on white Villeroy & Boch.
Meanwhile, master-sommelier-turned-Bordeaux-winemaker Richard Betts, former wine director of Little Nell in Aspen, made a special appearance for the evening and poured his own Saint Glinglin.
About an hour and a half into dinner, a dance remix that included the rave version of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” seemed to be everyone's cue to head to the dance floor. By the time the DJ played an amped-up mix of Lady Gaga’s "Alejandro," a conga line had formed.
"Los Angeles is so stylish," noted Aymeric Pasquier, co-founder of Diner en Blanc International and son of founder François Pasquier. "I think Rodeo Drive is an appropriate location. I'm not from Los Angeles so to me this is what is elegant and in a way the heart of Los Angeles."
White outfits included tuxedos and gowns and groups of friends who all wore white moustaches, flapper dresses, wedding gowns or even bunny ears. "Hats -- hats are big at all the events," noted Diner en Blanc's Safi.
Ae Young, a secretary, came with her cousin and friends and made baroque masquerade masks decorated with white dried flowers, feathers and "bling." "I just wanted some flair," Young said. "I like flair.”