Tom Tierney dressed as Napoleon Bonaparte: "Is this understated enough?" he asked, flipping his gold-braid epaulets.
Judy Hemley wore a choker with a cameo of Marie Louise, "Napoleon's second wife," she clarified. "Marie Antoinette's head wasn't available."
Royal and revolutionary consciousness (or at least costumery) peaked Friday at the Bastille Day party hosted by the trustees of the Newport Harbor Art Museum. The fete drew 520 guests to Le Meridien Hotel in Newport Beach and raised an estimated $65,000, according to committee member Hemley, whose husband, Rogue, recently completed a two-year tenure as president of the museum's board of trustees.
Arriving at cocktail hour, guests glided past a couple of Arabian horses posted outside the hotel doors and into a tri-color bedecked hall ringing with the steel-drum music of a Trinidadian band. With waitresses in peasants' garb ( liberte! ) and bartenders in blood-red executioners' hats ( egalite! ), the scene was ready for the dress-up set's fraternite .
Among those partying 1789 style:
* Museum Director Kevin Consey, in a red, white and blue striped sweater. ("Kevin came as the flag of France," kidded Tierney, whose wife, Elizabeth, was chairwoman of the ball.)
* Tom and Marilyn Nielsen--he in an open-collar shirt and blue blazer, she in a red cotton dress and dangling earrings (the left one quirkily clipped to the top of her ear, the other fastened to her right lobe).
Nielsen, the museum's newly elected board president, said he and his wife toured France for the first time in April. "Being an engineer," said the Irvine Co. vice chairman, "it was my education in Western civilization."
* Jeff Schulein wore jeans and a Sorbonne T-shirt (from the famed Paris university), but was quick to say of his rive gauche attire: "This does not reflect my politics!"
After cocktails, it was off to the ballroom for a four-course meal that included tabouleh salad with shrimp and scallops and breast of chicken with vegetable pate. Before each course, waiters stormed onto the dance floor, serving trays hoisted on their shoulders, while the band struck a few bars of one rousing march or another. (The first course was ushered in with the French national anthem, the "Marseillaise," which brought tears to the eyes of committee member Pat Neisser.)
The requisite Edith Piaf songs were interspersed with zippier dance tunes before the evening finished with a live auction.
Among those serving on the committee: Gayle Anderson, Judie Argyros, Peggy Cotton, Mary Davis, Pat Dolson, Susan Porter Caput, Ann Blake, Joan Beall, Molly Lyon, Ruby Lloyd, Marilyn Lynch, Betty Krewson, Susan Jarvie, E.G. Chamberlin, Nora Lehman, Georgene Smith, Dina von Burger and Susan Bartlett.