by Stephanie Block

They say that Tahiti is a place for honeymooners, but this year it was the perfect theme to accompany a glorious ten year anniversary.

What is this Ball of the Summer? Who goes? Can I? Where is it? Did you go? The Bal de l’Eté is Cinderella meets Studio 54- a regal party experience for the experienced partier. A weekend to duke it out with dukes, spend the night with a knight, and waltz with a wahine (although a Tahitian would say “vahine”).

So how do you go about putting together a three day party with 900 of your most fantastic friends from around the world? Well, if you have to ask, darling, you’ll never know. First, find an Italian princess with the patience of a vahine and the organizational skills of quattro super computers to conduct this superb symphony.

Next, be fruitful and multiply! Begin to deputize her most fashionable friends and seek out the cream of their social lists. Send them gilded invitations in the mail. Like Anne Rice’s beautiful children of the night, the Italian princess becomes the Queen of the Damned among her elite reveling legions- queen of the damned fabulous, that is.

This year was no exception as Catherine Colonna de Stigliano bid an impressive Polynesian Ioarana! to new faces and reliable returnees as the Bal de l’Ete sashayed into motion again this past June in Monte Carlo. A three-day event with the Official Support of H.S.H. (His Serene Highness) the Sovereign Prince Albert of Monaco, we, um, Ball-ers, in addition to the Ball, enjoyed nightly cocktail parties and days spent lunching and lounging by the pool or in the spa.

It was almost like, in a way, the first weekend of freshman orientation at a small college: you and several hundred like-minded, similar-backgrounded people come together in a manageable, safe campus, your sole mission being to bond with your fellow fellows. Monte Carlo is the safest “campus” in the world, and the square mileage from one event area to another has to be around one. Kilometers, I have no idea. I mean, after back-to-back nights bumping into the same people at Tip Top pizza at five o’clock in the morning, your bowtie dangling down your unbuttoned tuxedo shirt, you start to feel very comfortable with co-ed life.

But truly, co-ed life was never like this. As beautiful Polynesian women presented me with Tiares (duh, I already had a tiara), or Tahitian gardenias, as I, in the silk fuchsia plunging neckline that only Saffron Rare Threads could divine, made my way along the edge of the grand pool of the Monte Carlo Beach Club, now dimmed and rimmed with candles for the cocktail party, the magic of the event unfolded around me.

Was it the chocolate-covered strawberries, or the Lanson champagne in my glass? Or later, the taut and tattooed bodies of the male Haka dancers of the Marquesas Islands? Okay, yes, it was mostly those male dancers! (Now I know why they called this Ball “O Tahiti Nui, O Tahiti Here– Oh Tahiti, Tahiti my love.) But in addition, by the pool, at dinner, on the patio at brunch, and again at the Yacht Club, it was the faces. The alums. The reunion. It was Rudolf from L.A. and Ralph from Munich. And it was Chris and Steve and Ferdinand and Sacha. Colette and Hinson and Gigi. And DJ Michael Doiley.

Yes there was starlight and stardust and views of the Castle Grimaldi. Elegante. And the retracting roof of the Sporting Club. And, dahhrling, the who’s who! Supermodel Adriana Karembeu, dignitaries from Tahiti, Olympians, Miss Hawaii, Nigerian princesses, Alvaro Villa Recolons- first man to jetski across the Atlantic Ocean, a Formula One racer, a French actress and some high-ups at Christie’s who led a live auction.

Which was all fantastique. But what brought it all to life, like the tip of a Fairy Godmother’s wand, were the friendships. Every year, the Ball adds people to my life, and not just for the été, you know. I’m talking les années. People who widen my lens on the world at the same time that they focus it. One friend in London now. And two in Madrid. And they have me in San Francisco. And together, we have each other every year, each college weekend at the University of You Know It, still stumbling up to Tip Top. Still friends as the sun rises.

To view the whole cast of characters go to: Monte Carlo gallery