Prince von Thurn und Taxis’ 60th Birthday, 1986

Prince Johannes, the 11th Prince von Thurn und Taxis celebrated his 60th Birthday in a series of lavish celebrations at the family’s magnificent seat, Schloss St. Emmeram on this day in 1986, exactly 35 years ago. Royal and Noble Guests gathered from around the world for the extravagant celebrations hosted by the Prince and the glamorous Princess Gloria, which included a Gala Dinner, a Pontifical Mass, a Boat Trip on the Danube and a lavish Costume Ball. Vanity Fair described the celebrations:

‘Your Highness, please sit here,” said Princess Gloria von Thum und Taxis. ”Don’t ‘Highness’ me,” replied the Maharaja of Baroda.

Titles were a deutsche mark a dozen—the Begum Aga Khan, Prince Mubarak of Kuwait, Princess Esmeralda of Belgium, Prince Benedikt zu Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, Princess Marie-Eleonora von und zu Liechtenstein, Prince and Princess zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn—at the sixtieth-birthday celebrations Gloria TNT tossed for her husband, Prince Johannes, at their five-hundred-room palace in Regensburg. The twenty-six-year-old princess has been causing social explosions ever since she married her fairy-tale prince: with a bank, a brewery, ten other castles and palaces, all backed up by a big hunk of Brazil inherited from his mother, he’s by far the richest title in Germany. The festivities, which cost a million dollars, extended over three days and included:

□ A white-tie-and-tiara official dinner of caviar and lobster served on vermeil in the Hall of Mirrors for eighty notables, including the Bavarian premier, Franz Josef Strauss, who delivered a forty-five-minute toast to Prince Johannes.

□ A pontifical Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Regensburg in the ultra-rococo Basilica of St. Emmeram, at which Princess TNT received Holy Communion wearing one of her trademark Wicked Witch of the West hats.

□ A luncheon of lobster and pheasant followed by a parade by five thousand of the TNTs’ local subjects in full Bavarian regalia, complete with marching bands, patriotic songs, a twenty-one-gun salute, and a speech by Prince TNT hailing Bavarians as the salt of the earth.

□ A family dinner of lobster and roast suckling pig in the palace’s Victorian wing attended by Princess TNT’s mother, Beatrix Countess von Schonburg-Glauchau; her younger brothers, Count Carl-Alban and Count Alexander; and her sister, Maya, with her untitled but not unrich husband, Mick Flick, the Mercedes-Benz heir. Cocktails were extended due to the late arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Adnan Khashoggi, who required eight BMWs to haul their luggage from the Munich airport.

□ A boat trip up the Danube to the ultra-baroque Benedictine monastery at Weltenburg. Backed up by a horn-blowing Bavarian folk-rock band, Princess TNT belted out an anthem she had written for her husband with lines like ”Forget J.R., Blake Carrington, Alexis. / The only one who turns me on is Goldie Taxis.”

All this was mere foreplay to the bash’s climax: an eighteenth-century Don Giovanni costume ball, which began at 9:30 Friday evening and ended at 9:30 Saturday morning. Staged by Princess TNT with an extravagance and attention to detail that recalled Luchino Visconti’s The Damned, the ball was an example of the kind of ”divine decadence” possible only in the aristocratic heart of old Europe. As Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, disco-queen daughter of art-loving Baron Heini, put it, “This is the only party where everybody looks like ‘Bubbles’ Rothermere.” Actually, the giddy English viscountess, noted for her curls and ruffles, looked positively plain compared with the other guests, who went all out in the white-wig, crinoline, and jewelry departments.

“Darlings,” said Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis (who wore Empress Eugénie’s Pearl Tiara), “I’m nothing. Wait till you see the Khashoggi women.”

“I threw it all on,” declared Brazil’s ranking dowager, Aimee de Heeren, about her pile of diamond necklaces. ”The real, the fake, Harry Winston and Kenny Lane. I thought I’d never have another opportunity.” Sao Schlumberger, the Parisian hostess, sported a Golconda big enough to skate on, but she was upstaged by Prince Mubarak’s sparkling white rock, big enough to ski down. A. Alfred Taubman, the owner of Sotheby’s and endless shopping malls, looked decidedly ducal in a rolled white wig and dark-blue velvet jacket trimmed with gold embroidery. Ann Getty wore a dress she said her maid had copied from an illustration; Gordon Getty, a costume borrowed from the Munich opera, with a sash across his chest reading ”Salieri.” ”Somebody’s got to be the No-man,” he said. Indeed, there were scores of Mozarts, ranging from teenage Prussian princes to James Van Alen, the octogenarian granddaddy of Newport society.

Guests arrived at the schloss to find the courtyard filled with servants dressed as eighteenth-century peasants plucking chickens, building bonfires, baling hay, not to mention bowing and curtsying. They entered the palace through a specially constructed disco-like maze of mirrors, blinding lights, and smoke, which led to the Hall of Muskets, the beams of which were festooned with strings of bratwurst and knockwurst. Bewigged footmen carrying candelabra blocked the staircase to the reception rooms as the guests gathered: Malcolm Forbes and his son ”Kip” like Bonnie Prince Charlies in kilts, Kenny Jay Lane like a Moroccan pasha in a turban, Ahmet Ertegun like an Ottoman caliph in a fez, his wife, Mica, like an Edwardian femme du monde in black feathers.

Finally, Princess TNT made her grand entrance. Wearing a $10,000 pale-pink panniered dress by Mme. Mine Vergez, who does costumes for the Paris Opera, a two-foot wig, and Marie Antoinette’s own pearl tiara (she actually wore Empress Eugénie’s Pearl Tiara), she descended the staircase, her train held by four little girls in matching pink dresses. As guests applauded, Gloria bellowed, “Darlings, I’m nothing. Wait till you see the Khashoggi women.” Sure enough, Adnan Khashoggi’s daughter, Nabila, soon followed in a $20,000 red getup that can only be described as the largest valentine ever made. Then came the piece de resistance (literally): Khashoggi’s wife, Lamia, was meant to be Mme. de Pompadour. Her wig was twice as high as Gloria’s, and her dress so huge that it got stuck in the turn of the staircase, like an overstuffed couch, and had to be unwedged by the two Nubians who were following her with fans.

The Khashoggis required eight BMWs to haul their luggage from the Munich airport.

The fantasy never stopped: opera stars from Buenos Aires, Rome, and Vienna performed a scene from Don Giovanni with laser-beam effects; Gloria descended from a gilded cloud and sang a birthday song in the style of Marlene Dietrich, or perhaps Helmut Berger; there was an American swing band in the Hall of Mirrors and a disco with light show in the Winter Garden. The champagne flowed like the Danube, and buffets burst with alps of lobster, which is not native to Bavaria. Most fantastic of all was the dialogue.

“Not bad after ten years,” said Herr Professor Dr. Ivo Pitanguy, Rio’s famous plastic surgeon, patting a French socialite’s lifted cheeks.

“I’m Princess Helga Lee von Schaumburg-Lippe,” said one resplendent septuagenarian. “That’s Lee, as in General Lee.”

“And who are you,” asked Henry Ford’s stepdaughter, artist Kimberly Du Ross, “the kaiser?”

“Close,” replied the strapping young man in black velvet breeches, with a click of the heels. “My name is Josef von Hapsburg.”


Vanity Fair

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