Hang around the art world in Los Angeles for a few days and you’re likely to hear someone—probably someone young, pretty and single—refer to Michael Govan, the sparkling director of the L.A. County Museum of Art, as a rock star. Last week he partied like one, albeit a rather bookish one. On Thursday night, Govan and his wife, LVMH high priestess of PR Katherine Ross, gave a dinner at home for Sandy Hill to toast her new entertaining book, Fandango. The house’s Olde English façade gave but one hint of the avant-gardisme inside: the curtain-less windows were illuminated by the cool glow of a video artwork in the living room.
Gathered around the fireplace, guests Vincent Gallo and Kendall Conrad discussed bullfighting. (Her father, Barnaby Conrad, was trained by Belmonte and Manolete—which is like learning hoops from Michael and Shaq—and Gallo once dated a girl whose father was a matador.) Suzanne Rheinstein, hostess of the earlier book signing for Hill at her shop Hollyhock, was interested in the New York auctions and Art Basel Miami. (She’s skipping both.) Hill, snugly fitted into a white wool shift decorated with geometric beading, made the rounds, and a photographer took pictures as the waiters poured from big bottles of Ruinart Champagne—the last under-marketed label from the LVMH’s corporate wine cellar.
At dinner, Cornelia Guest, a veteran show jumper, talked horses with Hill, who is trying to qualify for the Calgary Stampede rodeo in team penning. Govan, on Hill’s other side, had lost his voice to some sort of laryngitis, but Hill held up both ends of the conversation. The meal, she explained, was a tribute to Ross’s favorite foods—foie gras, truffles, lobster and champagne—and was prepared by Stephanie Valentine, a private chef employed by Hill and her third husband, Tom Ditmer, at their vineyard in the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara.
There were toasts, naturally—Ross congratulating Hill, Hill thanking Ross—and it fell to Ditmer to bring Valentine from the kitchen for a round of applause. Ditmer is a commodities broker, and after introducing the chef, he offered a hot tip that every man in the room could carry home. “There are three things that change your life,” Ditmer began. “A wife, a private plane and a chef.”
He gave Valentine a little squeeze around the shoulders.
“If you have to get rid of one of them,” Ditmer continued, “get rid of the wife, because with a plane and a chef, you can get another wife.”
No one laughed louder than Hill.
The next night, Govan and Ross hosted a drinks reception and book signing for Bob Colacello and his new volume, Out, at the Chateau Marmont. Now it was Ross who had lost her voice, and one wondered, leaning in to hear her hoarse whisper, whether it was safe to stand so close, since whatever she and Govan had was clearly catching.
“Don’t worry,” Ross croaked, “you have to sleep with Michael to catch it.”
To which any number of guests in the room might have been responded, “If only.”