“Everyone Comes to Rick’s”

Notice:  large, and graphics intensive

Complete album of full-size photos on my Flickr stream

Continued from previous article ….

Extracted from Web site of The National Inquisitioner (tabloid), November 26, 2017, “Hollywood Glam” column by Ramona BelGrande:

Hollywood shone someplace other than in Hollywood last night, as luminaries from across all the fields of the film industry gathered in Van Nuys, California – yes, Van Nuys – to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the New York première of Casablanca, the little film that many consider the greatest movie ever made.  To commemorate the occasion, Warner Bros. caused a recreation of elements from the famous movie sets, especially Rick’s Café Américain, to be built near one of the runways at the old Van Nuys Airport.  A few parts of the movie’s airport scenes were filmed at this airport, and the studio persuaded the City of Los Angeles to close that runway for the night.  Everyone who could bought or otherwise acquired a “lettre de transit” (a ticket) to the event; there have even been rumors of deals made on the black market to obtain the precious tickets, not unlike in the film.

The party consisted of two parts – an open-to-all street carnival, with entrance fees going to charity, conducted in the streets of the “old souk”; and the star-studded extravaganza party in the evening.  The carnival was well attended by everyone in the morning; but many celebrities pulled away in the afternoon to prepare for the black-tie affair – almost as big an affair as the Red Carpet on Oscar Night.  After all, “everyone comes to Rick’s.”

And what a night it was!  Notables from around the world, as well as descendants of six of the stars, attended the function.  Grandchildren of the original playwrights and screenwriters, as well as a member of the family of director Michael Curtiz, were also present.  And, as you can see from the photographs, styles and fashion ran rampant.  Some came to the soirée in modern fashions from New York, Paris and Milan; many more chose to channel classic Forties Hollywood glamour.  And others created a wild yet wonderful fusion between the past and the present ….

Cigarette smoke swirled around Lisavet Darchiev’s face as she crossed herself, Orthodox fashion.  She was not going “on stage” here, as she had in other places; but this party was very well attended by film-industry types with whom she might need to deal in the future.  It never did to stick your foot in your mouth with a future paycheck signer.

A cloud of white vapor, lightly scented with cinnamon, slid into view around the side of Lisavet’s huge feathered headdress, followed by Piper Walker’s voice:  “What are you so nervous about, Liz?  There aren’t any cameras on you tonight, other than the paparazzi’s.  And believe me, you’re wowing even those creeps with the outfit you’re wearing.”

“You have a point, Piper,” Lisavet sighed as she turned to catch sight of her friend.  “I really do not understand why I work myself into a swivet like this every time I’m at a big affair.”

Piper simply shrugged, her own hair ornament swaying with the shake of her head.  “Everyone gets nerves over something or other.  That’s what friends are for, to help them shake the shakes.  Come on, girl … or do I need to start calling you Elizaveta Petrovna, like your father or uncle, to get you moving?”

The sally broke the spell of nerves, and Lisavet laughed.  “Kindly leave the patronymic out, will you?  Or I’ll find a gossip reporter, and let her know the real name of the exalted Piper Walker is actually Sally Smith.  Anyway, you’re not Russian enough.”   She ducked with another laugh as Piper grinned and batted at her with her jeweled clutch.

“Okay, okay.  Anyway, much better.  You all set, then?”

“I suppose so.  If nothing else, we’ll find out As Time Goes By.”

Piper giggled as Lisavet raised her cigarette holder to her lips.  “That line makes me wish I was named Samantha.  Then you could tell me to play it again.”  Laughing brightly, the women ascended the steps.

Inside, the “club” was much as they had expected – a model of the old set’s atmosphere and architecture, within the smaller space available to the builders.  A photographer’s stand stood in an alcove near the inner doors; amazingly, he was unoccupied for the time.  From the startled, enchanted glances he gave the women, he was also delighted to indulge them in far more photos than he would ever normally shoot at an event like this, posing Lisavet and Piper against a variety of backgrounds.  Indeed, the women rather stole the show in their plunging gowns of black and white, respectively, with tall headdresses in their hair and “important” jewelry flashing from their necks, ears and arms – even from Lisavet’s brows.

Then at Lisavet’s request, Piper stepped aside, allowing the Russian to get a photo of herself in the pose she was shot in back in the beginning of her career, when her first book was taking off in sales.  Lisavet still had a copy of that original portrait on her wall as a treasured keepsake, and she had talked Piper into creating a pair of gowns just for this … then worked almost every spare hour she had for a month in lining up the loan of the clothes and accessories to create the styles for them both.

As the photographer was finishing up with them in the courtyard, and Lisavet was making to pull her telescoping holder out of her clutch for another cigarette, a male voice suddenly called from an archway, “Privet, Elizaveta Petrovna!  Segodnya u vas otlichnaya krasota, i vash podruga tozhe.”1

Lisavet snapped around toward the Russian-speaking voice, feathers waving about her face.  A most charming fellow, handsome and with wavy black hair, leaned against an archway wall, smiling broadly and warmly at the women.  As he advanced toward them, Lisavet’s grin became even brighter than it already was; her gloved hands flew together, and she breathed, “Maks …,” then shouted out in her mother tongue, “Maxim Ruslanovich, ty krasivyy chelovek!!!  Kak dela???”2  She whirled to the photographer and said in the voice of a Tsarina, “You, stay there; you’re not done yet!” and then went to hug the man and give him a sound kiss.

Piper grinned at the surprised photographer, and said, “You’d better do what she says.  I think there’s gonna be a few more photos taken.”

“I think that’s a fair guess, ma’am,” the fellow replied, grinning.  There were no flies on him.

Finally pulling out of the embrace, Lisavet brought the newcomer over.  “Piper Walker, may I introduce to you a former diplomatic colleague from Saint Petersburg, and a very good friend, Maxim Ruslanovich Derbensky.”

“A pleasure, gospozha3,” Maxim said, taking Piper’s hand and bowing over it.

“The same here,” Piper said with an appreciative glance.  “Truthfully, I’d be tempted to make it much more of a pleasure; but, looking at you two together, I don’t think I’d stand a chance ….  So you know each other from Lisavet’s London days?”

“Yes,” Maxim said.  “We both worked in the commercial relations section of the Embassy, she as an administrative assistant and I as an attaché.  It was a wrench when she was reassigned back to Petersburg, but I still recall the time … very well,” he added in a smiling murmur to Lisavet.

“Ahhh, spasiba, dorogaya,”4 Lisavet said with a light peck on his cheek, so as not to smear him with black lipstick.  “And so, what brings you to Los Angeles?  Are you working out of the San Francisco consulate?”

“No.  When it became clear to me which way the wind was blowing in politics back home, I decided it was time to emigrate.  With the contacts I had, I landed on my feet, and I’m facilitating business deals between the studios and distributors in Russia, as well as … ‘pitching,’ I think is the word? … pitching some film ideas of my own.”

“Well, it is so good to see you here!  Come, let’s get a photo together before this poor fellow over here dies of boredom or frustration, and then we can all go in.”

“Ah, I’m afraid I don’t have a ticket for inside the club.”

“You do now,” Piper said firmly; “you’re now our guest, and I won’t hear a word against it.  I’ll kick in the teeth of the man at the door if I have to.”

“Thank you so very much,” Lisavet whispered to Piper, and air-kissed her on both cheeks before pulling the others to her and nodding to the photographer.


1.  “Hello, Elizaveta Petrovna!  You are in great beauty tonight, and so is your friend.”

2.  “Maxim Ruslanovich, you handsome man!!!  How are you???”

3.  Gospozha:  Miss, Madame, Ms.

4.  “Ahhh, thank you, dearest.”


The details:

Harper (as “Lisavet”) wears:

Jem (as “Piper”) wears:

  • Head: Akeruka Monika 2.5 (Bento)
  • Body and hands: Maitreya Lara 4.1
  • Feet: SLink Avatar Enhancement feet 1.2.5
  • Eyes: IKON Sovereign (Passion)
  • Hair: Argrace Wakana
  • Gown: Meli Imako V-cut Gown (full perms; hand-dyed white by a friend, with many thanks!)
  • Shoes: KC Couture Darcy
  • Accessories:
    • Gloves: Maddict Starlet evening gloves
    • Headdress: GizzA Mystical Wings headpiece
    • Purse: Chop Zuey Starla clutch (white)
    • Jewelry: Chop Zuey Hospitable Snowflakes ring, Mercy Pity Peace & Love rings and tikka (sapphire), and The Dirty Shepherdess suite (bracelets, earrings and necklace)
  • Makeup:
    • Eyeshadow: SlackGirl Fever (Akeruka, slot 8)
    • Lashes: SlackGirl AKLa-A01
    • Lipstick: Zibska Sable (Omega, slot 1)
    • Blush: Zibska Saba (Omega)

Conan (as “Maxim”) wears:

  • Head: Akeruka Ray 2.5 (Bento)
  • Body: ADAM body 1.4b
  • Hands: SLink Dynamic hands male 1.0
  • Eyes: HD – 2010 Acqua dark blue sky eyes 40
  • Hair: Alli&Ali Gao
  • Outfit and shoes: TCoD Outfit Capone


Photographed in Casablanca skybox, Nantucket Island region

Many thanks to Sommer Shepherd, whom Conan and I had an opportunity to meet at one point in her spectacular club

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