Excesses of the Rich and Wealthy Shah of Iran's Party

About the excesses of the rich Shah of Iran, biography and history of his extravagent party.



In October of 1971, the late Shah of Iran threw a little bash. The occasion was officially the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire. The party was also given as "a sign to the rest of the world that Iran is again a nation equal to all the others--and much finer than many." To this end, the shah constructed a well-guarded "tent city" in Persepolis--three enormous "tents" (they were more like mini-buildings) and 59 smaller ones, constructed on a 160-acre area. The 500 guests included Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco, Vice-President Spiro Agnew, nine kings, five queens, sixteen presidents, and two sultans, among others. The shah had commanded "something out of the Arabian nights," and he got it.

The prestigious Jansen of Paris decorated the air-conditioned tents (they had helped Jackie Kennedy redo the White House), which contained Baccarat crystal, Limoges china, Porthault linens, intercoms, Persian carpets, and bidets. These interiors did not live up to the rumors that had preceded them, however; there was no 18th-century French furniture, and only the shah had a marble bathtub.

Despite these inconveniences, the guests managed to enjoy themselves. There were French hairdressers available, armed with 300 wigs and 240 lb. of hairpins. Maxim's of Paris provided 165 chefs and ample refreshments, including 25,000 bottles of wine that were sent to Iran a month in advance to rest. The guests were fed 7,700 lb. of meat, 8,000 lb. of butter and cheese, and 1,000 pints of cream. Among the dishes flown in from Paris by Maxim's were quail eggs and caviar, partridge with foie gras and truffle stuffing, and filet of sole stuffed with caviar. The chefs also boasted that they could whip up and deliver to a tent any dish that anybody wanted; the Sultan Qabus bin Said of Oman ordered and got caviar and kebab.

Some of the guests behaved as regally as they were expected to. Frederick IX of Denmark and Queen Ingrid decided to go "out" for lunch. They walked form their tent to the curb, where a Rolls-Royce was waiting to drive them 500 ft. to the club tent. Nearby, Emperor Haile Selassie, who had arrived with an entourage of 72 rather than an expected 5 guests, gracefully walked his chihuahua Chicheebee, who wore a diamond-studded collar.

In his welcoming speech, the shah said, "Each one of us must try as hard as possible, as much as circumstances allow, to turn the world into one of love, peace, and cooperation for mankind, a world in which every person may enjoy the full amenities of science and civilization." At a time when the per capita income in Iran was $350 a year, the Shah's week-long "Disneyland-in-the-desert," as journalists called the party, cost $100 million.

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