U.S. Ambassador To France And Wife Embark On A Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey
Clockwise: Charlie with Saks Fifth Avenue’s Stephen Sadove and The brand new York Times’ Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. at the Paris residence; Charlie with Chanel CEO Maureen Chiquet at the Grand Palais; a Television crew interviews Susan on the Chanel trend present; Charlie and Susan at the Qatar l’Arc de Triomphe races; a horse after crossing the end line.
When the phone rang one night in early October on the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Santa Monica’s Charlie Rivkin grabbed the phone. For Rivkin, an after hours business name was nothing new. As the former head of varied entertainment firms again in Los Angeles, working around the clock got here with the territory. Nonetheless, half a world and several levels of sensibility away, Rivkin was now dealing with a very completely different set of issues. Involved by some recent Al Qaeda activity, the State Division was issuing a traveler’s alert for Individuals in Europe with particular concern for France. It fell to Rivkin, President Obama’s appointment as U.S. Ambassador to France, to mark the administration’s official line on the situation and deal with the aftermath.
Just 14 months earlier than, Rivkin, his spouse Susan Tolson and children Eli (17) and Lily (15) had been living a busy, but not altogether atypical, West Aspect life. Rivkin was the CEO of the youngsters’s programmer Wild Brain. Tolson was a successful funding banker at the Capital Group and the youngsters had been students on the Brentwood School. Rivkin was a additionally a politico who served as the California Finance Co-Chair for Barack Obama, helping the president sweep the state in 2008.
Obama rode to office on a message of change, and change is precisely what the Rivkins received once they moved from their charming Santa Monica clapboard residence to the 72,000 square foot embassy on the upscale rue du Faubourg St-Honore. And the home was simply the beginning. Life for the family out of the blue ceased being a personal affair. Not navigating the 405 alone, Rivkin is now pushed around in an armored SUV (American made, of course!), accompanied by a 6 person French security detail. He can walk the streets, but he is always surrounded by the “bubble.” Tolson might journey alone, but as with the ambassador, at almost each vacation spot, photographers await to snap her photograph.
Rosie, the household dog, runs across the again lawn at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, photograph courtesy: Rivkin Family
The family may call the Embassy residence, however it is under no circumstances personal. Aside from the family’s quarters on the 3rd flooring, the property is in most regards a public facility. Maintained by a workers of 14, it is the situation of occasions for tons of, typically hundreds, of individuals on a daily basis. “Our daughter refers to our dwelling as an residence above a museum. I think it is aptly put,” says Rivkin.
Even before supporting Obama, Rivkin was involved in politics. He has served as a delegate to the Southern California Convention and as a member of presidential hopeful John Kerry’s National Finance Committee. “My day job was as an entertainment government but I believe my night job was all the time involved with politics. So, I suppose it is a case of the place the night job over took the day job.”
When the newly elected Obama proposed the concept of Ambassador, it wasn’t the primary time the thought had crossed the government’s mind. Rivkin’s father served as the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg through the Kennedy administration and to Senegal and Gambia throughout the Johnson administration. The latter put up was lower brief when Rivkin’s father died of a coronary heart assault at 48 years old. Rivkin was only five at the time.
“Regardless that I never really knew my father, whereas I used to be rising up, I believed to myself how wonderful it could be to have an opportunity to serve my country like my father had. “
“Welcome Linda!” the Ambassador exclaimed as he greeted me on the mansion’s imposing entrance doorways on a heat, fall day. “It is a lot fun having you here! That’s what makes this experience actually special — when we will share it with good associates.”
We would been mates for some 15 years — first assembly at a vacation social gathering in Beverly Hills. Turned out, nevertheless, that Tolson and my husband knew each other growing up. The four of us formed a fast, straightforward friendship that is included many memorable occasions all through the years — from ringing in holidays to celebrating children’ birthdays to countless dinners filled with great wine and dialog. When Tolson invited me to return visit this fall throughout vogue week, I was desperate to find out about their new lives and curious about how they had been adapting.
It was quickly obvious that the Rivkins, each 48, have been adapting fairly properly. Throughout my go to, I watched them effortlessly glide from occasion to occasion. Had I not recognized higher, I might have sworn they had been natives. Tolson’s friendly smile and couture-clad, lithe frame, and Rivkin’s flawless French and easy going demeanor are properly suited to the rigors of the Parisian power structure. Once past preliminary impressions, however, it is clear to dignitaries and embassy friends alike that these two are much more substance than style.
“In peak season, I am giving three to 4 speeches a day in shark business French. It’s thrilling, rewarding, significant, and life changing. Yes, it’s fun — but that is not the word that I’d use to describe the general expertise. I would say it is deeply meaningful on numerous levels. And, it’s hard work.”
His schedule for a single day during my visit was exhausting. First, Rivkin gave a speech and participated in a wreath laying in celebration of the U.S/French victory at Yorktown in 1781. Subsequent, it was off to the French Senate for a speech on transatlantic relations. Lastly, the Ambassador hosted a reception at the Embassy for the French media elite. All the while, Rivkin was consulting with the thousand Embassy employees, representing fifty one totally different U.S. departments, and fielding calls from journalists fascinated in the French/U.S. bilateral relationship.
Tolson’s schedule was nearly as hectic. Through the week of my visit, she hit several of the key style reveals, certainly one of which she attended with Vogue editor Ana Wintour. She presided over several Embassy occasions, together with a reception for the new York Instances and Saks Fifth Avenue. Meantime, she was busy planning one other — this one for Robert Redford, who’d quickly be in city receiving the French Legion of Honor. She was also engaged on a speech, in French, to ship to the Arts in Embassy Vernissage, and planning a Harper’s Bazaar trend shoot. In what spare time she had, she helped Eli with his college admission applications.
“Susan has been unimaginable overseeing issues here and I’m amazed. She’s a profitable funding supervisor and now she must be a public determine. Being an funding supervisor is not public job. It requires research and mental capacity, but it is not about not giving speeches and having 15,000 folks come via your home.”
The couple met at Harvard while jointly pursuing MBA’s and have been married for 20 years. I’ve often mused as I’ve watched them through the years that they seem completely matched — equally smart, achieved and social.
“I stated I will do this as long as you attempt to make something out of the chance. I’m not shifting my entire family and altering my profession for us simply to stay in a beautiful house.”
“That was my largest fear and it has been my greatest relief because they took to the city and the college very easy. Paris is a very simply navigable city with the public transportation – its almost liberating for teenagers. Unlike in LA where we drove our youngsters in all places. They feel an independence right here and it is good.”
“The children’ whole worldview has expanded. They do not comprehend it or see it, however we see it. I’ve joked about it to Susan saying, I think after years of therapy, the youngsters will forgive us!”
“I simply love to get out and stroll the city and experience the day by day life. We have now so many official engagements but we additionally go to the opera, to performs and restaurants. What’s fascinating about Europe is that they discover a tremendous amount of worth in the import of the job of ambassador. Extra so than the United States. The French folks on nearly each degree — whether it’s a fashion present or art exhibit — they roll out the pink carpet.”
“There is not actually a template for what somebody or a couple does after serving as Ambassador to France. So, we’re going to must, in fact, pioneer. Despite the fact that it’s a short 3-1/2 yrs, literally every week is packed lively changing events. I don’t know where it should lead but its not one thing we give any thought to at all. Our job is to work as laborious as we are able to to a construct bilateral relationship with France.