Lafayette Lives on as the Marquis' Descendant Wigs Out for Royalties

updated 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The scene at Manhattan's Maxim's was familiar: a promotional party with a guest list that included Brooke Shields and was hosted by Pierre Cardin and the French Ambassador to the U.S. Object of the $50-$100 per head black-tie bash was to kick off the book tour on behalf of a glossy, 380-page U.S. Constitution Bicentennial Commemorative Book. Its surprising author: Gilbert de Lafayette.

The 35-year-old great-great-great-great-grandson of America's Revolutionary War hero appeared at the party in full 18th-century costume, greeting, meeting and mingling. "It proves I have a sense of adventure like the Marquis, if I get involved in projects like this," he said joking.

Actually, Gilbert is a far cry from his impetuous ancestor, who was made a major general in the ragtag Continental Army at 19, wintered at Valley Forge and was a lifelong friend of Washington and Jefferson. Gilbert, by contrast, is a modest bachelor who shares a two-bedroom apartment in Paris with his mother. He was persuaded by book publisher and promoter Cyril Viguier to use his spare time from his job as a biologist in an AIDS research lab to write the text for the coffee-table tribute. He also portrays his illustrious forebear in a TV film that Viguier hopes to air in September.

While enjoying his fleeting moment in the American limelight, Gilbert vows that one aspect of history will not be repeated during his whirlwind tour. "At Versailles, Marie Antoinette laughed at Lafayette because he was stiff and awkward and couldn't dance," says the present descendant. "I can. I love to dance. Rock 'n' roll!"

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