SHOW BOAT:?Forget the red carpet — all the news in Cannes is aboard the yachts. Media-shy San Francisco novelist Melanie Craft, a.k.a. Mrs. Larry Ellison, played?hostess Tuesday night on her husband’s boat, Katana, which has been docked in Cannes all week. The annual fete for ICM honcho Jeff Berg, who sits on the board of Oracle, Ellison’s billion-dollar software company, was the usual intimate gathering of power players, including Roman Polanski, Brett Ratner and Serena Williams. But there was also a touch of Euro-glam: Princess Olga of Austria with her beau of four years, Johnny Pigozzi, and their pal Christian Louboutin. Over dinner on the top deck, surprise guest?Don Johnson jokingly demanded a rebate. “My wife buys so many of your shoes that I think I’m entitled to some money back, or at least a discount,” he?declared.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Ellison excused herself from the table to retire early, saying, “I’m way too shy to be out here,?so I sort of let Jeff take over this night.” Her outspoken husband?was back in California closing a deal, while she?has quietly been enjoying a week on the Riviera with eight guests. Alas, it was her final cruise aboard Katana, which has been sold to the British media entrepreneurs, the Barclay brothers. Ellison’s new vessel, Rising Sun, which measures 410 feet versus the 244-foot-long Katana, will be ready for christening in November. “I tried to get Larry to call it Princess Melanie, but that got shot down pretty fast,” she said.

This story first appeared in the May 20, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

On The Block: Christopher Mason spent last Friday night ensconced at the mahogany dining room table of Ann Nitze’s elegant Georgetown house, signing copies of his new book, “The Art of the Steal,’’ which chronicles the infamous Christie’s/Sotheby’s price-fixing case. (Nitze fluttered a black fan that matched her Ungaro dress. “I’m a fan of Christopher Mason,’’ she said.) “I want a copy for my friend Scott Mueller,’’ said Louisa Riley-Smith, wife of a top British Embassy counsel, and part of Mason’s Cambridge-Oxford mafia.?Gamely signing the book over to the New York attorney who helped represent Alfred Taubman, Mason impishly grinned, “I’m not sure he’s going to like what I’ve written.’’?

Mason recalled leaner days when his first book on Gianni Versace never made it into print because of objections from Versace’s sister, Donatella. So what convinced Mason to try again? “Alfred Taubman’s daughter, Tiffany Dubin, is a very dear friend of mine,’’ he explained, confiding he’s hard at work on another as-yet undisclosed book subject.?“Corruption in high places is what I specialize in.’’

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