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In the Something Different department: Teapots and teakettles were everywhere at the American Academy in Rome’s benefit party at Cipriani 42nd Street. The gala for this venerable institution, the oldest and best for overseas study and research in the arts and humanities, featured teapots because the Academy believes they are the essence of good design and produced by every culture. The chairman of the evening, Mercedes Bass, was the force behind the event and the decor, together with her co-chair and husband, Sid.

There were three honorees at the tribute dinner: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tiffany’s and Michael Graves. The Academy chose the Metropolitan Department of European and Decorative Arts because it is a great repository of design. The Met’s teapots on display were copies from its collection. Ian Wardropper accepted the award and many museum folk cheered from the floor including Edith and Philippe de Montebello, Cynthia and Lee Polsky, Wendy and Bill Luers and Joyce Menschel.

This story first appeared in the April 7, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Tiffany’s teapots were chosen from its collection. Michael Kowalski, the chairman and chief executive, accepted the award. Fernanda Kellogg from the fabled retailer was there wearing a splendid brooch and, speaking of jewels, so was designer Elizabeth Locke.

But the honoree who stole the show was Graves, the extraordinary designer, architect, artist and familiar face around the world. He says he owes everything to his Rome prize at the Academy, which took him on his first trip to Europe in 1960. He was surrounded by his friends and fans including Robert A. M. Stern, Charles and Vette-Ann Gwathmey and Richard Meier. Michael’s teapots were designed over 40 years and he is famous for them. They come in all shapes and sizes.

Mercedes selected a teapot as the centerpiece for each table and designed 35 different tableaux of flowers with a teapot floating above with four candles framing it. She, herself, practically floated in Roland Nivelais’ strapless coral dress with ruffles at the bottom. She seemed lighter than air, so maybe spring is here at last?

Academy trustee David Childs was the man of the hour, thanks to his architectural solutions at Ground Zero and One Columbus Circle. He was the master of ceremonies, accompanied by his wife, Annie, a vision in lime green silk. Cheering from the floor was a table full of architects from Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, all part of his team. The artist Chuck Close was there, as were Academy chairman Michael Sovern; Judy and Ed Ney (she wore a black tuxedo by Bill Blass), and Eileen Guggenheim, a new trustee at Princeton. Lally Weymouth wore a black Badgley Mischka dress with a fox wrap, Carroll Petrie was in a white Mary McFadden and Beatrice Santo Domingo wore vintage Givenchy. When Adele Chatfield-Taylor, the Academy president who wore an antique Chinese jacket, gave the closing toast and thanked everyone for coming, her husband, the famous playwright John Guare, waved at her from the floor to let her know she looked as glamorous as the party. John Guare is a darling man.

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Penélope Cruz is telling her friends that she is perfectly happy to be single again after the friendly end of her three-year romance with Tom Cruise, news that took the world by surprise last month. “I’m now enjoying life as never before. I feel this is a time for fresh and exciting things. I want to travel and learn. I am able to speak and work in four languages — Spanish, English, French and Italian — so I feel the world’s not small for me. I can go anywhere and do anything,” the señorita is quoted as saying. “There’s no point in thinking about the past. What’s done is done.” So, I guess, we should all get ready for the new Cruz.

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Julia Stiles is the object of Aaron Eckhart’s affections in the London production of David Mamet’s “Oleanna.” Stiles, who is studying playwriting at Columbia, took a deferral for a semester to make her London stage debut. “Theater is a great boot camp for acting,” she says. “But don’t expect a musical anytime soon because I can’t sing to save my life.” Stiles, who is a huge fan of Mamet’s work, has already signed on to do his next film, titled “Edmond,” which begins shooting later this year.

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Lydia Hearst-Shaw, the beautiful 19-year-old Ford model, has landed on the April cover of Italian Vogue. Steven Meisel did the shoot, and the eight-page spread inside has Lydia wearing everything from Versace to Chanel. Her proud mother, Patricia Hearst, said, “To me, Italian Vogue is the Oscar of the fashion world.” So be it. Lydia’s cousin, Amanda, an Elite model, has been approached by MTV to host a style show where she’d cover the young fashion beat. Their grandfather, Randolph Hearst, and their great-grandfather, the media baron William Randolph Hearst who built San Simeon, would have been very proud.

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Co-chairmen David Rockefeller, Ronald Lauder and Robert Menschel are getting ready for the Museum of Modern Art’s 36th annual Party in the Garden on June 7, which has always been a memorable event in New York. The dinner will take place at Roseland Ballroom and, after dinner, guests will indulge in a bit of dancing, which is expected to last for a long time and which is what a ballroom is for. The guest of honor for the evening will be Steve Martin, the actor, comedian, author, playwright and producer, whose first original play in 1993, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” received critical acclaim and is still mounted in productions worldwide. For 30 years, Steve has been acquiring artworks that span from the late 19th century to the present day, including pieces from such artists as Seurat, Lichtenstein, Bacon, Picasso, Hopper and David Hockney. The Party in the Garden will support the Museum’s annual fund, as well as another special fund for the restoration of the magnificent Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden.

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Assouline Publishing, the illustrated book publishing house that is behind a number of cutting-edge titles such as “The Little Black Dress” and Lee Radziwill’s “Happy Times,” is releasing a book called “Ultimate Style: The Best of the Best Dressed List” by Bettina Zilkha with a foreword by the late Eleanor Lambert. It’s primarily a story of how the list originated and grew into the world- famous event it is today. Lambert, the fashion doyenne of fashion doyennes and the founder of the Best Dressed List, was interviewed by Bettina and contributes her personal story on the subject, which was originally a publicity ploy to boost the drooping American fashion industry at the outset of World War II.

Founded in 1940, the first list mostly comprised rich society women who were famous for spending entire fortunes every year on haute couture, while movie stars were rarely named to it, as they were dressed by their studios. Today, the list is a highly coveted placement that includes every sort of public figure from socialites and models to movie stars and politicians. The book features four to six of the top women from each decade, exploring the personal style of such fashion icons as Babe Paley in the Forties; Grace Kelly and Diana Vreeland in the Fifties; Jackie Onassis and Verushka in the Sixties; Twiggy and Bianca Jagger in the Seventies; Princess Diana and Tina Chow in the Eighties; Sharon Stone and the Miller sisters in the Nineties; and Chloë Sevigny and Nicole Kidman in the 21st century. Zilkha, a trendsetter in her own right, has lived in New York and Paris, where she planned special events for the American Center. She is constantly on the lookout for new trends all over the world. The launch of her book will take place at Gotham Hall on May 6.

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