The Versailles Treat * Nuptials From London * The Couple That Cooks Together

Whatever was going on with clashing viewpoints and egos among the bigwigs at the diplomatic beehive known as the U.N., well, that was their problem. What was going on with the American Friends of Versailles, meeting in New York for a week of cultural events, was all sweetness and light. In this organization, nobody bickers. Everyone has the same goal — united in the belief that beauty is truth and truth is beauty.

This story first appeared in the September 24, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

As the name implies, the purpose of A.F.V. is the restoration of the most beautiful palace in the world, specifically the once-glorious, now almost-glorious Trois Fontaines Bosquet, a masterpiece of fountains in the château’s vast gardens designed by the illustrious architect, Andre Le Notre, in 1677 at the behest of Louis XIV. Since 1830, the bosquet and fountain have been lost to the world, ruins. Not anymore. In June of 2004, there will be a grand celebration and ball at Versailles to mark the unveiling of the magnificent project, a gift from the Friends to France and the world.

It is being called “the most magnificent ball of the 21st century,” and its honored guests are Mrs. Laura Bush and Madame Jacques Chirac. Among the honorary chairmen of the grand affair are Nancy and Henry Kissinger, and the honorary co-chairmen include such generous Americans as Cecile and Ezra Zilkha, Kimberly and Steven Rockefeller (the guests of honor at a party at Cartier), Anne Bass, Lee Radziwill, C.Z. Guest, Anne Cox Chambers and Liz Fondaras. The American committee members include truly prestigious types. Among the French elite are the Princess Napoleon, Maryll and Bernard Lanvin, Marivon and François Pinault, the Baroness Elie De Rothschild, Princess Maria Pia de Savoie (recently married to Prince Michel de Bourbon Parme), Count and Countess de Ribes, the Duke and Duchess de Mouchy, Sandy and Jean de Yturbe and Nicole Salinger.

The president of the A.F.V. is Catharine (Mrs. David) Hamilton of Chicago, a dynamo of effectiveness, enthusiasm and charm, who has helped raise millions for the restoration of the bosquet. The president of Les Amis de Versailles, a sister organization in France, is Le Vicomte de Rohan, another example of how well Gallic wit and a how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people personality works when it comes to raising funds, which we all know is no chunk of foie gras and guzzle of Champagne, especially now.

Among the divertissements planned in New York during the week was a reception at the French Embassy on Fifth Avenue and a private dinner at La Grenouille, where Catharine Hamilton shone in black and diamonds and Olivier de Rohan rightened his place sitting next to heiress Irene Roosevelt Aitken. Nicole Salinger, a great proponent of French and American relations, spoke of Versailles’ history, and among those listening breathlessly at various tables were such as Mary McFadden, Sandy de Yturbe, one of Paris’ chicest women, who flew in for the festivities, Sharon King Hoge, Mario Buatta, Catharine Hamilton’s daughter, Tennessee, Monika and Henry Betts of Chicago, Marjorie and Ellery Gordon, Arnold Scaasi and Parker Ladd and like that.

London stuff (if you’ve heard this already, don’t stop me. I want to hear it again myself): In a union of two families with famous names, Kate Rothschild, the pretty, green-eyed, 21-year-old daughter of the late financier, Amschel Rothschild, and Anita Guinness, the daughter of merchant banker James Guinness, married Ben Goldsmith, the tall, elegant, 23-year-old son of the late international banker, Sir James Goldsmith, and Lady Annabel Goldsmith, in St. Mary’s church in a small English town in Suffolk, near the Rothschild family estate, Rushbrooke Hall. There were 600 family and friends including Princess Michael of Kent with her son, Lord Frederick Windsor, who has just enrolled in law school in England — does it beat being a Burberry model? — Camilla Parker Bowles’ daughter, Laura, and Ben’s brother, Zac, and sister, Jemima, with her husband, the Pakistani politician Imran Khan, all thrilled to be there.

Ben-Ben, as he is called, inherited $15 million when his father died. Naturally, he wants to be a banker-investor. Kate, who inherited $27 million when her father committed suicide in 1996, wants to be a fashion designer (not another one?). She designed her simple sleeveless scoopneck wedding dress herself. The lovers have been dating for three years, have lived together in London for the past year and are expecting their first child in February. How about that for getting your priorities straight?

As for Princess Michael of Kent, she will be in New York on Oct. 28 to lecture at the Metropolitan Museum on “The Winter Queen of Bohemia.” After that, it’s off to speak in Washington, Dallas and Florida. As usual, when this knowledgeable lady speaks, the tickets go fast.

Brad Pitt is getting in touch with his feminine side, if you want to call it that. He and his wife, Jennifer Aniston, are literally addicted to cooking shows. As he says, “For quite some time, Jennifer and I have been slaves to a TV channel that shows nothing but food programs. Once you get into it, cooking is a real form of art.” He also thinks that cooking is a good antidote to the pressures of stardom, which he found difficult in the beginning. “Fame almost destroyed me. I kept ordering my friends around, because money and power distort your perspective. I went into psychoanalysis for 18 months, which is like a journey to yourself. For me, it was important to see how I function in order to be able to see clearly again.” That, and a good chocolate soufflé, works every time.

Julia Roberts is in the middle of a multimillion-dollar deal to star alongside Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen in the screen adaptation of Patrick Marber’s play, “Closer,” which was nominated for a Tony in 1999 and starred Natasha Richardson. Mike Nichols will direct the movie about the tangled relationship between two couples caught in a web of love, lust, sex and betrayal. Oh, that again.

U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan escorted his wife, Nane, to the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s Gala at the Pierre, where she was the honored guest. The chairmen of the evening were Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer, Carol McFadden and Holly Peterson. Perri Peltz was the mistress of ceremonies as the night raised $350,000.

That was Stephanie March, Catherine Oxenberg and Muffie Potter Aston checking out the opening of Burberry’s new accessories shop at Bloomingdale’s. The night was a benefit for the victims’ assistance group, Safe Horizon. Guests all left with one of the brand’s signature bags, as it was raining again. And again. And again.

Sadie Frost and her friend, Kate Moss, have signed up for boxing lessons at the hot new London gym, called Gymbox. Pals are telling Jude Law he better watch out the next time he starts a fight with his estranged wife, Sadie, who says she’s not going to take his “lip” anymore. So take that news and run with it!

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