Tom Cruise brightened Penélope Cruz’s 30th birthday party last week when he called her and sang a few bars of the same song all of you hear on your natal day, but don’t read too much into this. Their love affair is over and out but their friendship lingers on. Some wonder whether Penélope’s friendship with Matthew McConaughey is taking another baby step toward, well, something else. Penélope introduced him to her family and friends, including director Pedro Almodovar, at her intimate birthday party in Madrid over the weekend. The stars certainly looked like they belonged together, dancing and singing the night away. She wore a sexy, strapless black dress and he was dashing in a white suit and fedora. They’ve been filming “Sahara” across the Strait of Gibraltar in Morocco, during which it is said they became closer and closer. You can never really tell with actors, but what the heck, they make a great photo op.

This story first appeared in the May 5, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

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Sean Connery is busily arranging his notes so he can start writing his memoirs. Sean, who is almost as famous for making millions and tightly holding onto them as he is for being the original, and very best of all, James Bond, is said to be entertaining offers of more than $5 million from publishers. Will he unveil revealing stories about his Bond girls of the past, including Ursula Andress, Kim Basinger, Maud Adams, Jane Seymour, Jill St. John and all the rest? Supposedly, he’s promised to tell all about his marriage to actress Diane Cilento and how he found happiness with his current wife, Micheline. They’ve been happily married for 29 years. He’ll write about his career as a dancer — he studied dancing for 11 years — and when he placed third in 1953 in the Mr. Universe contest. The rumor is that he’s been talking with the shrewd and highly successful literary agent, Mort Janklow, who has represented the Pope and Jackie Collins. And if that ain’t a twosome.

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You know, don’t you, that Mercedes and Sid Bass, of the billionaire Fort Worth Basses, are music lovers of the first water and that nothing gives them greater pleasure than putting their money where their love of music is? Every season you will find them at the Metropolitan Opera beaming from their box — Mercedes sleek and stunning in the hautest of haute couture — and at Carnegie Hall, listening raptly to some of the most famous orchestras in the world. And they entertain renowned musicians and conductors at their glamorous Fifth Avenue apartment. Does that make them patrons of the arts with a capital P? You bet your libretto it does.

The Basses are dominant sponsors of the Van Cliburn Foundation, named after the legendary American pianist who lives in Fort Worth and is their special friend. Carnegie Hall, in partnership with the Foundation, just presented the winners of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition at adjoining Zankel Hall: gold medallists Stanislav Loudenitch of Uzbekistan and pretty blonde Olga Kern of Russia, and silver medallists Maxim Philippov of Russia and Antonio Pompa-Baldi of Italy. All four, not surprisingly, performed magnificently and were a thrill to listen to. Of Olga Kern, the Washington Post wrote, “Her musicality radiates off the stage and saturates the hall. Whatever it is, call it star quality — music likes Kern the way the camera liked Garbo.” Oh, yes. And then some.

The Basses gave two after-the-concert dinner parties at Trattoria Dell’Arte and a sumptuous buffet at Le Cirque, which Mercedes filled with so many cherry blossoms that, after a couple of glasses of champagne, some of the guests thought they were in Washington. Dear Mercedes. Among guests at the various concerts and dinners were Van Cliburn, of course, looking live and lean with crispy, curling gray hair; Princess Firyal of Jordan; Patty and Gustavo Cisneros (the new grandparents of triplets, if you please); Annette and Oscar de la Renta; Elaine Wolfensohn; Liv and Damon Mezzacappa; the Ed Hudsons; Patricia Patterson; Faye Wattleton; Georgette Mosbacher; Linda Wachner; Sarah Giles; Irith Landeau; Beatrice Stern; not-to-be-missed Alann Sampson, the chairman of the foundation, and Richard Rodzinski, its president.

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Elizabeth Hurley was in New York last week knocking them dead in a variety of outfits and gossiping about her now-pal, Hugh Grant, and his latest escapade. Hugh has got himself right smack in the middle of a romantic tempest in London. He has been consoling beautiful Eimear Montgomerie, who is having big-time marriage problems with her husband, golf champion Colin Montgomerie. Hugh got involved with the family when Colin became his golfing coach, but who knows who’s coaching whom now. Hugh just paid $7.5 million for a house in London. It’s just big enough to accommodate Eimear and her three children in case they want to pay him a little visit.

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Lydia Hearst-Shaw, who’s currently in People magazine’s list of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World; Gillian Hearst-Shaw, and Annie Churchill are the junior chairmen of the New York Child Learning Institute’s “Design to Benefit Autism” at the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum on May 25. The night’s honoree is the famous interior designer Mario Buatta, who is bound to have a few tricks up his sleeve, as he is a notorious prankster. Victoria Hagan and T. Keller Donovan are the evening’s design chairmen. Albert Hadley, Alexa Hampton, Jamie Drake, Lisa Jackson, Richard Mishaan and Robert Estilon are among the 37 interior designers who will turn fabrics from Schumacher & Co. into pillows for the silent auction. They’ll do anything for their art.

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Kirsten Dunst, 21, claims she can’t go anywhere without her security blanket and she isn’t talking about her boyfriend, Jake Gyllenhaal. What she’s talking about is a certain frayed square of brown, wool fabric, which was once her baby blanket, that she always carries close to her. It reminds her of her mother, Inez, who started Kirsten modeling and acting almost before she could walk. She is starring in one of the expected summer blockbusters, “Spiderman 2,” and in “Wimbledon,” also due out this year. In “Wimbledon,” she plays a tennis “bad girl” who falls for an older tennis star down on his luck, played by Paul Bettany, the real-life husband of Jennifer Connelly. About “Wimbledon,” Kirsten has been quoted as saying, “It is a romantic comedy but sometimes it was really hard for me to do some of the scenes. They were so fluffy and I tried to make something out of them but they were just like…romantic comedy.” I guess that quote makes sense to her.

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