Tall, dark and handsome Hugh Grant — he plays a minister in the soon-due “Sirens” — is being described as “the new Cary Grant.” We shall see what we shall see. But what we definitely shall see in the movie is Elle Macpherson, Portia De Rossi, Kate Fischer and Pamela Rabe giving us peeks of themselves in the altogether. None of them is the new Myrna Loy.
Emma Thompson, an Oscar contender for both “The Remains of the Day” and “In the Name of the Father,” has a younger sister, Sophie, who some Brits think is nipping at her heels. Sophie has a new TV series in England (it’s called “Nelson’s Column,” and it’s all about newspaper reporters) and the prospect of more film work to come. But Sophie says all that talk about being a threat to Emma is a load of rubbish. “We’ve never been competitive,” she tells the world. Whew. That’s a load off our shoulders.
John Richardson, the Wicked Wit of the East, is one of the most distinguished writers of our time, a splendid critic, a superb biographer (Volume I of his four-part Picasso biography won Britain’s coveted Whitbread Prize) and a spellbinding conversationalist. There is really nothing about the worlds, literary and haute, that John doesn’t know — and that he won’t tell you, if he loves you. There’s a book in every little chat on the phone, and if there’s a more desirable dinner guest in the city, point him out to me. No. You’re wrong.
For everyone John loves, there must be 10 who love him and many of them were at Mortimer’s the other night helping him celebrate his 70th birthday. Mortimer’s has had many metamorphoses, as we all know, but for John’s big night, it was transformed into a reasonable facsimile of a literary gent’s library in a charming English country house. The walls of the restaurant were covered with billiard-green felt and hung with photos of John with Picasso in the South of France and — the great crowd-pleaser — John as a lad with his mother, his brother and his sister, rusticating in the English countryside. “I was picking wildflowers,” said John. And he still is.
Under the dark green and white balloons on the ceiling, tables were set with beautiful, fruit-filled crystal and silver compotes and candelabra from James II, all 18th and 19th century, because — really — who needs 20th Century anything. A trio of lady musicians, provided by Peter Duchin, played in the background, and caviar was served by the bucketfuls.
John was seated between two of New York’s most remarkable grandes dames, Brooke Astor (who made a charming little speech extolling him) and Mrs. John Barry (Nin) Ryan, both friends of many years. Next to Brooke sat the young Rory Howard, nephew of the Duke of Norfolk, and next to Rory was Eliza Reed, Annette de la Renta’s striking daughter. Also at John’s table was another of his oldest friends, Stuart Preston, who flew in from Paris especially for the party. Also surrounding the birthday boy were David Mortimer, Sir John Plum, Barbara Epstein, Renata Adler and Arthur Schlesinger. Not a low I.Q. in the bunch.
Everywhere you looked you saw Mercedes and Sid Bass, Annette de la Renta, Donna and Bill Acquavella, Nancy and Henry Kissinger, Bessie de Cuevas, Maxime de la Falaise, David Pleydell Bouverie, Shelley Wanger Mortimer, Diane Von Furstenberg with Barry Diller, Mica Ertegun, Drue Heinz, Brooke Hayward, Peter Duchin, Fernanda and Jamie Niven, Sarah Giles, Katherine Warren, Camilla and Earl McGrath, Beatrice di Monte (who has just joined Vanity Fair as an editor), Johnny Galliher, Brad Gooch, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Linda Wachner, Gita and Sonny Mehta, Bill Lieberman, Ashton Hawkins, Annie Leibovitz, Susan Sontag (who spoke, mellifluously, I might add, of John’s body of work), Robert Silvers, Patricia Patterson, Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, Jerry Zipkin, Boaz Mazor, Robert Denning, Alexandra Schlesinger and Tina Brown.
To say nothing of Frank Richardson, Everett Fahy, Mary McFadden, Bill Blass, Lady Caroline Blackwood and her daughter Ivanna Citkowitz, Bowden Broadwater, Sarah St. George and John Richardson’s Random House editor, Sharon Delano, and others too intellectual to mention. Happy birthday, dear John. Never stop making us laugh.
While John Richardson was thrilling the crowd at Mortimer’s, Robert Altman, the auteurs’ auteur, was celebrating his 69th chez lui in Paris where he and his wife, Katherine, have settled into a house with, as the French say, all the comforts. Of course, if we hear one more time that Altman is in France to direct “Pret-a-Porter,” the movie about the fashion biz, we’re liable to vomir but where there’s an Altman there’s always une publicite formidable. So stay near the basin.
Harry Belafonte has been house-guesting with the Altmans, so naturally he was at the party, as were Anouk Aimee, who stars in “Pret-a-Porter” and Marisa Berenson, who doesn’t. (To date she isn’t even in the movie). The happy guests were served up a catered Chinese dinner, a sort of pret-a-porter because Katherine hasn’t mastered Sino-cookery yet.
Now that the Spaniards have saluted the fashion designer Oscar de la Renta (he received the Spanish Institute’s Gold Medal at the Institute’s recent gala), it’s the French’s turn. On April 13, at its Spring Gala at the Plaza, the French-American Foundation will honor Oscar for enhancing with his talent the relationship between the two countries. You do remember that Oscar learned his trade in Paris — wasn’t it at Antonio Castillo’s knee — and that’s he’s the first American couturier to show his wares there? Dear Oscar.
The evening’s co-chairmen, Mrs. Sid Bass, Mrs. Walter Curley, Mrs. Edmund Pillsbury and Mrs. Anastassios Fondaras are already lined up, as are the honorary chairmen, Ambassador Pamela Harriman, the Hon. Anne Cox Chambers, Mrs. Michel David-Weill and Mrs. James Houghton. Not a mouche on the bunch.
It was Shirley Cowell, the cornstarch heiress who writes beautiful songs, who got her friend Lena Horne back in a recording studio. Shirley’s not only the executive producer of Lena’s record, “We’ll Be Together Again,” due out May 9 for Blue Note, but she has written the tune, “Day Follows Day,” Lena sings with John Mathis, the record’s only duet. The famous Broadway director George Abbott wrote the lyrics for “Day Follows Day,” and that fabulous man, 106 years of age, is flying from his home in Florida to New York next week for the opening performance of the Broadway revival of his “Damn Yankees” and the party afterward, where he might even dance. In his day, no one, but no one, looked better on the floor.
Linda and Paul McCartney and the kids flew off for a little vacation at their favorite Caribbean hideaway, Round Hill in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It will tickle you all over to hear that they arrived in time for the Sugar Cane Ball at Round Hill, one of the island’s really big social affairs. This year the theme was “Sea Horses and Underwater Friends,” and the ladies dressed in colors of the ocean. Some of them even tried to make waves. (Dreadful joke, but true). Anyhow, along with the McCartneys, the guests included Prince and Princess Lorenzo Borghese, in from Italy, Rhode Island Governor Bruce Sundlun, the Duke of Maural from Spain, several English swells, Joan and Joe Cullman and 238 others just like them.