Fiona Irving Donovan, the daughter of Flora Miller Biddle and the great-granddaughter of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and her husband Mark Donovan, the son of the late Hedley Donovan, are on a fast boat to China to adopt a baby girl. Their destination is Shanghai, where the two-month-old baby is waiting for them. Fiona and Mark have already named her Flora Dorothy Donovan after both grandmothers.
Fiona and mother Flora are the only Vanderbilt/Whitneys still on the board at the Whitney Museum and will do anything but anything to help the cause. That’s why, just before leaving, Fiona went through the attic and found one of the famous Gertrude’s vintage pieces to wear with her dress-up pajamas at the Museum’s benefit party in October. It’s a Japanese top Gertrude picked up while in Asia on her world cruise honeymoon, way back when honeymoons were really hot stuff. Flora’s party for the Donovans the other night was not only to announce their China trip, but to celebrate her own crisp new doctorate in art history from Columbia University.
But don’t call her in the morning — unless it’s about the Whitney, and not too early, please.
Sabina and Steve Forbes and Kip and Astrid Forbes of the Forbes media fortune launched their respective darling teen-age daughters, Catherine and Charlotte, in the only way a girl should be launched, on the family yacht, The Highlander. It was a starlight voyage with dinner and dancing and a couple of hundred people, all thrilled to be there. It was one of their last night’s out before leaving for California for Viscount and Viscountess Linley, or David and Serena if you’re on that sort of footing, and what a way to go. (I would tell you Lord Linley, who makes all that beautiful furniture, is Princess Margaret’s son and the apple of her eye, but you’ve had it drummed into you so many times).
Among those helping Catherine and Charlotte celebrate were Princess Olga of Greece, Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, Kimberly and Steven Rockefeller, Lydia and Bob Forbes, Moira Mumma, Chantal and Robert Miller with their darling daughters, Marie-Chantal and Alexandra; Reginald Auchincloss, Florence Peyrelongue, the Rupert Murdoch’s son, Lachlan, and his date Kate Harbin, Robert Higdon, Veronica Hearst, Ruth Kennedy of the Linley entourage and on and on into the starlit night.
So Marylou Whitney, the everywhere-at-once widow of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, has given her last Kentucky Derby Eve party in Lexington, her old Kentucky home, breaking a tradition of several decades. No crying or sniveling, please. Marylou has simply decided to simplify her life. And, along with it, the lives of all those dear, dear people who own horses and stuff and have been traveling back and forth from the Whitney horse farm in Lexington to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville for more years than they care to count. No longer need Whitney houseguests struggle to arise at dawn to catch that private bus that took hours to get them to the Derby on time. Rejoice. Next year, Marylou will co-host the Derby Eve do with Polly Brown in Louisville.
At least Marylou went out with a bang. The theme for her farewell gala was “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” with decor to match. By the time Marylou finished, there was hardly an inch of blue or silver fabric left in the state. A silver moon hung in the big party tent as well as over the atrium, surrounded by about a million stars. Neil Smith and his boys kept them hopping in the tent, and for the sing-alongers there was a piano in the atrium. Marylou wore Scaasi’s paper-thin yellow silk strapless ballgown with her hair in braids, adorned by lily-of-the-valley. Talk about making a statement. You may have heard that she made her entrance to “Younger Than Springtime,” but you know how those Southerners exaggerate. Whatever, after filling her Blue Goose box at the Derby with special friends and flying to the Adirondacks for business meetings, she has now gone fishing. And so would you.
Speaking of Scaasi, Rosemarie Kanzler of the Paris, Buenos Aires and a-divine-house-on-the-sea-in-Greece Kanzlers, who has been dressed by the best in Paris for years, is a new Scaasi devotee. Now in New York for a little visit, Rosemarie wore one of his pink confections to the dinner Anne Slater (smashing in a mostly pink Michael Katz confection) gave for her at Mortimer’s the other night. Anne took over the side room of the restaurant, which was all pink lights and pink apple blossoms with a painted mural of flowering apple trees and crystal lakes. Spring is here.
Everyone ate caviar on corncakes and filet of beef, and the room was full of pretty women and fashion stars. Both the attractive blond Ford sisters, Charlotte and Anne, were there, looking good like heiresses should. Then there was Gloria Vanderbilt in the height of Vanderbilt chic and Jackie Astor Drexel and C.Z. Guest at the top of their form. To say nothing of Marta Corral of Buenos Aires, Helena Hackley and Beatrice Santo Domingo, perennial specials on the fashion plate. It was a night the men had to content themselves with playing supporting roles for a change.
Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti blew into town from California — they needed a New York fix — and on the spur of the moment, the beauteous Marina Palma (wearing a saucy short chiffon vintage Valentino) gave them a party at her splendid apartment, quickly filled with splendid models and their semi-splendid dates when they heard Val and Gian were in town. When you looked beyond the sea of lofty, leggy, lovely girls, including such vedettes as Elle Macpherson and Amber Valletta, you saw such civilians as Liz Mezzacappa, Judy and Al Taubman, Susan and John Gutfreund, Marina and Francesco Galesi, Blaine and Robert Trump, Linda Wachner, Veronica Hearst, Liz Tilberis, Beatrice and Julio Mario Domingo, Betsy Bloomingdale, like that. It just happened to be Valentino’s birthday and while the orchestra in the foyer struck up “Happy Birthday,” a huge white cake with four red Valentino dresses frosted thereon was carried in while the guests sang away. You would have loved it. Going almost — almost — unnoticed in the crowd was one Sharon Stone, who, for some reason or other had de-glamorized herself for the night. She was wearing a pair of those little black round glasses that make you look as though you’re blind, her hair pulled back in disarray and tied with a black ribbon and the sort of black dress that can best be summed up as nothing. Why? She could certainly have done with a touch of makeup — she was wearing none. Even an ice pick would have helped. On the other hand, Elle Macpherson in a long red dress that clung to every inch of her six feet-plus had the room reeling.