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Athina Roussel, who turns 21 in January, has started a legal battle to take control of the multibillion-dollar Onassis Foundation, which her grandfather, shipping mogul Aristotle Onassis, created to donate money to scientific research and the arts. Onassis established the foundation after his son, Alexander, was killed in a plane crash in 1973, and endowed it with half of his fortune. The other half went to his daughter, Christina Onassis Roussel, who died in 1988, and was held in trust for Athina, who received $2.7 billion when she turned 18 in 2003.
The foundation’s board announced last month that it was amending one of its statutes, which originally stated that the foundation’s president must be at least 21 years old and a descendent of its creator. Now the statute states that the foundation president need not be an heir of Onassis, but must only have a majority vote from the board, which is made up of descendants of the original members.
Athina, who lives in São Paulo, Brazil, with her 32-year-old fiancé, Brazilian horseman Alvaro de Miranda Neto, always has had mixed feelings about her heritage. She once wanted to forget the name Onassis, saying, “It is the cause of all the problems.” But she obviously is not ready to forget the money and power, not for a minute.
Athina is accusing the foundation of “staging a coup” against her and it reacted to her actions last week by claiming she is “seeking to violate the expressed desire of Aristotle Onassis as recorded in his will,” adding that it will “defend Onassis’ memory and will in court.” Let the games begin.
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are talking about having a Christmas wedding, so they say. Noël is their favorite holiday and it’s the only time their hectic schedules allow them to calm down a teensy-weensy bit. Are they really planning a big wedding with both their families and Hollwood friends, such as Kelly Preston and John Travolta, Juliette Lewis and Lisa Marie Presley, on the guest list? Katie says she will take her husband’s last name after they marry. And Tom wants her to use the name Kate instead of Katie, so how does Kate Cruise sound to you?
This story first appeared in the September 14, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
As you read here, this summer, Beverly Hills was the bomb. Betsy Bloomingdale is, as ever, the reigning hostess in those parts. And so it was that her smart little dinner for visiting Prince Rupert Loewenstein and his wife, Princess Josephine, (Rupert is the manager of the Rolling Stones) was a magnet for Nancy Reagan — looking wonderful in a white organza blouse and a full flowered skirt — and Connie Wald, on this year’s best-dressed list, in a floaty black frock (you can see Betsy and Connie in Italian Vogue, photographed by Bruce Weber). It didn’t seem to matter that the lights went out during dinner (this was all before the big-time Los Angeles blackout on Monday). Betsy just called in her resident, handy Mr. Fix-It, who found the faulty fuse just in time to light up the meat loaf. Among the guests were Betsy’s son, Robert Bloomingdale, and his absolutely darling wife, known as Honey Bear, and New York’s suave Alex Hitz, who is building a house fairly nearby with New York’s suave Pierre Durand.
Betsy wore Oscar de la Renta’s diaphanous coral caftan. Pants go with this floaty thing, but Betsy’s hadn’t arrived from Oscar yet. So the brave girl braved her dinner party without them. You couldn’t exactly see through it, but the guests absolutely loved it, and with her long legs, why not?
Pop star Alicia Keys will make a special appearance at the kickoff party for the Black Ball, a benefit for Keep A Child Alive at Cain on Thursday. Expected are Gwen Stefani, Marcia Gay Harden and Brandy. The co-chairmen are Iman, Valesca Hermès-Guerrand, Emilia Fanjul and Douglas Hannant, who will show his spring collection earlier in the day in Bryant Park with Amanda Hearst, Patty Raynes and Tinsley Mortimer in the front row.
If you love Placido Domingo (and who doesn’t?) and if Hollywood means generic glamour to you (does it really?) the biggest deal in town was the gala opening night last Saturday of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. It celebrated the orchestra’s 20th anniversary and the local music lovers loved it.
Placido, Mr. Charm himself and the orchestra’s director, is known for persuading Hollywood’s top directors to try their talent at directing opera themselves. So it was that Garry Marshall took over the Offenbach rarity “The Grand Duchess,” rewriting the operetta’s dialogue with his trademark humor and bringing along such friends for the fun as his sister, Penny Marshall, and Al Pacino, music lovers without equal, to be sure.
The lovely mezzo soprano Frederica von Stade sang the starring role and Emanuel Villaume conducted the performance, giving it an authentically French flavor that made the audience cheer and roar with laughter. Quelle Gloire!
After all that, the thrilled guests swept into the Music Center Plaza for a dinner for 500 in a faux enchanted forest and a band of fabulous resilience to keep things hot. Among the guests were the indefatigable Mary Hayley, who, listen to this, designed and planned every last eency-weency detail her very own self. Also in the crowd were Selim Zilkha; the great collector and philanthropist Eli Broad with his wife, Edythe Carol; Frank Biondi; Wendy Stark; Jennifer Conlon (she is the wife of the Los Angeles Opera’s incoming music director, Maestro James Conlon); Kelly and Robert Day, and hundreds more just like them.
Placido lifted his voice in song, celebrating the company’s 20th anniversary, while the guest’s joined him in a full-throated rendition of “Happy Anniversary” to the company. And that’s not all. The following afternoon, Franco Zeffirelli‘s opulent production of “Pagliacci” filled the opera’s stage with what seemed like hundreds listening to maybe opera’s most glamorous couple, tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Angela Gheorghiu. Oh, and also on hand to celebrate everything was Placido’s wife, Marta, an opera director in her own right who will direct the company’s sumptuous production of “La Traviata.” And right here in New York, our very own Metropolitan Opera will celebrate its opening night with a gala production of “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “Tosca” and “Samson et Dalila,” conducted by James Levine.
Such a dazzlement.