The invitation read: Mrs. Laura Bush requests the pleasure of your company at a luncheon in honor of Nancy Reagan at the White House. Now what lady in her right mind — it was a ladies lunch — would not be thrilled to receive an invitation like that? It was an intimate gathering for just 30 ladies who love and admire Nancy for the wonderful first lady she was and her devotion, courage and conduct during a harrowing travail that would have broken the spirit of many a lesser woman.

Although Nancy has been a close friend for years, since the days when Ronald Reagan was governor of California, I had never met Laura Bush before and, believe me, she is a sight to see. Although she is photogenic in print and on TV, nothing quite prepares you for the real article. She is a beauty with thick dark hair, twinkling blue eyes (even though she says she can’t see a thing without contact lenses), perfect teeth and a smile that lights up the whole White House.

And what a gracious and charming lady, and how admiring she is of Nancy. In her touching speech at the table, she said reminders of Nancy’s presence and vestiges of her great taste still remain in the White House and that it was a great honor to have her back there once again. (One touch of Nancy that remains was the beautiful red china, which she brought to the White House and on which luncheon was served.)

During lunch, Laura and Nancy made light of their evacuation of the White House to safe quarters when that stupid little plane wandered into forbidden territory. “We were only there for 10 minutes, but it was a first time for me,” said Nancy, who was watching her interview with Diane Sawyer when she was told, really commanded, to “get out — get out.” She didn’t know what she was getting out for. She got out. And fast.

Before going upstairs to lunch in the beautiful, small gold and white dining room, the guests mingled in the lobby at the East Entrance. As I mentioned on Friday, white was the big color, and it seemed everyone who wasn’t wearing white was wearing a Chanel suit. But not Betsy Bloomingdale, Nancy’s closest friend and a veteran of the best-dressed list. She was in a beige and white lightweight short jacket designed by Douglas Hannant she had just bought at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. Not Carolina Herrera, who was terminally chic in a black and white suit by C.H. Lynn Wyatt wore her black and white Chanel, the one with the black bow at the collar. Maria Hummer, the stunning lawyer who is married to Reagan family friend Bob Tuttle, wore a raspberry pink suit that just matched the raspberry creme brulee dessert. Buffy Cafritz, the popular Washington hostess, was in Ralph Rucci’s smart, beige jacket. They all looked spiffy, like the spiffy ladies they are. They included Cecile Zilkha, at Laura Bush’s right; Lily Safra, at the same table; Mary Hayley; Karyn Frist, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist; Linda Bond, the wife of Sen. Kit Bond; Casey Ribicoff; Gayle Wilson, the former first lady of California; Mary Jane Wick, another of Nancy’s closest friends; Catherine B. Reynolds; the Hon. Sheila Burke; Catherine Stevens, the wife of Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska; Deborah Rogers; Barby Allbritton; Diane Sawyer; Anne Peterson; Catherine Busch; Debbie Lanni; Carol Laxalt; Marion Jorgensen; Randi Hegeler; Ruth Jones; Ambassador Selwa (Lucky) Roosevelt; Genny Ryan; Marion Scharffenberger; Gahl Burt, and Robin Parsky of Rancho Santa Fe. They were seated at tables blooming with peonies, that red china and shining silver.

This story first appeared in the May 18, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Nancy, in a little white suit, and Laura, in an oatmeal-colored one, greeted their guests when they came upstairs and saw to it that each one of them posed for a photo standing between the two first ladies. That was a nice gesture and a perfect souvenir, wouldn’t you say?

There were four tables in the dining room and Laura and Nancy sat at the same one, where they again saw to it that everyone at the table signed their menu cards to keep as another souvenir, another nice gesture. I was seated with both first ladies, which is the reason I can tell you all this and why I can tell you once more that the new White House chef is a star because of his menu of chilled avocado soup with spiced Maine shrimp; potato-crusted yellowtail snapper; arugula, cress, chicory and teardrop tomato salad; lemon mousse, and raspberry creme brulee with kiwi sauce. There were a lot of clean plates at that lunch.

Listen, this country needs Laura Bush.

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Catherine Deneuve, who says she has never disrobed for the camera, was recently in New York for a screening of her new movie “Le Temps Qui Changent” (“The Changing Times”) co-starring Gerard Depardieu. Catherine says she hates nudity in cinema because it’s so crass. “For me, the most beautiful love scenes are the ones that leave something to the imagination.” She has said that, even as a spectator she finds it hard to watch nude scenes because she only sees the person, not the character. “I think my career has gone on so long because I have never given anything away.” Does anyone here remember “Belle de Jour”?

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Heidi Klum says she will save the Vera Wang ivory, chantilly lace gown she wore to marry Seal in Mexico last week for her daughter Leni, by Italian playboy Flavio Briatore. She will keep it in the little girl’s hope chest. The wedding dress with its Empire waist did a pretty good job disguising the fact that she’s four months’ pregnant by Seal. You should know that she is now redecorating a room for Leni and adding a nursery to the love nest the couple has in Careyes, right around the corner from where they were married.

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