Soraya Bakhtiari, who married Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran in 1951 and became his Empress, but was divorced by him just a few years later for failing to produce an heir, died in her Paris apartment last Christmas. She left an estate worth $75 million to her brother, Bijan. It included property, investments, an exquisite wardrobe, collections of silver and gold plates, paintings, carpets and art work, as well as a Rolls Royce Silver Spur and such jewelry as a fabulous Bulgari sapphire necklace worth more than $1.5 million, and the platinum and diamond engagement ring given to her by the Shah. Prince Bijan himself died just a week after his sister and, since he died intestate and had no direct descendants, the local government of Cologne, Germany, where he lived, appealed for relatives to come forward and claim the estate. About 50 people have since had their petitions rejected and the authorities are now set to hand the inheritance over to the government. They say it will be used to benefit everyone, whatever that means. After her divorce from the Shah, Soraya never married again, although she didn’t want for men, as the tabloids of the world were happy to report to us.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” star Nia Vardalos, last year’s Hollywood Cinderella story, is hoping to score again with “Connie & Carla,” a new movie she has written. She will produce and star in it, along with David Duchovny as her love interest and Toni Collette as her best friend. It’s a comedy with lots of singing and female cross-dressing, like “Some Like It Hot,” or “Tootsie” in reverse. I can wait if you can.
If you’re planning to invite some of England’s top royals to dinner, you might want to make a note that Prince Charles, Viscount Linley and his wife, Serena, are all set to change addresses. Although Charles and his true love, Camilla Parker Bowles, had planned to move into Clarence House, once the home of his grandmother, the Queen Mother, this summer, the renovation and decoration by Robert Kime, overseen by Camilla, of course, is taking longer than expected. So now the happy couple is hoping to move in by the summer.
Charles’ cousin and Princess Margaret’s son, David Linley, and his wife have put their four-story Georgian Terrace town house with five spacious bedrooms on the market after extensive renovations for $4.5 million. They decided it’s not quite private enough, so they are looking for another one with more security that they can remodel. They used the proceeds from the sale of Princess Margaret’s villa on Mustique to buy a country house, a beautiful 19th-century chateau in Provence that they love and escape to whenever they can. Linley also is overseeing a catalog of his mother’s vast collection of Bristol glass, porcelain, silver and paintings, some of which he and his sister, Lady Sarah Chatto, are planning to sell next year. They have already sold Margaret’s custom-made burgundy Rolls Royce with its green leather upholstery and its blue police light perched on the roof. The auction will be a unique chance to buy a piece of Royal life. Just don’t count on seeing any of it on eBay.
The Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, born Serena Belinda Guinness, hit the town last week to show off her oeuvre display, an exhibition of her paintings hosted by the Irish Georgian Society at Manhattan’s Salander-O’Reilly Galleries. The marchioness, known in select circles as Lindy, is the really vivacious daughter of the late multimillionaire, British financier and international social figure, Loel Guinness. Devoted to her art, she paints, for the most part, scenes inspired by the surroundings of what she calls her dreary Irish bog of a house. Mostly they are of cows. (Of course, it isn’t a dreary bog at all, but a fine country house, but you know how marchionesses exaggerate.)
Pursuing her vocation, Lindy nipped off last summer to the Forbes family’s chateau, Balleroy, in Normandy, where the Prince of Wales has installed a painting class for talented and maybe not-so-talented students. There, she met Joan Rivers, who had left the hurly-burly of various appearances at clubs and casinos the world over to pick up a brush and relax. Well, sir, the girls bonded right off. They have a wicked wit in common, and became bosom buddies, painting happily away together.
Which is all by way of saying that when Lindy arrived in New York, Joan gave a big welcoming party in her palatial apartment, where gold and white boiserie and silks and satins abound.
Lindy told Joan that her New York exhibition was mostly paintings of cows. That’s all Joan needed. She called in party designer Preston Bailey, who proceeded to plunk three life-size cows made of silver petals and orchids and thousands of flowers down to the last udder, as it were, on each of the three dinner tables. Among the amazed guests were Evelyn and Leonard Lauder, Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Robert Higdon, Muffie Potter Aston and Dr. Sherrell Aston, Blaine and Robert Trump, fashion critic of the New York Times Cathy Horyn and many more just like them, but more of all this, guests and cows alike, in another column.
President Bush and Laura Bush have said yes to Betty Scripps Harvey, who asked them to serve as honorary patrons of the Washington Opera Ball on June 6. Betty is the general chairman of the ball, which will be held at the residence of the new French ambassador, Jean-David Levitte, and Madame Levitte. In this case — hands across the sea and all that — it seems that art has triumphed over politics. Or could it have anything to do with the fact that Betty’s mother was French? Whatever, Arnold Scaasi is making Betty a pink delight to wear with her rubies and diamonds. What else would you wear to the first ball at the French Ambassador’s residence? The Levittes’ dining room has dark green lacquered walls and the chairs are upholstered in apricot velvet and who else would tell you these things?