Byline: Aileen Mehle

O, Jerusalem! The fashion and the cultural worlds are making tracks to thee.
First there was the breathtaking show of treasures in March at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem which opened with a royal fanfare starring Their Serene Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein and their daughters plus a rash of Rothschilds. (You read about it here). Then Oscar de la Renta and his troupe went trooping over to show their fashion wares. (You read about it here). Last week, the Israel Museum celebrated its 30th birthday under a great white tent attended by 800 of the most glamorous guests you would ever hope to find under canvas. (Read about it here).
So now, they all were gathered in that mammoth marquee dining on salmon tartar and succulent duck filets sweetened with Jaffa oranges when a refined rumble rose through the crowd. There was a revolution, it seemed, going on in Iraq and tanks were on the streets busily trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein. As the saying goes in Jerusalem--was that good or bad for the Jews? Baron Elie de Rothschild and all the illustrious members of his family, his terminally cultivated wife, Liliane, slim and handsome Baron Eric, the more portly Baron Nathaniel and Baroness Nadine, the wife of Baron Edmond, all kept their thoughts to themselves--but nobody needed CNN to tell them what was going on.
And not a soul lost his/her cool. At one table, Shimon Peres, Israel's Prime Minister and the guest speaker of the evening, was surrounded by staff glued to portable phones. At another was popular Daniel Meridor, the former minister of justice and, possibly, the next prime minister. At a third sat the charismatic former mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek. And nobody missed a bite.
Verily, it was business as usual at the gala celebration even though the guests glittered and gleamed so. Eliette von Karajan, the blonde widow of the famous conductor Herbert von Karajan, was discussing music with her old friend, Rolf Lieberman, Europe's opera giant who has run nearly all the great opera houses of the world. Eliette's stunning daughter, Arabelle, was flirting slightly with her pal, Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Baron Heinrich's son, whom she hadn't seen since their skiing days in Gstaad when Lorne was at Le Rosey, the exclusive school for offspring of the world's richest and most prominent families.
In another part of the forest, Lorne's mother, Fiona Thyssen, Heini von Thyssen-Bornemisa's either second or third wife--it's hard to keep up with Heini maritally--was thrilled over her first visit to Israel. Fiona now lives on the island of Rhodes, but she was exclaiming to all that she was now madly in love with beautiful Jerusalem and was asking her powerful Israeli table mates if they could help her find an apartment there. And this from a woman who has seen the world. Twice.
Poor Nadine de Rothschild, who sponsored the evening, wasn't sure which gentleman deserved more of her attention, either the Royal Highness on her right, young, blonde Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, or the Royal Highness on her left, the dark and dashing Adam Czartoryski de Bourbon, head of Poland's very grandest family and a cousin of the Queen of Spain. My dear, the dilemma!
Rosemarie Kanzler, in turquoise embroidered in gold, flew in from Paris for the cultural explosion, as did Countess Francoise de Montaigu of the renowned Gallimard publishing family. The countess was talking about books, books, books with noted author Gregor von Rezzori, known to his chums as Grisha. Grisha, who wrote "Memoirs of an Anti-Semite," is the most pro-Jewish aristocrat imaginable. As a child in Romania, all his little playmates lived in a nearby ghetto and his repertoire of Yiddish songs could fill Tel Aviv's biggest music theater, the Mann Auditorium. Who else would tell you these things?
Henri Samuel, France's grandest decorator, was extolling the virtues of Lyon silk with his American client Susan Gutfreund, whilst her husband John talked finance with such tycoons as Michael Steinhardt, Marshall Cogan, Marco Gabelli, Jack Nash, Elias Zilkha and the one and only Sid Bass. Meanwhile, Mrs. Sid Bass, everlastingly chic in a black dress trimmed in diamonds (well, diamantes, maybe) was telling the art world's John Russell of her passion for the American Academy in Rome while John's wife, the eloquent lecturer Rosamond Bernier, charmed one of the evening's ringleaders, investment whiz Gilbert de Botton, the chairman of London's Global Asset Management. De Botton, who had sponsored a fabulous exhibition of princely collections at the Israel Museum, decided to invite his closest and richest 200 friends to see it. (And perhaps to discuss how to make even more money--not that any of them need it).
Mrs. de Botton, the fetching Janet, a director of Christie's and one of England's most important modern art collectors, chatted things artistic with Richard Oldenburg, the former director of New York's Museum of Modern Art and now chairman of Sotheby's, New York, and with Lionel Pissaro, the grandson of the only Jewish Impressionist painter--and how many of you knew that? Other art denizens milling about were Arnie Glimcher, an owner of New York's giant Pace Wildenstein Gallery, Jan Mitchell, whose marvelous collection of pre-Columbian gold is one of the dazzlers of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, dealers Marianne Krugier and Steve Mazoh, John and Paul Herrings (who advise the Lauder family on its collections), Christie's Stephen Lash and others too involved with the higher things in life to mention.
As the museum is opening a new multi-million dollar Old Master gallery any moment--all paid for by Dutch painting dealer Herman Shickman (who has a priceless Rembrandt and a Caravaggio hanging in his New York apartment)--there were lots of Old Master types about, Bob Haboldt of New York and Paris, Jack Kilgore, Marco Grassi, probably the greatest picture restorer in the world who used to take care of Heini Thyssen's fabled collection, Alexis Kugel of Paris's Faubourg St. Honore and Bruno Meissner of Zurich, who just sold a $10 million Bellotto to Washington's National Gallery of Art.
Though you must be reeling from all these swell names, please hang in there for a few more--Baron Urich von Rosen with his Swedish compatriot Charlotte Bonnier (the Bonniers are the Swedish Rothschilds), Sir David and Lady Gibbons, Sir Alan and Lady Walters, the ubiquitous David Metcalfe, Raine deChambrun (once the Princess of Wales' stepmother, who was invited by the Jerome Fishers of New York and Palm Beach), the Colombian zillionaire Julio Mario Santo Domingo, the Marquis Pierre de Segur, the former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S, Moshe Arad, the decorative Israeli Irith Landeau and God knows who else.
And if you were wondering how in God's name they all got there, well, it was really the concoction of Alexis Gregory, the New York writer and publisher of Vendome Press. Alexis guest-curated the Museum's March show, and when it came time to do this one--which contains glories from six of the greatest private collections in the world: Liechtenstein, Rothschild, Thyssen, Czartoryski, Gilbert and a book collector who wishes to remain secret--Alexis went to Gilbert de Botton for the money and got it. De Botton invited those select 200, the Museum chose 300 of its friends and, to sweeten the pot, Alexis Gregory came along with 30 of his friends, none of whom had been to Israel. Now they just love it. They always say converts are the most convinced, don't they?
But enough culture shock for one day. In Friday's column, look for a bit more with a smattering of stars of stage and screen thrown in and a dash of the doings of the local socials for good measure. I can wait if you can.

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