Byline: Aileen Mehle

John Kluge, the zillionaire, has become Palm Beach's Grand Acquisitor. The man is shopping till he drops. He has already bought Sir Joseph Nickerson's villa on El Brillo Way and recently acquired Dick Cowell's adjacent house, a Mizener-type stone residence, for $4.8 million. To round out the parcel, he tacked on Betty Frank's house, which abuts the back of his property on Middle Road, for another few mil. And then, because a house is not a home without a bit of beach for building castles in the sand, Kluge up and bought Betty Hanley's oceanfront estate for another five big ones. Dear John.
When you add the figures all together the result is about $16.5 million for the properties, which brings John's stake almost even with the $17 million Nelson Peltz--another very rich man--paid several years ago for just one house, Montsorrel, the late Anita Young's Palm Beach colossus. Montsorrel is now on the market for $75 million--yes, that's $75 million--with no takers. Tell me you're surprised. Anyhow, Palm Beachers are all but ecstatic because with local real estate in the stratosphere, property values are soaring. It takes so little to make the natives happy.

Lady Bird Johnson celebrated her 82nd birthday Saturday night at the brand new National Wildflower Research Center in Austin, the perfect spot for this former First Lady who is now and has always been wildflower-happy. Everyone turned out for the party, among them Texas Governor and Mrs. George Bush, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Mary and Laurance Rockefeller, who could have danced all night--and almost did--to the sweet strains of The Bob Hardwick Sound. Even after the gong sounded for dinner and long after others had left the floor, Mary and Laurance were still at it. Later, both Rockefellers gave a touching toast to Lady Bird, praising her for her humanity and dedication.
Meanwhile, Lady Bird's daughter, Luci Baines, now free from the constraints of wedlock, was no wallflower at the Wildflower fete. No rock number was too frantic for little Luci, who really started strutting her Texas stuff when Hardwick's rock group, Hot Wyck, caught on fire. Dear Luci.
Speaking of Rockefellers, which I, for one, certainly don't mind doing, three generations of that family will take to the dance floor of the Rainbow Room for the International House Dinner Dance on April 24. The Rockefeller contingent will include Peggy and David, Abby Rockefeller O'Neill, David Jr. and Kimberly and Steven. Their progenitor, John D. Rockefeller Jr., founded International House in 1924, so it's all in the family. The chairmen of the evening are Betty and Ed Scripps of all those Scripps League newspapers and Marina and John French. John is the nephew of Mary and Laurance Rockefeller and proof that the family that dances together stays together. As for Betty Scripps, Arnold Scaasi is making her a pink chiffon dance dress to float over the floor in. Watch for her. Expected are such as Nancy Dickerson Whitehead and John Whitehead and, naturally, the vice-chairmen Kathy and Rick Buddenhagen and Daisy and Paul Soros. Your name doesn't have to be Rockefeller to attend this party but did you ever know it to hurt?"We're very good friends and that's all...I shall be very fed up if anyone suggests otherwise--we're not dating and we're not sleeping in the same room. ...We do know how to behave." These are the quotes of Peter Phillips regarding his companion who goes by the name of Penny. Peter Phillips? Who's he? In view of the capers and antic romantic behavior of various relatives, it may come as a shock to learn that so-correct Peter Phillips is the 17 year-old son of the straying Princess Anne and her straying first husband, Captain Mark Phillips, and thus the grandson of the Queen of England.

Someone once said "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players..." Well, all the world was a stage at the Metropolitan Opera's Tenth Anniversary of "On Stage at the Met" Sunday night, and everywhere you looked there were players, big players, as in chairmen and ceo's of some of the biggest companies in the country. This annual party, where guests get to dine and dance on the magnificent stage where world class sopranos and tenors hold sway, is a huge fund-raiser for the opera--those corporate players unstintingly support the Met--and this year's gala raised over $1.1 million. Honored at the party was Texaco, which has sponsored the Met's live radio broadcasts for an incredible 55 years, and Alfred C. DeCrane Jr., Texaco's chairman and ceo.
At least 700 guests sat down to a Glorious Food dinner of caviar tart, filet of beef and hazelnut dacquoise at glorious tables covered in tangerine bengaline with alternating centerpieces of quince, roses and French tulips and enormous moss topiary birds with tails fashioned of white orchids. The towering birds perched on twig bases wrapped in ivy and were meant to be reminiscent of paintings by Chagall, and we all know how birdy he was. In fact, the entire stage was surrounded by the ravishing, colorful sets Chagall painted for the Met's performance of "The Magic Flute," and the crowd loved it. Philip Baloun was responsible for the decor, and the Met's Joyce Guyer and Jerry Hadley sang larks (birds again) during dinner. The dinner chairmen were Frank A. Bennack Jr. of The Hearst Corporation and Thomas S. Murphy of Capital Cities/ABC.
The guiding spirit and the reason for the success of these on-stage parties is Mrs. Ezra Zilkha, the fetching Cecile, who is the Met's chairman of special events and real humdinger. The fetching humdinger wore a beautiful blue silk crepe Oscar de la Renta evening dress to the dinner and draped a jeweled sapphire belt by Yves Saint Laurent around her waist. "Mix and match," said she. And this is who was there: Mme. Claude Pompidou, a former First Lady of France with her grandson Thomas Pompidou, the French Ambassador to Washington and Mme. Jacques Andreani, the French Ambassador to the UN Jean Bernard Merimee, Diandra Douglas, the Italian Minister of Commerce Mario D'Urso, Brooke Astor with Sir John Plumb, Bill Blass, Mercedes and Sid Bass, Jerry Zipkin, Chris and Bruce Crawford, Carroll Petrie, Barbara Walters and Sen. John Warner, Luella Bennack, Helen Gurley Brown and David Brown, Lady Dudley, Oscar de la Renta, the Roy Bostocks, Patricia Patterson, Linda Wachner, Doda Voridis, the Joseph Volpes, the Ronald Skateses, Gil Shiva, Joan DeCrane, Michael Bungey, Joanna and Sidney Poitier, Gahl and Richard Burt, Schuyler Chapin, Mrs. Donald Zilkha, Ezra Zilkha, the Peter Goulandrises, Mrs. Gilbert Humphrey, the John D. Ongs, Jamie Niven, Georgette Mosbacher, Judy and Ed Ney, Suzanne Murphy, the Paul Montrones, Liz and Damon Mezzacappa, Willow Bay and Robert Iger, the Breene Kerrs (they're deep in oil), the Willis Kings, Charles R. Lee, Joan Rivers and Orin Lehman, Barbara and Bobby Liberman, the Alton Peterses, Kenneth Pinkston, the one and only John Richardson, Richard Santulli, the Chuck Scarboroughs, the A.J.C. Smiths, the John Staffords, the Joseph Volpes and others too corporate to mention.

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