Byline: Aileen Mehle

Here's a little story to take your mind off health care for a minute. It even took Hillary Rodham Clinton's mind off that and more--while it lasted. It seems Barbra Streisand raved and raved to Hillary about the beauties of Gore Vidal's cliff-side villa in Ravello and how she must see it on her visit to Italy. Hillary's curiosity must have been piqued, because during her recent Italian trip with President Clinton, Hillary, along with Chelsea, made a special pilgrimage to see Gore and his breathtaking house, and in 98-degree heat, dear God. Another reason for the side trip might have been a chance to take a peek at all the Jackie Kennedy Onassis memorabilia Gore has gathered through the years. Like millions of the rest of us, Hillary was and is fascinated by Jackie, so this could have been a lure.
The bottom line is Hillary, Chelsea and the Secret Service never got as far as the main house, a half-mile hike from downtown Ravello, hell in that heat, but had to settle for Gore's pool house, which is at least a quarter of a mile closer to the town square. (No, you can't take a car to the place; there are no roads.) So Gore lugged all the pictures and mementos of Jackie he had kept through the years to the pool house where he and Hillary spent several hours under an umbrella, eating, drinking, gossiping and perusing the Jackie collection. One hears that later that evening, Gore, Hillary and Chelsea went to a Wagner concert in the Ravello piazza. If you believe the gossip, hours earlier Hillary had canceled a date to visit the ballet in Naples that same night with Italy's First Lady, la bella Signora Berlusconi. La bella donna was left to cool her stiletto heels without our own First Lady in a totally un-air-conditioned theater. Peccato!

A British literary scandal that simply refuses to die involves Margaret, the late Duchess of Argyll, she of the roiling libido, and a book about her, an unauthorized biography called "The Duchess Who Dared." And that she did.
The London publishers, Sidgwick & Jackson--an imprint of MacMillan, the English publishing house, not to be confused with the American firm--had planned to publish the first of several books about the flamboyant third wife of the Scottish Duke of Argyll, whose lurid divorce from the Duke enveloped London high society in flames. Cited in the suit were some of the biggest male names in town, all accused of being privy to Margaret's favors--or favours, if you will. But the literary house has hit a snag in the persons of the Duchess's two children by her American first husband, Charlie Sweeny. They are Brian Sweeny, an investment counselor who used to live in New York and hang out with the smart young set in the Sixties, and Brian's sister Frances, the Duchess of Rutland. Threatening suit, the siblings have surfaced with a signed agreement by the biography's author, Charles Castle, executed in 1974, agreeing never to make use of tapes and interviews with the Duchess that he had conducted during a long professional relationship as the proposed ghostwriter of Margaret's autobiography.
Apparently, the stormy, self-willed Duchess, once the heiress to the Scottish Wigham fortune, didn't like what Castle had put on paper and ceremoniously fired him--sacked him if you will. But not before first obtaining the agreement in question, which guaranteed never to use the information unless he continued as the author of her memoirs.
The children sent their mother's executor to Sidgwick & Jackson to go over the galley proofs line by line. One hears the material was highly combustible and very blue, involving picking up men in bars, etc., and inviting them to her lovely landmark Queen Anne house plus references to a distressing health problem the Duchess suffered for several years. In the face of monumental legal and financial risks, Sidgwick & Jackson have shelved the book, at least for the moment. It was to have been published last Monday!

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