By  on March 18, 1994

You say you want a party? I'll give you a party. How about this one?

London is rejoicing in an early spring. The first signs were about a million daffodils pushing up their sunny heads in The Mall. They were all planted, you see, to come out just in time to celebrate the 250th birthday of Sotheby's, a British institution that is as much a part of the glamorous art scene in Europe as in the United States.

The head planter of this "host of golden daffodils" was Denny Wyndham, the young, aristocratic Etonian cricketer who is the new chairman of Sotheby's in London. He's the brother of Jane Churchill of the Marlborough set (she was once married to the Duke of Marlborough's younger brother Lord Charles Spencer-Churchill), and snappy Denny's first job was as assistant gardener to the Queen Mum. Can you bear it?

But what's a birthday without a cake and flowers? So Sotheby's came up with the mother of all cakes, an enormous white concoction pierced by spring flowers. This huge pastry was carried down New Bond Street in a coach and four by liveried horsemen -- would I prevaricate? -- and it stopped traffic all the way to Oxford Street. It was borne through Sotheby's double doors, this giant confection sprouting cherry blossoms, immense Dutch tulips and pink carnations, to be cut by the chairman of all the Sotheby's, A. Alfred Taubman, the Detroit shopping center mogul who turned a distinguished, if slightly lethargic, auction house into big business.

The real party, though, was the night before, given by Alfred and his wife, Judy, in the Peter Wilson Gallery, named after the late, legendary Sotheby's chairman who made Sotheby's the center of the art world. There were 250 guests, made up of some of the most prominent art collectors in the world and spiced up by a crowd of European royals, nobles and aristocrats, English grandees and American tycoons.

But if the hosts were American, the party couldn't have been more British, from the butler in a tailcoat with decorations, who called out all the grand names, to the Scotch Guard. (For those who think this is a company whose mission is to repel stains from upholstery, shame on you.) This is an ancient British regiment, which, in this case, supplied all the music for the party. As Alfred and Judy (in a beaded black sheath and a beautiful flower brooch) greeted the guests, these good-looking soldiers played light chamber music on their fiddles and flutes while the swells talked about the revival of the art market (oh, joy unbounded!) and the end of the recessions. Really?Among the art crowd, there were oodles of Patinos, including Jimmy, Jorge Ortiz-Patino, whose exhibition of antiquities is currently dropping them dead at the Royal Academy, and the exotic Countess Albina de Boisvouvray, most of whose blood is Patino. Then there were Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, all the Saatchis, Mick and Muck Flick and a raft of Rothschilds, including Evelyn, Lord Jacob and Kate, who deals in drawings.

Also on hand was Prince Edouard de Lobkowicz, a half-American Harvard graduate who was just given back the great family treasures and houses by the Czech government. Prince Eddie and his Kentucky-born mother, Princess Anita Lobkowicz, looked deliriously happy! That this day should ever come!

After a booming announcement that "Their Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Lords and Ladies" could now have their supper, there was a slow shuffle up the flower-bedecked stairs to the great hall, where chandeliers dripped sprays of blossoms and where tables were all but smothered in towering red tulip centerpieces. Ascending the staircase were Britain's Princess Alexandra and, dripping in pale pink sapphires, the Spanish Infanta, Dona Pilar, Duchess of Badajoz, sister of King Juan Carlos, who carries her titles with charm and grace. Joining them were Prince and Princess Ernst of Hanover and Princess Georg Furstenberg. Ja wohl.

As for the English nobility, probably the next time so many will be gathered in one room will be at Prince Charles's coronation if and when he makes it to the throne -- and if they're all still alive. Everywhere you looked there was the Duke of Marlborough and his good-natured Swedish Duchess Rosita; Mary, Countess of Bessborough (who will be in Palm Beach at Easter visiting her niece Pauline Boardman); Viscount and Viscountess Blakenham; Viscount Camrose; the Marquess of Cholmondeley; Lord and Lady Egremont; the Marquess and Marchioness of Hartington; the Countess of Portsmouth, that sort of thing.Among the Spanish contingent was the Count of Orgoz, whose ancestors were painted by El Greco, if you don't mind.

After a delicious meal of mushroom mousse with asparagus and baby spring lamb, still another crew of marvelous looking Scots in red uniforms, led by a bandmaster in black tassels, serenaded the guests and certainly didn't forget to play "God Save the Queen" (who was on her way back from Bermuda) while the room stood in silence.

You should know that the walls of the grand room were lined with the most valuable paintings that Sotheby's will sell in the months to come. And that Al Taubman's speech touched such topics as Winston Churchill and the trans-Atlantic alliance. And that the auction house is older than the United States. And that after all that, big tall bagpipers scattered about the room in their fun hats played a dirge (the Duke of Windsor would have loved it!) and, as if that were not quite enough, after dinner a regimental band did a tattoo -- which is what the British call a parade, sort of. Why, if everybody hadn't all been so dressed up they would have all rushed off to fight for the Queen! Including the Americans there -- Anne and Deane Johnson, Marjorie and Max Fisher (the Taubmans' old friends from Palm Beach), Carol Price, whose husband, Charles, was a former ambassador to the Court of St. James's, Alexis Gregory of New York and Paris, extremely rich merchant Leslie Wexner, Anne and John Marion and Robert Woolley.

When Mrs. Randolph (Veronica) Hearst's son Carlos Beracasa married Maria Fernanda Vaamonde at the Beracasa family home, La Barraca, in Caracas Thursday, the lovely bride wore a wedding dress by Bill Blass, white gazar with a low neckline and a tulip-shaped skirt. And where the fitted torso gracefully reached the overskirt, the bride pinned her tulip-shaped diamond brooch. A 15-foot train shaped like a tulip leaf and a 12-foot veil were removed after the ceremony. It's the only way, really.The eight little girls who carried the bride's train looked quite adorable in white organza and crowns of small white tropical flowers. It was an indoor ceremony on La Barraca's expansive terraces, where the couple took their vows beneath a gazebo of white orchids and tropical greens while a boys' choir sang. The terrace walls, 20 feet high, were covered in white orchids, tropical flowers and ferns. After the ceremony, the wedding dinner, served on celadon and off-white grosgrain-covered tables with white orchid centerpieces, was held under great white tents (there were 1,000 guests, after all) in the tropical gardens. And there was dancing, of course, to South American music heard throughout the house and lawns.

Veronica Hearst wore oriental red flowing chiffon by Karl Lagerfeld with a fetching corset laced at the waist in back. The groom's sister, Fabiola Beracasa, also wore Lagerfeld, a confection of multi-colored velvet ribbons finished off with a short chiffon skirt. Now that was a wedding.

When Deborah Kerr accepts her Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement Monday night at the Academy Awards, she'll wear a one-of-a-kind turquoise sequin tunic with an ombre chiffon scarf neckline over matching chiffon palazzo trousers, all this designed by Escada Couture. When Michael Stolzenburg, Escada's chief designer, learned about Kerr's award, he immediately sent a design team to her house in Marbella to take her measurements. A stitch in time saves nine -- and gets your outfit seen by billions.

At the gala premiere of the new production of "Otello" Monday night at the Met, Philip Baloun will handle the decor and Glorious Food will handle the pasta and grilled shrimp. Just to let you know you're in good hands.

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