The Reign in Spain * Whitney’s Real Life * Chanel’s Sweet Suite

Gwyneth Paltrow, one of the girls who some say has everything, now has even more. She has been given a beautiful piece of property on which to build her dream house, overlooking that proverbial plain in Spain, near Toledo, by the Cano family with whom she lived as a foreign exchange student in 1987. The Canos consider her part of the family and Gwyneth has visited them regularly ever since. Last spring she even brought her beau, Chris Martin, home to meet them. Paltrow loves Spain, which she feels is far away from the glaring spotlights of New York, Hollywood and London. Now she is shopping around for the right architect.

This story first appeared in the November 7, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Gwyneth, you may or not know, once dated Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe for about five minutes. But that’s ancient history since the news last week that Felipe, 35, is engaged to marry Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, a 31-year-old brunette beauty who presents the evening news on Spanish television. The Zarzuela Palace made the announcement, which took the country by complete surprise. The wedding will take place next summer in Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral. Although Letizia is not of royal or noble blood, the news has been enthusiastically welcomed by Spaniards everywhere, including snooty Spanish society. They say she will be “a perfect contemporary queen for the 21st century.” Caramba!

Zara Phillips, 22, Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter and the daughter of Anne, the Princess Royal, dazzled the crowd as she arrived at the London premiere of “Seabiscuit” last week in a sexy black evening dress with a plunging neckline and a half-a-million-dollar diamond necklace, probably not her own. She was escorted by her brother, Peter Phillips, and it was no surprise to see her there, as she is such a keen equestrian and proceeds from the night went to horse-racing charities. But some royal watchers were surprised that she was without her boyfriend, Richard Johnson, who is a famous jump jockey. Zara pointedly announced, “Richard and I haven’t seen much of each other recently.” Sure, but it probably won’t be long before his saddle is filled.

At the premiere, she was surrounded by young admirers, including one who was seen leaving his date to write his phone number on an invitation and slip it into Zara’s handbag. Some kettle of fish.

Lily Safra, known as the richest woman in the world, will be in New York on Nov. 16 to open the new Edmond J. Safra hall in honor of her late husband. The dedication ceremony and dinner will take place at the Museum of Jewish Heritage with a special tribute by Sir Elton John. Lily and the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra are also requesting the pleasure of certain people’s company at Carnegie Hall on Dec. 15 for the orchestra’s concert with Zubin Mehta conducting and Itzhak Perlman on the violin. The co-chairmen of the evening are Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis and Lauren and John Veronis, and among the vice chairmen are Evelyn and Leonard Lauder, Jo Carole and Ronald Lauder and Elizabeth and Felix Rohatyn.

Whitney Tower Jr. is very alive and very well and very married and living in Palm Beach, Fla., working at a very real job at the Wally Findlay Galleries. In April, he and the lovely interior designer, Dana Dodd, of the Pittsburgh family, married at a small do at Friendfield Plantation in South Carolina, which belongs to his mother, Francie Train. No one relates the families’ foibles as humorously as dear Whitney does. He is the aristocrat’s private stand-up comedian and has entertained the Biddle/Drexel/Whitney/Vanderbilt crowd on many an evening. He is writing an article for Vanity Fair called “Sort-of Working,” anecdotes about the jobs he’s had in the name of his “recovery.” Between the local zoo, movie usher and car wash employee, the most fulfilling and most fun of his life was spending eight hours a day “making old people laugh” in a nursing home in the heartland. Bravo, Whitney.

Salvador Assael, the chairman of Assael International Inc., known as the “Pearl King,” is announcing with extreme pleasure his recent affiliation with Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia as a member of his firm with the title of vice president and creative director.

You all know Dimitri. His previous titles were senior vice president of Sotheby’s and international director of jewelry at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, and he is the creator of his own line of jewelry, called “Prince Dimitri,” noted for his signature look achieved by mounting all sorts of semiprecious stones in unique designs. Assael International, renowned for having introduced to the jewelry industry the highly prized Tahitian Natural Color South Sea Cultured Pearl, will now, with the advent of its association with Prince Dimitri, undertake the worldwide distribution of a superb line of pearled jewelry, designed by Dimitri and featuring what they are calling “the new look of pearls.” The designs are not only different, but bold and very, very chic. The collection will have its debut Dec. 2 at HSBC Republic on Fifth Avenue.

Ann and Kirk Douglas, Robert Wagner, Jill St. John and Edie Wasserman were all at the annual dinner of the Motion Picture and Television Home in Los Angeles, to which, believe me, they have devoted so much time and money. The Douglases created the Alzheimer’s Wing on the Wasserman Campus, which is the central part of the Home. Kirk told the guests at the dinner that “if the food is as good every night as it is tonight, I’m moving in.” Maybe he means it.

Chanel and its big man, Arie Kopelman, will toast Venetian Heritage at a gala dinner in the Chanel Suite on Thursday, created by renowned chef Michel Roth of the Ritz in Paris. Victoria Traina, Nan Kempner and Bettina Zilkha, along with Muffie and Donald Miller, Tory and Christopher Burch and Alexia Hamm Ryan and Baird Ryan, are all expected to be there. They and more just like them will bear witness to a dazzling spectacle of lights sparkling over three thousand, five hundred carats of baubles to be unveiled from the Chanel fine jewelry Collection Privée making its U.S. debut in New York and specially flown in from Paris for the evening.

Nine Ballet NY ballerinas, masked and dressed head to toe in black leotards, will emerge from a secret pavilion, seductively winding their way around the crowd, with black and white diamond camellia broaches peeking out from upswept hair and diamond lariats worn around their necks like scarves. Did you ever?

The Ritz menu will feature foie gras with toasted pine nuts and a lovely roast filet of turbot with a lemon crust served on rectangular and square tables covered in shimmering aqua and turquoise linens and laden with gold-trimmed china and flatware, a sort of wink to Mademoiselle Chanel’s apartments at the Ritz overlooking the Place Vendôme.

The board of Venetian Heritage, whose mission is to restore and preserve the treasures of Venice, and its chairman Larry Lovett, should be thrilled by the final course, which will be served with a side of jewels for their viewing pleasure, including a diamond necklace featuring an enormous ruby. Did you ever?

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