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The Ladies in Red * Nicole’s Gender Confusion * Fond of Fonda

If you were the famous artist Ellsworth Kelly and you were celebrating your 80th birthday — even if you didn’t look it — wouldn’t you be thrilled if the Whitney Museum of American Art gave you a big birthday gala to tell you how much they loved you? With a house so packed you had to use your wiles, if not your elbows, to get through the crowd? And wouldn’t you be tickled Ellsworth-Kelly-pink if your friend Dionne Warwick trilled gems by Burt Bacharach from the museum stage, where she asked you to join her, and you did and gave her a big kiss and whispered in her ear, “You devil you?”

This story first appeared in the October 22, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Well, you’re not Ellsworth Kelly and he is, and he had a grand time on his big night at the Red Ball. And, listen to this, it was the biggest and most glamorous gala ever at the museum and raised more than $2 million.

Done up in dazzling red by Colin Cowie and lighted by Bentley Meeker, the Emily Fisher Landau Galleries, where the multitudes sat down to dinner, could have been the Red Sea. Almost all the ladies were done up in shades of red, and even a few fearless gentlemen wore red bow ties. Hilary Swank all but stole the show, in a red-hot chiffon number that she must have been tied into, as the skintight dress by Donna Karan had knots in all the right places.

The chairmen of the night were Susan and John Hess, Evelyn and Leonard Lauder (he’s the chairman of the Whitney) and Sir Evelyn and Lady de Rothschild. Rose Marie Bravo, who has made Burberry an international brand of brands, was the dinner chairman; among the sponsors were Veronica Hearst, another figure of fashion, in red-as-a-rose-red. Alexandra von Furstenberg was escorted by her English boyfriend Tim Jeffries as she has been for the past several months. Others in the crowd were Carolina Herrera; Vera Wang; Stephanie Seymour; Deborah Norville; Pamela Dennis; Dan Akroyd with his wife, Donna Dixon; Donna and Bill Acquavella; Lisa Jackson in Vera Wang; stylish Sally Albermarle; Edgar Bronfman Jr. and his beautiful wife, Clarissa, in gold beads; Jacqueline and Max Anderson, the former museum president, and its new president Robert Hurst with his wife, Soledad. Among the artists were Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Bryce Marden, Richard Serra and Frank Stella.

Do you want to hear anything more about Nicole Kidman? That’s what I thought. But anyhow, she’s taking a page from Katharine Hepburn’s and Marlene Dietrich’s books and telling her friends that she wants to play a male role in a film. After all, Hilary Swank won an Oscar doing just that. Nicole recalls that when she was girl in Australia, her father wanted sons but got daughters. She keeps all these memories in a secret diary in which she writes every day. And although it would probably be worth a fortune to the tabloids, she swears that nobody will ever see it. “Before I die, I’ll burn it all. The thoughts and feelings I have will be gone forever. I don’t want that world to exist after I’m gone.” Nicole also says — and so does everyone else — that she has become a new woman since ending her 10-year marriage to Tom Cruise, able to pay more attention to their two children and her career. “I tried to deny that acting was a part of me for 10 years of my life, and for all those years I devoted my passion to the man at my side. I fell in love, I wanted to devote myself to him, to lose myself in him. I know that sounds strange, given my feminist upbringing.” And that is that. This is one smart star, but she might want to rethink playing a man, even given the feminist upbringing.

It looks like Farrah Fawcett will open after all on Broadway in “Bobbi Boland” as scheduled on Nov. 4. It will open at the Cort Theatre and is directed by the brilliant David Esbjornson, who directed Edward Albee’s “The Goat or Who is Sylvia?” last season. But for a while there, it looked like touch-and-go. After beginning rehearsals, a week went by during which Farrah realized the character wasn’t written as she originally thought it would be, the one she agreed to play. The changes in the character already had begun to take place before rehearsals started, but when they didn’t revert to the original characterization, Farrah threatened to pack up her bags and go back to L.A. Now everything seems smooth after hours and hours of talking and going forth with Farrah, the writer Nancy Hasty and Esbjornson.

You’ve heard that Jane Fonda had to audition for a role she wanted in James Brooks’ upcoming “Spanglish” and didn’t get the part. On the other hand, director Cameron Crowe wrote a part for Jane in his upcoming “Monster-in-Law,” starring Ashton Kutcher with Jane playing Ashton’s mother. Jane turned that down in a big hurry.

Cameron hasn’t cast anyone yet for the role and he doesn’t have anyone else in mind. Maybe Jane should think about this twice. After all, Cameron wrote it with nobody else but her in mind.

Happy Rockefeller is giving a book- signing party for Bill Fine, who has written “Sixteen Celebrities Who Charmed My Life,” at her Fifth Avenue apartment on Nov. 13. You all remember Bill Fine. He was the publishing director of Harper’s Bazaar, Town and Country and House Beautiful, the president of Bonwit Teller and spent almost seven years under Presidents Reagan and Bush as the U.S. Observer of the International Fund for Northern Ireland. President Reagan also appointed him to the Advisory Committee on the Arts. While he was doing all this, Bill probably met 16,000 celebrities. But 15,984 of them did not charm his life.

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