We all know that behind every successful man there’s an even cleverer woman, give or take a few airheads. So how nice to hear that Liam Neeson, an Oscar nominee for “Schindler’s List,” gives credit to his former love, the great British actress Helen Mirren, who, if she didn’t teach him everything he knows, taught him a lot of it. Still, it was through another actress, Kate Capshaw, a.k.a. Mrs. Steven Spielberg, that Neeson won the role of Oskar Schindler. Kate saw him in the Broadway play “Anna Christie,” mentioned him at home and the part was his. That’s what happens when you sleep with the right director — Kate, I mean. As the world knows it was when they played together in “Anna Christie” that Liam found his present love, Natasha Richardson. Now you trip over them every New York night.

William Hurt, who scarcely seems the fond papa type, has been photographed in Paris pushing his six-week-old daughter about in a pram. This is the child he fathered through the courtesy of Sandrine Bonnaire — but you knew that. Will Hurt, Sandrine and baby make three when he returns here shortly to start his new movie with Nicole Kidman to be directed by Jane “The Piano” Campion? Or will he leave the chou and the petit chou behind until they both grow up?

The Hollywood word has Anjelica Huston starring as Maria Callas in the movie adaptation of Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington’s biography of the great diva. So who will play Ari Onassis, who loved her and left her, a little happenstance from which she never quite recovered?

This evening, more than 2,000 collectors, museum and art world luminaries, true art lovers and wannabes will pour into the Seventh Regiment Armory for the gala preview of The Art Show starring 61 prestigious art galleries, all members of the Art Dealers Association of America. The vast space has been transformed into an elegant art gallery with dramatic lighting and acres of flowers, and Taste will do the catering. The chairmen of the show are Lisa and David Schiff, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Evelyn and Leonard Lauder and Carol and Punch Sulzberger. The Henry Street Settlement will benefit.

This year’s show, as did the five preceding it, will emphasize museum-quality works and outstanding examples of artists’ works from all periods. On view will be such glories as modern master Morris Louis’s “Saiph” and “A Spring Morning” by Childe Hassam. Also on view and viewing will be Jan Cowles, Raymond Learsey and Gabriella De Ferrari, Donna and Bill Acquavella, Ricky and Ralph Lauren, Leo Castelli, Schuyler Chapin, Bill Blass and the like.

Those involved are calling it nothing less than “an unprecedented event in the realm of the arts,” specifically, “A Special Salute to Merce Cunningham” on March 1 at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. For the first time, Mikhail Baryshnikov is bringing his new company, the White Oak Dance Project, to New York and the gala, and Misha in the flesh will dance a solo choreographed by Merce himself. Misha is dedicating this premiere performance (he will also dance a solo choreographed by Twyla Tharp and designed by Isaac Mizrahi) to Merce and will donate the evening’s proceeds to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. What a sweetie.

Oh, and it’s Merce’s 75th birthday this year too, so there will be a celebration on the Promenade of the New York State Theater after the performance hosted by honorary vice chairmen Misha, Robin Duke, Jasper Johns and Victoria Newhouse with a big assist from the benefit co-chairmen, Alvin Chereskin, Roz Jacobs and Harriette Levine. As part of the birthday celebration, more than a dozen of the country’s greatest contemporary artists created special birthday cards for Merce that were silent-auctioned at a cocktail party at Cartier’s Tuesday night. They were all there for Merce, and they’ll all be there for him on April 13 when the Museum of Modern Art opens its three-day tribute to this legend of the dance world.

Anne Ford can now join the small and select club of New York women who, as the head of a single charity event, can raise a million dollars at a crack. Even in New York, a city of givers, that’s a singular accomplishment. Actually, before the evening even began, Anne (and her committee) had already raised $800,000, and she didn’t even have a gun in her pocket.

Anne was the chairman of the National Center for Learning Disabilities “Gift of Love” gala at the Marriott Marquis the other night honoring Harold Poling, the retired chairman and chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Co., and a planeload of Ford people flew in from Detroit for the party. Tell me you’re surprised.

Guests couldn’t wait to bid on the Ford Mustang convertible, and on the doll houses designed and built by six famous architects, namely Michael Graves, Graham Gund, Charles Gwathmey, Helmut Jahn, Jacquelin Robertson (whose doll house was based on Dolley Madison’s house at Montpelier) and Robert Stern. Anne bought the Robertson doll house, and her sister Charlotte placed the highest bid for Graham Gund’s ivy-covered offering featuring a tower and a hidden staircase. Mayor Giuliani was there in the thick of things, and so were the Hon. Clifton Wharton, former New York Governor Hugh Carey (once the chairman’s beau), Louis Marx, Marina and Francesco Galesi, Sam Reed and Phyllis Cerf Wagner.

Palm Beach’s Preservation Foundation gets hisses and kisses — it depends on whom you listen to last — but the beautiful, manicured island remains largely architecturally correct because of the Foundation. This year’s dinner-dance to benefit the Foundation is headed by Jean Tailer, who is going all-out with the decor — all-out meaning terribly pre-war French Morocco, never mind how many times you’ve seen “Casablanca.” This night will be a movie-set carpet-ride with an original Moroccan tent with a gold ceiling, kilim rugs hanging on the walls, beaded lamps from old Algiers set on tables covered with brocade cloths, cases of iced Taittinger champagne and all manner of baubles and bangles. The tent goes up March 4 on the lakefront at the Flagler Museum. Bring on the belly dancers.

Since you can’t put French charm in a bottle, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, scion of the champagne family, is flying over in person, a guest of honor at the Casbah. Also breezing about the bazaar will be Estee Lauder, Pauline and Dixon Boardman, Hillie and David Mahoney, Jamee and Peter Gregory, Betsy and Michael Kaiser; the hot new couple Chan Mashek and Jamie Kabler; Chan’s ex-husband John Mashek with Ann Prevost, John Loring, etc., etc. etc.

Since the Masheks — Chan is Texas tycoon Ed Cox’s daughter — split, John Mashek has settled in a new house on Middle Road in Palm Beach, where he’s giving a dinner Saturday night. But he’d really rather the world didn’t know. He says it’s private. Sorry about that.

Mr. and Mrs. Edward Wyllis Scripps (Ed and Betty for short) of the Scripps League Newspaper empire, bought Caroline Lynch Firestone’s house, just next door to Karnak, their oceanfront property in Palm Beach. Supposedly it cost a pretty penny, like $5 million. Then Betty Scripps had Caroline’s place totally demolished (it was old anyhow), the better to build an oceanfront garden suitable to the splendors of Karnak. Look at it this way — think of the money they’ll save on florist bills.

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