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The American Academy in Rome is a famously esteemed and cherished refuge for American artists, writers, composers, musicians, architects and professors of all talented stripes. There, in the beautiful Villa Aurelia high on a Roman hill surrounded by millions of flowers, these fortunate few are free to peacefully hone and polish their gifts among their peers. It is one swell place.

The Academy’s Board of Trustees is impressive — Michael Sovern is its chairman and the decorative and cultivated Adele Chatfield-Taylor is its president, and each year, Sid and Mercedes Bass, the Fort Worth philanthropist and his stunningly fashionable wife, underwrite a grand dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street that lures the glitterati, the culturati and those who bask in their proximity. It is the Academy’s primary fundraiser.

This story first appeared in the April 11, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

This year’s dinner honored Great American Composers and Their Music — Elliott Carter, who received the Centennial Medal, Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland, all associated at one time with AAR. The renowned violinist, Robert McDuffie, played selections from each composer. The honorary chairmen of the evening were, of course, the Italian ambassador to the U.S., Sergio Vento, and Giorgio Radicati, Italy’s consul general in New York, and in the crowd, such stars and satellites could be seen as Lord and Lady Black (she is the ever-alluring Barbara Amiel, he is the newspaper tycoon), Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, John Guare (the renowned playwright who is married to Adele Chatfield-Taylor), Anna Wintour and Shelby Bryan, Annette and Oscar de la Renta, Nancy and Henry Kissinger, Doda Voridis of Athens in caramel-colored charmeuse and pearls (such pearls!), Jan Cowles, Barbara Goldsmith, Mica Ertegun, Fernanda Kellogg, Catie and Donald Marron, Duane Hampton, Liz and Damon Mezzacappa, Boaz Mazor, Georgette Mosbacher in black satin and paillettes, Wendy and Bill Luers, John Richardson, Kenneth Jay Lane and on and on into the night.

Sick of the Russell Crowe-Danielle Spencer wedding overkill? Well, stick around for a little more. Russell is all gladiator and nobody’s fool. Word from Australia has it that he and blushing bride Danielle signed a prenuptial agreement before they went to Milan to meet Giorgio Armani and try on their wedding outfits. It is said Danielle is guaranteed a minimum of $15 million if she stays married to Russell for at least three years. In addition, there will be $3 million trust funds established for each of their children practically the moment they’re born, which might be happening sooner than you think, if Burnum Burnum, the aborigine witch doctor Russell brought in to perform an ancient fertility rite at their wedding on his ranch in Australia, has anything to do with it. Danielle will also get their new $8 million penthouse overlooking Sydney Harbor. But let’s let them get back from their honeymoon before we begin thinking about something so terribly crass as money, shall we?

The London story goes that Jude Law and his wife, Sadie Frost, are on the mend. She has calmed down from all her nerves and it is said that Gwyneth Paltrow has done wonders with her counseling on the set of “The World of Tomorrow,” where she is working with Jude and Sadie, who is one of the movie’s producers. Meanwhile, Jude has been offered $10 million to star in the remake of “Alfie,” which originally starred Michael Caine as the Cockney rogue misogynist. This is a big surprise to Hollywood insiders because Brad Pitt had been considered all but signed for the role of the rotter. Jude is also the front-runner to play the Caine role as a hairdresser in “Sleuth,” the 1972 hit that also starred Laurence Olivier in the role that Michael Caine is now set to take. What comes around, seems to come around.

Cornelia Guest has packed up her house in London’s Belgravia and is back at the family home in Old Westbury with a kennel full of dogs and a stable full of horses. She says it’s for good, however long that may prove to be. Fresh from L.A. and the birthday party she gave for Sir Elton John, Cornelia’s calendar is filled with glamorous doings. Last night, she went to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus with her friends and especially Nicole Feld, whose father, Kenneth, owns the whole kit and caboodle, including the elephants. Today, she’s busy calling friends to come to her party at Bergdorf Goodman next Tuesday for Philip Treacy, one of the world’s top milliners. Among those expected are Nan Kempner, Emilia Fanjul, William Ivey Long, Mark Badgley and James Mischka, and a lot more just like them.

Philip hasn’t been in town for quite some time, and everyone is dying to see him. He’s going to be holed up on the fourth floor of Bergdorf’s practically from dawn to dusk next Tuesday. It’s double duty because with the 21st Annual Central Park Conservancy lunch on May 7 celebrating the 150th birthday of the Park, hats — the more whimsical, the better — are de rigeur, and everyone is clamoring for something special to plop on their little heads, including this year’s co-chairs Dina Merrill, Calvert Moore, Marcia Mishaan, Liz Peck and Wendy Carduner, who all have been invited to check out the wildly inventive chapeaus of Mr. Treacy. Mad hatters, all of them — but you knew that.

Supposedly, John Travolta is still kicking himself for missing his chance to take the Richard Gere role in “Chicago,” which he actually turned down three times. He’s determined not to make the same mistake again, so to that end, he is getting himself back in peak shape with two-hour workouts every day and has already lost more than 25 pounds. He now looks fit enough for another fashion statement, which any talented costume designer can easily create for remakes of “Guys and Dolls” and “Pal Joey,” two of the musicals that he hopes to star in. Oh, John’s wild again, but hardly a whimpering, simpering child again.

Even Pierce Brosnan has got the musical bug and is saying he’s “gotta sing,” his pet project being “to record an album of Irish folk songs, some of which have not been heard for years.” For those who heard him croon in his last film, “Evelyn,” perhaps there’s a good reason.

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