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Denise Hale, the San Francisco flash, is in town for her annual visit, dazzling the populace in her jeweled exotica. When Denise and her late husband, the department store titan Prentis Cobb Hale, used to arrive in Manhattan together in years gone by, their sojourn was known to the glitterati as Hell Week. No one really wants to hurt Denise’s feelings but it must be stated that a feeling of relief washes over a goodly part of the social swim when she beats it out of town. Though Prentis is gone now, Denise carries on the “tradition” in spades, arriving in a flurry of Gianfranco Ferré couture and wearing a diamond octopus almost as big as a fist pinned to her shoulder. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. It was her motto long before it became anyone else’s.

As ever, Denise gave her annual luncheon at Le Cirque, inviting a cross section of the local doers and shakers that are her element. More about this in another column when the earth settles. Meanwhile, Denise’s most recent acquisition (along with that leggy creature of the deep) is a marvelous maharajah-style coat almost totally covered in heavy silver embroidery and a showstopper of the first water. If Gianfranco hadn’t given it to her for Christmas, he said he would have given it to a museum. She wore it to the premiere of “La Bohème,” where it was duly noted, along with her Imperial jade ring from Hong Kong, the color of a little green apple and just about as big.

This story first appeared in the December 11, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

But more Hale mania later.

Jennifer Lopez created the usual sensation as she walked the red carpet at the premiere of her new movie, “Maid in Manhattan.” It was a combination of the nude tulle gown created by Vera Wang, plus the jewels she chose, Fred Leighton’s delicate carved jade and diamond flower necklace, dangling an almost nine-carat diamond pendant, diamond chandelier earrings, a diamond bead bracelet and an Art Deco diamond ring. You could see her coming and, as ever, going.

According to Pointe de Vue, the French magazine that follows European royals and nobility, Princess Stephanie of Monaco has ended her five-month romance with Richard Lucas, who is married, has three children and worked, conveniently — or inconveniently — depending on how you look at it, as her father Prince Rainier’s major domo. The Princess had returned home with her three children after the breakup of her somewhat longer affair with married Swiss circus owner Frank Knie only to get involved in the even stickier wicket with Lucas. Will she ever learn?

Meanwhile, her brother Prince Albert seems to be faring a bit better in the romance department. His three-year-old off-and-on-again romance with Olympic pole vaulter — pole vaulter? — Alicia Warlick from Texas has heated up. The two have been frolicking together in New York, Paris and aboard a yacht in the Mediterranean. Friends are whispering about a wedding next March, just in time for the Prince’s 45th birthday. Sure.

In Washington, for the Symphony Ball, the huge room of the National Building Museum was flanked on each end by two enormous stages, one to accommodate the entire National Symphony Orchestra, the other to accommodate the hot New York band Soul Solution. It was a hot time in the old town that night because it marked the first time the actual National Symphony Orchestra has ever played for the Symphony Ball. Maestro Leonard Slatkin and Marvin Hamlisch, who also entertained, kept the room enthralled. Twenty-one ambassadors from the diplomatic corps, many of them in white tie, sashes and medals were represented at the party, including Italian Ambassador Salleo and his wife, Ann Marie, seated at chairman Jim Johnson’s table; the Ambassador of Colombia Luis Moreno seated with Jim Kimsey and Queen Noor of Jordan (certainly not the first time Noor and AOL tycoon Kimsey have been together); Lynn Wyatt of Houston seated with Ambassador and Lady Meyer of Great Britain, and the Brazilian Ambassador Rubens Barbosa and his wife, Maria-Ignez, were seated with the Carlos Bulgheronis. The ambassador of Argentina, Diego Ramiro Guelar, was at Ambassador Lucky Roosevelt’s table. Also on hand were Mr. and Mrs. Karl Rove of the Bush administration Roves, and, listen to this, Sandra Day O’Connor and her husband, John, who along with Justice Ruth Ginsburg, practically burned up the dance floor. So what have we here? The Dancing Supremes?

At chairmen Mary and Mandy Ourisman’s table were Michael Kaiser, the president of Kennedy Center, and Dame Vivian Duffield. Dame Vivian is on the newly formed international committee of the Kennedy Center, as is Lady Sainsbury of London, who was also at the party. Mary Ourisman’s black velvet and white satin dress was designed by London couturier Bruce Oldfield.

As the evening wore on, the crowd thinned and the lighting turned red, the second generation of symphony supporters took to the floor: Robert Allbritton, son of Barbie and Joe Allbritton; Bobbie Ourisman, the son of Mandy Ourisman, and various sons and daughters of the two Marriott brothers, Richard and Bill. They know how to live in Washington.

When Mikimoto of all those pearls and the Crillon Hotel of Paris presented the Crillon Haute Couture Ball, also known as the Crillon Debutante Ball, all the new debs wore — surprise! — Mikimoto jewels, naturally, tiaras included. One of the buds was Xenia Virganskaya Gorbacheva, who as we all know, don’t we, is the granddaughter of former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev. In a gown designed by Christian Dior, Xenia was escorted by her fiance, Kirill Solod, who is at Moscow University with her, where the pair is studying public relations. Ah, me, how the world turns.

Also bowing was Margherita Missoni, the daughter of Italian fashion designer Angela Missoni, in a gown by Valentino; Cristina Sarnoff, the great-granddaughter of communications pioneer David Sarnoff, wearing a Bill Blass; Katherine Embiricos of one of the oldest Greek shipping families in a Thierry Mugler, and Tennessee Alexis Hamilton, the daughter of Catharine and David Hamilton of Chicago.

Catharine is the president of the American Friends of Versailles and Tennessee was dressed by Christian Lacroix.

C.Z. Guest, whose new Gap ad in Vanity Fair has everyone talking about how good she looks, poured her soignée self into Oscar de la Renta’s patchwork skirt and beige cashmere top to celebrate her daughter Cornelia’s birthday in Old Westbury, Long Island, where the festivities lasted the entire weekend. As for Cornelia, she poured herself into a beaded caviar and pearl gray Badgley Mischka that had a beautiful little train trailing ever-so-sweetly everywhere she went, and poured Veuve Clicquot for all her guests including Vanessa von Bismarck, who just got back from her family’s annual shoot in Germany; Princess Arriana von Hohenlohe and her husband, Dixon Boardman, and a few others of that ilk and stripe.

You do remember — and this is terribly important — that Cornelia is the ambassador at large for La Prairie and that C.Z. has a collection of candles and home fragrances inspired by her gardens in Old Westbury that are made by Slatkin & Co. C.Z. and Cornelia will be at Bergdorf’s tomorrow meeting and greeting shoppers who might want to pick up a little something of theirs for the holidays. What busy bees mother and daughter are.

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