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One hears Martin Scorsese used the power of his Golden Globe win to talk fellow winner Nicole Kidman into starring as Ava Gardner in his upcoming film on the life of Howard Hughes, to be called “The Aviator.” Leonardo DiCaprio will play the reclusive billionaire, pilot and film producer, which might have helped Marty in the convincing. Kidman doesn’t look a thing like Ava, but if they can make her up to look like Virginia Woolf, Ava should be a snap. Just don’t forget the eyebrows.

DiCaprio doesn’t look a thing like Howard Hughes, either. Just don’t forget those burnt webbed fingers, a result of the horrible plane accident that almost cost him his life.

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

There are smiles galore in Monaco this week. Prince Rainier is back in the pink and hosted the opening of the 2003 Monte Carlo International Circus Festival, such a good sign. Prince Albert was there at his side, as was Princess Stephanie, who knows a little thing about circuses, having spent a year or so living (monkeying around?) with Franco Knie and his traveling Swiss caravan.

Palm Beach is hot and I don’t mean the weather, which isn’t at the moment. The place is a whirlwind of nonstop fun things, like parties surrounding the opening of the Palm Beach International Art & Antique Fair benefiting the Norton Museum of Art on Jan. 30. The gala co-chairmen are Jean Suffern Tailer along with Mrs. Rand Araskog, Mrs. Max Fisher, Mrs. Jeffrey Fisher and Mrs. J. Ira Fisher.

Among those who will be wandering up and down the aisles looking for that special something for that special somebody — probably themselves — are the Leonard Lauders, Kip Forbes, Carroll Petrie, Pauline Pitt, Veronica Hearst, Liz Mezzacappa and probably the world’s most charming ebeniste Viscount David Linley, who will be in Palm Beach to sign his third book called “Design and Detail in the Home,” published by Abrams, both at the Antiques Fair and at the Lars Bolander gallery.

This year, 60 international dealers including Bernard Steinitz of Paris, Mallett of London and Wartski, the Fabergé specialist, will set up booths under the 55,000-square-foot white tent to hawk an incredible array of paintings, jewelry, furniture, antiquities, wallpaper, books, carpets and sculptures. It’s amazing how many fine dealers consider Palm Beach the cat’s meow. Of course, it could always be the purring of money.

The next night, there will be a cocktail reception at the Brazilian Court with chef Daniel Boulud in honor of all the dealers and the launch of a new magazine, Palm Beach Cottages and Gardens. Boulud will be in town to kick off his Café Boulud, which opens at the Brazilian Court in March. And if that’s not enough, the night after that, Lars Bolander and his wife, Nadina Kalachnikoff, will host their own soiree for David Linley at their place on Worth Avenue. Lars is a designer and an antiques dealer who also has a gallery in East Hampton and plans to open another one in the Meatpacking District in the spring. Doesn’t anyone pack meat there anymore?

Whitney Tower Jr. of the Vanderbilt and Whitney families is just engaged to pretty blond interior designer Dana Dodds of Pittsburgh, whose late father, Robert J. Dodds, was a noted attorney and one of the original owners of the city’s hockey team, the Penguins. The two have known each other for more than a year and are now living together quietly in Palm Beach. Dana laughed when he told this story over dinner at Tsunami last weekend.

“When I asked my 15-year-old son, Whitney Tower 3rd, for permission to remarry, he said, ‘Go for it, dude!’” And that’s exactly what he plans to do later this year. (Won’t you be glad when the word “dude” descends into oblivion and takes “cool” and “you guys” along with it?)

Lady Henrietta Spencer Churchill, the daughter of the Duke of Marlborough, whose stately family home is Blenham Palace, has designed a bedroom setting for the AOL/Time Warner Tower at 1 Columbus Circle opening this fall. She will unveil her beauty at Bergdorf’s tonight along with such fellow designers as Mica Ertegun, Vicente Wolf, Alexa Hampton, Robert Couturier and Tony Ingrao. Jazz at Lincoln Center, which will make its home on the ground floor of this building, will provide all that jazz for the party, the better to jazz in and out of.

The fate of Gianni Versace’s dream house in Miami Beach called Casa Casuarina has been a constant conundrum since Versace’s murder in 1997. Donatella Versace said she couldn’t bear keeping the Mediterranean-style palazzo and not only sold it for $19 million in 2000, but stripped it of all its art antiques and furnishings, which were auctioned off for many millions more. The current owner, Peter Loftin, is in the midst of serious financial reverses and has floated many ideas for the property, including turning it into a hotel and spa. Although he received permission from the city to do exactly that, he remarked at a party he gave at the mansion over the weekend that he now hopes to turn it into a museum for 20th century costume. Meanwhile, others whispered behind his back that it is for sale at $26 million.

Loftin loftily said he wants the public to continue to have access to what he calls a “work of art.” Versace did expensive renovations at the house, which was built in the Thirties, ripping down the Art Deco hotel next door and building a spectacular mosaic pool, waterfall and orchid-filled garden that remains exactly as he left it. Casa Casuarina boasts an elaborate central courtyard, 13 bedrooms, marble floors, indoor and outdoor dining rooms, multiple reception areas, floor-to-ceiling trompe l’oeil works, a deck on the roof and an observatory with a telescope that allows one to see exactly what the boys and girls frolicking on the beach in front are up to. The house is in generally good condition.

Complicated Florida laws still allow you to make your home into a castle and shield it from creditors. Any takers?

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles are spending a few days at one of the family estates, Birkhill Castle, in Royal Deeside in Northeast Scotland. Charles has brought in Catherine Goodman, the director of his drawing school in East London, to give Camilla lessons in watercolors, the better to accompany him on his painting expeditions in Italy this summer, which are so dear to his heart, and maybe to Camilla, his heart’s desire.

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