Byline: Aileen Mehle
The Spanish Institute’s Gold Medal Gala vino and se fue. It was swell while it lasted, filling the Plaza’s Ballroom with a lot of big-time Spaniards who flew to New York for the fun, the biggest-time of them all being Her Royal Highness Infanta Dona Elena, daughter of the King and Queen of Spain, and her towering husband, Jaime de Marichalar, Duke of Lugo. Dona Elena represented her parents and was charm itself in a Lorenzo Caprile creation. A king’s daughter is born and bred to be charm itself, of course, but in Elena’s case, she inherited a double dose of it at her cradle. (Lorenzo Caprile, you ask? He’s a Spanish designer born of Italian parents and muy popular in Madrid.)
Every year at this party, the Spanish Institute presents its coveted Gold Medal to three lovely people who have done yeoman work cementing and supporting relations between Spain and the United States. This year’s honorees were Charles A. Heimbold, the head of Bristol-Myers Squibb; the Hon. Robert Mosbacher, a former U.S. secretary of commerce, and Mariano Puig, chairman of Puig Co. They seemed very happy with their awards, hung on them by Dona Elena, and said so in speeches lasting three minutes, or close to it — always a good thing. Short speeches keep an audience from shifting in its seat while desperately seeking the nearest exit, which is sometimes the scene of an early traffic jam with guests scheming to get the hell out before the dessert.
But the crowd seemed to love this particular ball, chaired by Crown Prince Pavlos and Princess Marie Chantal of Greece. (Elena’s mother is Pavlos’s auntie, so who better?) The receiving line included such worthies as the Spanish Ambassador to the U. S., Antonio Oyarzabal, and Fernando Aleu and Inmaculada de Hapsburgo, both big wheels at the Spanish Institute. And moving about the ballroom were such figures as Mary McFadden, Lourdes and Pepe Fanjul, Nicholas Berggruen, Gaetana Enders, Princess Olga of Greece and her husband, Nicolas Mirzayantz, Basil Mavroleon, Carmen and Felix de Pinies, Dr. John Brademas and, fresh from Madrid, the beautiful Nati Abascal, who once famously modeled in New York before moving to Spain and marrying a Spanish duke. It didn’t last.
Seated at the main table along with the Spanish and Greek royals were Princess Firyal of Jordan and financier Lionel Pincus (this has been going on a while), Oscar de la Renta, the Heimbolds, Bob Mosbacher with Michelle McCutchen of Houston (this has been going on a while), the Puigs, the Oyarzabals, the Aleus, Kathy and Alan Greenberg, Inmaculada de Hapsburgo, Beatrice and Julio Mario Santo Domingo, like that.
While we’re doing the ball thing — His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex, Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son known as Prince Edward, was the hit of the evening at the Rainbow Room, where 350 guests gathered for a dinner-dance benefiting the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Edward was so amusing, a couple of the guests thought he might make a good standup comic!? (Just kidding!) The Royal Academy, by the way, was one of the sponsors of the controversial art exhibition, “Sensation,” that ruffled so many feathers at the Brooklyn Museum — all rather boring in retrospect. Nary a word was spoken about this at the party, although Prince Edward did mention that the Academy was sponsoring an exhibition of art in the age of Queen Victoria, this to be shown in the U.S. next year. As an antidote to “Sensation”? Let’s hope it’s a strong one.
Among the crowd tucking in and dancing to the music of Bob Hardwick were such as Happy Rockefeller, John Whitehead, Irene Roosevelt, Anne Hearst and a whole gang of others of that ilk and stripe.
Ralph Fiennes, co-starring in “The End of the Affair” with Julianne Moore and Stephen Rea, due this month, will return to his roots in March to do both “Richard II” and “Coriolanus” at London’s chic Almeida Theatre. Not much of a jump for Rafe, I mean Ralph….Judy Dench’s next, “The Last of the Blonde Bombshells,” is all about the reunion of a swing band from WW2. The veteran British star Ian Holm co-stars and jazz legend Cleo Laine will have a featured role….Jennifer Tilly, the voice of Mrs. Stout in the live/animated mouse tale, “Stuart Little,” will be showing all of herself — or almost all — as a stripper in “The Crew,” a comedy about a pair of geriatric gangsters.
Jenny McCarthy — her — cast as a bordello babe in “Diamonds” who gently initiates a 15-year-old into the realities of romance — it ain’t no “Tea and Sympathy,” but what do you want from Jenny McCarthy? — kind of turned a movie into true life. Not only did McCarthy bring her sexy trademark to the Kirk Douglas-starrer, but she wound up sleeping with the director, John Asher, and married him to boot. Asher says it was love at first sight. Jenny told him, “I’m going to marry you,” but the director thought she was just flirting. “As it turns out,” he says, “she was serious.” Anyone who thinks this is one of the most romantic stories ever heard, please raise his/her hand. Never mind.