Byline: Aileen Mehle

Richard Gere was not totally thrilled when the photographers accosted him at Spy Bar downtown the other night. With what can only be described as endearing naivete — who, Richard? — he had gone to the hotspot for what he thought was a private performance by the young rock singer, Leona Naess, Diana Ross’s stepdaughter. Heavens, how really surprised our Richard was to see all those fellows with cameras flocking about! Can you imagine? What Richard does have to be happy about is his new movie role. He has just been set to star in “The Red Corner,” which John Avnet is directing for MGM. There will be a lot more Chinese extras in it than there were paparazzi at Spy Bar the other eve. But let’s not lose Leona Naess in the shuffle. She is said to have a splendid career ahead of her and has even been compared to Alanis Morissette. Cometh now the hype.

Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays a “corporate slut” in “Fierce Creatures,” is on a career high after 20 years in the movies, having signed on with Universal as a contract player in 1977. Her next flick is Universal’s sci-fi techno-thriller, “Virus,” in which she stars opposite William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland. Filming has started in North Carolina, where the livin’ is easy and so is film-making, if nobody screws up, y’all.

Young lover Brad Pitt, up next in the “The Devil’s Own” alongside Harrison Ford, will be alongside his love, Gwyneth Paltrow, when she flies to London in the spring to make the romantic comedy “Sliding Doors.” Gwyneth plays a public relations consultant, co-starring with rising, young British hunky hunk John Hannah. But you don’t think that’s the reason Brad’s tagging along, do you? Well, do you?

Here’s a little memo just for Nicole Rothschild Moore: In case one of your best friends hasn’t told you, your wandering husband, Dudley, has been holed up in London (as rumored), staying with his first wife, model/actress Suzy Kendall and her current husband, commodities dealer Sandy Harper. You all remember Suzy. She and Dud divorced 25 years ago, and then he married Tuesday Weld. And then he married Brogan Lane. And then Nicole. In between, he played the piano a lot.

The real estate news from London is that Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lord Lloyd Webber to be precise, is putting his London abode on the market. It’s in the heart of endlessly exclusive Belgravia, in Eaton Square, to be exact. It comprises six stories, marble floors, a swimming pool in the basement and a conservatory leading to two attached mews houses, a steal at $25 million.
Now that may seem like lofty loot to a lot of people, but to Lord Lloyd Webber it is but a mere pittance. Never mind his other residences, his formidable art collection alone is worth many times that. He bought a cornerstone of that collection, the Blue Period Picasso painting “Angel Fernandez de Soto,” also known as “The Absinthe Drinker,” at Sotheby’s in New York for $29,152,500.
You can see this beauty for yourselves at New York’s International Fine Art Fair May 9-14 at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue where it will be on special loan. The Fair opens on May 8 with a gala benefit preview for God’s Love We Deliver.

Along those lines, we are about to be seduced again. The second Asian Art Fair, an invasion of splendor and beauty, is coming to the Seventh Regiment Armory March 22-26. A phenomenal thing happened on the way to the Armory last year. The first show turned out to be a master stroke which mesmerized visitors and set the Asian antiques world on fire. Now the stage is set for another memorable presentation. The preview night, March 21, a benefit for The Asia Society, has a trio of Hong Kong lovers as chairmen: Chantal and Robert Miller of the Duty Free Shops, who lived in Hong Kong for years and whose parties are as magical as the sumptuous feasts of the last Empress of China; David Tang, the intriguing owner of the plush, private China Clubs in Beijing and Hong Kong, who will cross continents to be at the opening (Tang, who often dresses in traditional Chinese robes, manages to be a close friend of both Prince Charles and Diana), and Carroll Petrie, who lived in Hong Kong when she was married to her second husband. Carroll will cross all the way over from Fifth Avenue to Park Avenue for the fun.
The Asia Society was founded by John D. Rockefeller III in 1956. Brothers David and Laurance Rockefeller, along with Laurance’s wife, Mary, are the honorary chairmen of the evening, and the committee members include Anne Bass, Ann and Gordon Getty, Norma and Charles Dana, Khalil Rizk, Nan Kempner, Henry Luce III and others too I Ching to mention. One of the highlights of the Fair is an early 15th century gilt-copper Temple Statue of Nanda, King of the Serpents, a rare fragment from southern Tibet that has survived from the Densatil monastery, an historical, spiritual Tibetan landmark. It is being offered by John Eskenazi of London. Hiss, hiss, are you green (tea) with envy?
By the way, Tz’u-Hsi, the Dragon Empress of China, called another ruler “that dumpy Queen Victoria.” Tz’u-Hsi had a big mouth, and they didn’t call her the Dragon Empress for nothing. Who else would tell you these things?

While the Adams Dry Goods Co. building on New York’s Ladies Mile at first seemed the ideal place for the Municipal Art Society’s gala on March 4, the party expert Robert Isabell, Mr. Flowers and Fragrances himself, insisted on shopping further. After all, you simply can not fence in a star as brilliant and expansive as Robert De Niro, the Society’s honoree that night. So things have been moved to a new site, a beautifully preserved cast iron building on Lafayette Street opposite the Public Theater with room enough for at least half of De Niro’s ardent fans. The cast iron facade is important because — lest you forget — Margot Gayle, who single-handedly saved cast iron New York, will be honored along with Bobby-boy at the gala.