Byline: Aileen Mehle

The fine romance between former secretary of state George Shultz and Charlotte Swig is so hot and heavy it has all San Francisco talking — and parts of Los Angeles and Washington. Some of Charlotte’s friends — she is San Francisco’s chief of protocol — are even hinting there’s a marriage in the offing. As you read here before, he’s a widower and she’s a widow, and one and one make two.

It’s really Fiennes weather in London right now. Ralph Fiennes, an Oscar nominee for “The English Patient,” is treading the boards at the Almeida Theatre in “Ivanov,” and his little brother Joseph is doing his own treading at the Barbican in both “Troilus and Cressida” and “As You Like It.” And soon Ralph will begin preparing to star in the movie version of “The Avengers,” the cult TV series, playing smoothie secret agent John Steed. Uma Thurman will play the Emma Peel role created by the wonderful Diana Rigg back in the Sixties. It’s hard to picture Thurman playing the fascinating, agile Emma who can do anything and everything, but after her workout in “Pulp Fiction,” maybe so can Uma.

It’s not been his favorite month ever for Andrew, Lord Lloyd Webber. He’s scrapped “Whistle Down the Wind,” the new musical he’d hoped would be Broadway bound; his Broadway and London productions of “Sunset Boulevard” are shuttering, and so is his London show, “By Jeeves.” Crikey, the man must be down to his last billion dollars. On the bright side, “Whistle,” which milord personally thinks is the best thing he has ever done, may be revamped and open in London before too long. Did you know Lloyd Webber first planned “Whistle” as a movie, set in the American south instead of its original British locale, and that he wanted Brad Pitt to star? Something must have happened on the way to the set. If Lloyd Webber revamps, perhaps he should begin with the title.

More notes from London include news of a planned musical explaining for all of us in song the ups and downs of the romance between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor for short. It will be called “Always” and is slated to open at the Victoria Palace Theatre in June. It is yet to be cast — Uma’s not in the running — but don’t expect it to have a royal gala premiere. That is not the way the scone crumbles in Britannia, and it never will be.

An engagement announcement is said to be imminent starring Queen Elizabeth’s youngest, Prince Edward, and his longtime friend of the heart, Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones. What took them so long? This romance, or reasonable facsimile, has been going on for nigh onto three years. The date for the marriage at Windsor Castle is reputed to be in May — but don’t shoot until you see the white of Sophie’s veil. Horrid cynics, calloused by royal carryings-on, are sneering if that’s the date of the marriage, what’s the date of the divorce? Fie and for shame.
As for Edward’s older brother, Prince Andrew, word is he’s moved back into Buckingham Palace with mama (accent on the last syllable) and papa (likewise) and has turned into something of a couch potato. Oh, where is the Randy Andy of yesteryear? Play it on your piano — E-G-B-D-F.

Monday’s big luncheon at the Museum of Modern Art will honor James D. Wolfensohn, who will receive the first David Rockefeller Award of “enlightened generosity and advocacy of cultural endeavors.” Marie-JosAe (Mrs. Henry) Kravis and Jerry Speyer are the co-chairmen, and Agnes Gund and Ronald Lauder are the honorary co-chairmen. Most of us know that Jim Wolfensohn is a business and financial tycoon. Fewer of us know that he plays the cello. I mean, he’s no Yo-Yo Ma, but he’s no yo-yo either.

Anna Wintour of the Vogue Wintours, the quintessence of chic in pearls and black leather, gave a little luncheon for 100 or so in honor of Katharine Graham of the Washington Post and her new blockbuster book of memoirs, the number one bestseller, “Personal History.” The setting was Le Cirque 2000, the wondrous new restaurant located in the Sultan of Brunei-owned Palace Hotel, which is yet to be opened except for certain posh previews. To say that this party was posh would be putting it lightly and politely. What it really was was one of your better power trips with a big order of glamour on the side, a rhapsody to Kay Graham by her admirers and friends who are almost as thrilled and excited as Kay is by her deserved and overwhelming success. Everyone who is anyone was there — New York State’s charming First Lady Libby Pataki; New York City charming First Lady Donna Hanover (the G is silent, as in Giuliani); Kay’s daughter Lally Weymouth with Eric Breindel; Kay’s son Stephen and his wife, Cathy; Lord and Lady Jenkins; pretty Paula Zahn of your TV set and mine; Jayne Wrightsman; Lady Berlin; Nancy and Henry Kissinger; Frankie Fitzgerald; Shelley Wanger Mortimer; Kati Marton and Richard Holbrooke; Tina Brown; Walter Isaacson; Calvin Klein; Gloria Steinem; Barbara Walters; Mike Nichols (he sat next to the author of the moment); Mary and Mike Wallace; Andre Leon Talley and star photographer Mario Testino. Then there were George Stephanopoulos; Robert Silvers; Arthur and Alexandra Schlesinger; Ricky and Ralph Lauren; Michael Kors; Isaac Mizrahi; Sue Newhouse; Jane Pauley; James Brady; Louise and Henry Grunwald; Paul Wilmot; Liz and Felix Rohatyn; Helene and Bill Safire; Amanda Burden and Charlie Rose; Nora Ephron and Nick Pileggi; Donna Karan; Annette and Oscar de la Renta; Bill Blass; Susan Burden; Katie Couric; Patricia Duff; Bob Gottlieb; Robert Isabell and others too puissant to mention. Now Kay Graham has gone out in the world to promote “Personal History,” which should be a snap for this courageous woman who, with her first book, has earned a PhD in writing.

Along those lines, did you read Maureen Dowd’s brilliant column in last Sunday’s New York Times? If you missed it, I feel sorry for you. It is a dazzling contrast to those “two great Georgetown ladies,” Katharine Graham and the late Pamela Harriman, one who made it on her own, one who made it through the “reflected glory” of the men in her life. Dowd has summed up Graham to a T, loud in her praise. Although she shows grudging respect for Harriman’s accomplishments in her final years, Dowd draws a bead on the real Pamela as it has never been drawn before. In a few succinct paragraphs, she captures the woman and her myth completely, a self-perpetuating myth that so many people bought into. Not Maureen. Talk about hitting the nail on the head. Take that, Jacques Chirac. Take that, Bill Clinton.

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