Byline: Aileen Mehle

Al Pacino, over the moon at the reception his “Looking For Richard” has received in England and hoping the happy same for his newie, “Donnie Brasco,” made a surprise appearance in London over the weekend. He arrived at the Evening Standard’s British Film Awards in time to present the best film prize to Sir Ian McKellan for his “Richard III,” which, to use a jolly little Britainism, narrowly pipped “Secrets and Lies” to the post. The whole thing was a benefit for the Prince Charles Trust, complete with a gala screening of the film Al is so proud of.
On his arm for the trip was his sometimes sweetie, Lyndall Hobbs. Al, you see, juggles girlfriends like so many apples and oranges. His other longtime lover, the patient Annie Prager, sticks with him through thick and thin, and it is said there are two other lovely things vamping till ready, to use a cute little showbizism. One’s an actress, the other a playwright. Will he ease out of his older relationships to make way for the new ones? Before the apples turn into an orchard and the oranges into a grove?

Model Ashley Richardson is working on a decorating book to be published by Callaway, those wonderful folks who brought you Pearl Harbor — excuse me, Jerry Della Femina — I mean, Madonna’s book, which may or may not be the same thing. Ashley’s subject is how to decorate on a budget. Someone described it as being Martha Stewart on the cheap. So? No matter how you’re likened to Martha, it has got to be a compliment. Those bottom lines alone.

Holly Hunter has just been set to star opposite Danny DeVito in “The Kiss.” Danny will also produce the flick, and Richard LaGravanese will direct, his first directorial effort out of the box, to use a clever little racetrackism. It is not clear yet who will be the kisser and who the kissee, but I can wait if you can.

You don’t have to wait until March for Oscar night — Oscar de la Renta, that is. That designer of the moment, fresh from raves for his Paris couture collection for Balmain and for Hillary Clinton’s gold lace inaugural gown, will receive The Lighthouse’s Lifetime Achievement Award at its Winternight ’97 gala at the Waldorf on Feb. 12. Philip Miller, the big man at Saks Fifth Avenue, is the chairman of the evening, and the honorary chairmen are Barbara Walters and Bill Blass. Chessy Rayner is the chairman of the benefit committee, and Oscar’s stepdaughter, Eliza Reed, is the junior chairman.
Everybody, but everybody, in New York’s fashion, beauty and lifestyle crowd will be there to honor Oscar. How do you feel about Annette (Mrs. Oscar) de la Renta, Tara and Michael Rockefeller, Mica and Ahmet Ertegun, Liz Tilberis, Leonard Lauder, Ari Kopelman, Steve Florio, Graydon Carter, Casey Ribicoff, Carolina Herrera, Salma Hayek (her new movie, “Fools Rush In,” opens next week), Ruth and Max Rabb, Adrienne and Gianluigi Vittadini, Duane and Mark Hampton, Josie and Ken Natori, Victor Alfaro, Linda Wachner, Rose Marie Bravo, Helen Gurley Brown and David Brown, Allen Questrom and Cathleen Black? Actually, no one really gives a fig how you feel about them. They’re all big shots in one way or another, and they’re all coming to the party to watch Oscar get the Oscar. Town & Country is underwriting the cocktail reception with dinner following at 8.

Joan Ganz Cooney and Jon Corzine, the chairmen, are pulling in all the topguns to honor John C. Whitehead, the financier and public servant, at the Waldorf on Feb. 18. The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan will present John with this year’s New Yorker for New York Award, and the evening will benefit Osborn Elliott’s Citizens Committee for New York City. Should you look around at the party, expect to see such as Michael Bloomberg, Walter Shipley, Edgar Bronfman Jr., John Chalsty, Gerald Levin, Lew Rudin and others of that ilk all marching to the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, if you can imagine. And, on that very same night, the author Frances Fitzgerald, the late Marietta Tree’s daughter, will present Lena Horne with the Marietta Tree Award for Public Service with the likes of Brooke Astor, Mike Wallace, Joan and Oscar Straus, Caroline Kennedy and Edward Schlossberg, Ossie Davis, Diane Sawyer, Kitty Carlisle Hart and Tony Randall looking on.

They’re still talking about the American Museum of Natural History’s big celebration, which starred a giant whale looming over a black-tie crowd, there for the 150th anniversary of the New York Academy of Medicine, terribly old-guard, of course, but recently revitalized. The Academy’s President, Dr. Jeremiah Barondess, expected a big crowd with Michael Carney providing the music for fun dancing under the whale. But so many people wanted to honor Dr. David Hamburg, the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and Evelyn Lauder for her work with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation that poor Michael had to play from the balcony, and the poor whale had nothing to look down on but a sea of tables. And sitting at them, dining on chicken breasts (with whole-roasted cloves of garlic, which even the whale noticed), were such worthies as New York State Senator and Mrs. Roy Goodman, U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato and his date, the publisher Judith Regan; Dr. Paul Marks of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and his wife Joan; Dr. Leon Root, the famous back doctor who has fixed up a lot of famous and not-all-that-famous backs; Dr. John Rowe of Mount Sinai Hospital, and every eye, ear, nose, throat and other body parts doctor in New York.

Randy Jones of the Worth magazine Joneses likes to repeat himself — but, thank heaven, it’s never boring. When he launched Worth five years ago, he took the Tiffany Suite at the St. Regis to celebrate with a small lunch in the suite decorated by none other than John Loring, Tiffany’s design director. After that, he gave a small dinner. It had to be small, because the dining room only holds 12, and you can throw in the private butler. So this year Randy decided to do it again, and with the same people. Noreen and Johnny Drexel came for dinner, Jackie and Nicky Drexel for lunch, along with Barbara Taylor Bradford and her husband Bob, Mario Buatta, Eleanor Lambert and the beauteous model Carmen, hot off the plane from the Paris collections. Cecile and Ezra Zilkha came for dinner as did Martha Kramer and Neal Fox, John Loring, Nancy Holmes and Nelson Aldrich, the editor of Randy’s new magazine, The American Benefactor. Mrs. Randy (Connie) Jones wore clouds of black chiffon at the dinner party and Joan Collins, in a fire-engine red jacket with gold buttons, accompanied her agent Jeffrey Lane for drinks before dinner. In the very near future, that suite is going to be just too small for our acquisition-minded Mr. Jones.

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