Byline: Aileen Mehle

Princess Michael of Kent, the statuesque blonde beauty who is married to Queen Elizabeth’s first cousin, has been in New York, smiling serenely ‘midst the local curtsies and blandishments. The charming Princess was the guest of honor at a stupendous luncheon given to benefit The Versailles Foundation and Giverny, the lovely house in the French countryside where Monet painted his forever-floating waterlilies, nympheas to you, and everything else that moved in his garden. At the lunch, which raised $100,000 for Versailles and Giverny and was given at the gracious residence of Jill Sackler, the Princess, a consummate lecturer who holds her audience in thrall, spoke of Marie-Antoinette and the Ghost of Versailles (in 1901, two British ladies swore they saw Marie-Antoinette, describing her in detail, as she walked in the gardens at Trianon, just as she did during her days at court) and of Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henry IV. Understandably, the ladies were rapt. And then, when it was announced by Florence Van der Kamp, the chairman of the Foundation, that she had that very morning received a phone call confirming the reacquisition of Marie-Antoinette’s jewel cabinet, their joy knew no bounds. It is, after all, a $7 million piece of furniture.
Foundation president Barbara de Portago, along with her mother, Florence Van der Kamp, was the glorious luncheon’s hostess, where the presents were Christian Dior scarves, foulards to you, and crystal Sun King Frogs from Baccarat, and where they drank Taittinger champagne and spoke in perfect French, all but a few. More on the festivities for Princess Michael anon. No sense in force-feeding you too much whipped cream.

The word from on Hollywood high is Jude Law is just about set to join Kevin Spacey and John Cusack — and Clint Eastwood’s daughter, Allison, and even Lady Chablis himself — in Clint Eastwood’s film version of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which begins filming May 5 in Savannah, the story’s setting. Jude would play the hustler/lover that antiques dealer Jim Williams (Spacey) picks up in Mercer Square, in front of his Savannah house, and is later accused of murdering. You all remember Jude. He starred on the Broadway stage a few seasons ago with Kathleen Turner and Roger Rees in “Indiscretions,” appearing totally in the nude, a decision that is said to have caused his fans to triple, at least. As for Kevin Spacey, he’s rented two houses in Savannah for the duration of the picture, one to live in, the other for parties, the rascal.

Is it true that Princess Fergie’s been piling on the pounds in the last few weeks? That’s what happens when you sit and slave over a hot word-processor instead of galloping o’er the meadows on a sturdy steed.

Here’s the macaroni from Milan: Avid photographers have bagged a batch of snaps of Ursula Andress, bombshell of yore, in the company of — what else? — a younger man. Ursula likes them dewy, and who’s to blame her? This time it’s veteran Italian heartbreaker Franco Nero, on whom some of the dew has dried. That is to say, he’s only six years younger than Ursula. This is the same Franco Nero who was once Vanessa Redgrave’s Franco Nero.

Here’s the bruschetta from Bologna: Nicoletta Mantovani, Luciano Pavarotti’s dewy young love, has received her laureate in natural sciences from the local university. Her proud parents gave her a big party with all her close chums present. Absent only was Big Lucy, who was off somewhere else waving his white handkerchief.

Gerard Depardieu, in Bucharest on an “official” visit, was more than interested in the lovely lady accompanying him, namely Claude Chirac, daughter of the French president. Big Gerry always had a big eye for the ladies.

The renowned pop artist Peter Max will use 19-year-old Ralph Lauren supermodel Briget Hall as a human canvas — there are worse things — when he paints right onto her signature white T-shirt tonight at the Dyansen Gallery in SoHo. Max’s show, which had its private opening Thursday night, will run through May 25, showcasing recent works as well as his “Americana” series, including paintings of the Statue of Liberty and the American flag. You all remember Max. He has done portraits of the last five U.S. presidents and immortalized in oil such variegated subjects as Mick Jagger, Mikhail Gorbachev, Andy Warhol, Yitzhak Rabin and the Dalai Lama.

The Boys Harbor’s Salute to Achievement lunch at the Plaza on April 30 will honor both Robin Chandler Duke for her work in population control and William Polk Carey for his long support of Boys Harbor. The luncheon chairmen are Tuly and Tony Duke (he founded the Harbor in 1937). The Arthur Rosses and John Whiteheads are honorary chairmen and Charles Peebler and Dina Merrill Hartley are vice chairmen. Guests will include everyone from the world of haute jazz. Haute jazz in the person of the great Wynton Marsalis, the artistic director of jazz at Lincoln Center, will be one of the award presenters to Boys Harbor alumni.

Speaking of presenters, Mayor Giuliani himself will present the Museum of the City of New York’s 1997 $24 Award to the one and only Bobby Short next Tuesday at the museum. This award, named for the value of goods offered by those good old Dutch burgers to the Indians in return for the island of Manhattan, acknowledges an individual who has contributed significantly to the quality of life in New York — and if that’s not Bobby, a New York institution and the nation’s most celebrated cabaret singer, then who is it?

Pauline Trigere, the grande dame of fashion design, will be honored Monday at the New York Fashion & Beauty Industries Salute benefiting Citymeals-on-Wheels. The venue is Martini’s on Seventh Avenue, and there will be Veuve Clicquot champagne for all and a snappy buffet. Bill Blass is the honorary chairman, and the committee boasts such huge names in fashion as Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, and Tommy Hilfiger, plus many more who will be there to toast la grande Pauline — Grace Mirabella, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Josie Natori, etc., etc., etc.

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