Byline: Aileen Mehle
Carnegie Hall’s gala opening night celebrating its 107th season and starring the superb Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing Elgar and Tchaikovsky conducted by Daniel Barenboim and also presenting the great Yo-Yo Ma on his cello, brought out the fat of the land and a lot of skinny ladies in black dresses. This is always one of the big nights of the fall social season, and with Marie-Josee and tycoon Henry Kravis serving as chairmen, it didn’t disappoint. Carnegie Hall was filled to the rafters, and the after-concert supper in the Waldorf’s Ballroom was chockablock with guests sitting at tables overhung with towering branches of autumn leaves. The evening was a benefit for the great institution, and with the Kravises’ clout and the mighty financial muscle of Sandy Weill, the deal maker’s deal maker and Carnegie Hall’s chairman of the board, nobody had to say “Show me the money.” It was all there. And what a lovely thing to see it is when cash and culture meet, don’t you agree?
The boxes were filled with all the swells you know and love, chief among them Brooke Astor, paying court as ever, and so were the center rows of the center section in the orchestra. That’s where you saw such gorgeous types as former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his stunning wife, Mila; Venezuelan Midas Gustavo Cisneros and his stunning wife, Patty; investment banker and music lover John Veronis and his stunning wife, Lauren; Ronald Lauder and his stunning wife, Jo Carole; Bill Acquavella and his stunning wife, Donna; Bill Blass; Nancy Kissinger; Carroll Petrie in Gianfranco Ferre’s finest; Robin Duke, and others too stunning to mention. Gracing the boxes were such as Isaac Stern, Elizabeth and Alton Peters, Georgette Mosbacher with Douglas Cramer, Lily Safra, Annette and Oscar de la Renta, Elaine and James Wolfensohn, Mercedes and Sid Bass, Linda Wachner, Virginia and Freddy Melhado and assorted others of that ilk and stripe. Supping underneath the autumnalia in the ballroom were such as Agnes Gund of the art world and Daniel Shapiro of the legal world, Harry Crosby, the late Bing Crosby’s handsome son, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel and Carl Spielvogel, the Glenn Lowrys of the Museum of Modern Art and on and on into the night. On one of the hottest nights of the year, it gives me great pleasure to mention, yet again, that most of the women were wearing black. That means we’ll be seeing it every night for the rest of October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May and — if we know New York and are very lucky — June, July and August. Never mind that many of the dresses look like little black shrouds. If it’s another color, burn it.
Antique-ing We Will Go: The International Fine Art and Antique Dealers’ Show which each year fills the Seventh Regiment Armory with treasures beautiful and antique — as well as people beautiful, young, middle-aged and antique — opens on Oct. 16 with a big splashy preview party to benefit the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Running the show this year are Karen (Mrs. Richard) LeFrak and Joanne (Mrs. Roberto) de Guardiola, two terminally dedicated ladies who have been spotted in a Jeep Cherokee cruising 57th Street and picking up lovely things at Wathne, the superchic shop for the sporting crowd, male and female, who have simply tons of money to spend. The Wathne goodies are not for Karen and Joanne, of course, but for high ticket connoisseurs who will be attending the preview. Heaven forfend they go home empty-handed. Also someone — probably the richest person in the place, because isn’t that always the way? — will walk away with the door prize a la Tiffany and Co., a blue and white patterned china service for eight, never seen before, called “Tiffany Nature.” Also thrown in are all the service accoutrements that go with the pattern. Doesn’t that Tiffany’s think of everything?
Joining dear Karen and dear Joanne in the receiving line will be such worthies as Jessie (Mrs. Rand) Araskog, Nan (Mrs. Thomas) Kempner, Evelyn (Mrs. Leonard) Lauder and Carroll (Mrs. Milton) Petrie. Expected are the likes of Princess Firyal of Jordan accompanied by investment banker Lionel Pincus, Gigi and Roone Arledge, Pia and Christopher Getty, Drue Heinz, Albert Hadley, Wendy Vanderbilt, the Society’s new president, Susan (Mrs. Coleman) Burke and hundreds of others just like them. The news this year is that the Society has formed a partnership with Sotheby’s, a first time underwriter and the preview’s major sponsor. Jamie Niven, a Society board member for 20 years, and DeDe Brooks, Sotheby’s president and ceo, worked so hard to make this happen they were asked to be the evening’s honorary chairmen. You think they didn’t accept? Ha.
But never mind all that. Hear! Hear! What is being described as “an extraordinary collection of correspondence between Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Diana Vreeland” is the highlight of the show. A group of 20 autographed letters and 10 cards spanning two decades will be on view, presented by the New York dealers of rare books and autographs, Ursus Rare Books, Ltd. They are a mostly hand-written expression of the “love and admiration Jackie Onassis felt for Diana, a testimonial on Jackie’s signature blue notepaper.” Jackie’s corres-pondence is rarely on the market, and a collection of this scope has never been offered for sale before.
The letters, written from 1960 to 1980, make it clear Jackie looked to Diana for support in important matters of style and reveal how conscious Jackie was of her fashionable image. For example: “It’s just that whenever I see something so special — egrets skimming the moats besides Angkor Watt, temples and monks in Thailand — or people — I think of you, as you are the most original person I know.” Also: “The most incredible and helpful thing you have done is stay in touch with Oleg (referring to Oleg Cassini, who designed Jackie’s clothes while she was in the White House). It is very hard for him and me this first year as we don’t quite know the occasions for clothes — so he makes 200 sketches when all I want is two dresses.”
In another letter Jackie refers to herself as doubtless being portrayed as “a-let-them-eat-cake fiend who buys Paris clothes.” So if you like to read other people’s mail, here’s your chance. And if you think I haven’t kept Jackie’s letters to me — also hand-written on blue notepaper — and Diana’s to me as well, all I can say is — Ha.