Byline: Aileen Mehle

The most arresting figure at the Spanish Institute’s Gold Medal gala was Her Royal Highness the Infanta Dona Pilar de Borbon, Duchess of Badajoz, the ball’s guest of honor. She wore a midnight-blue beaded dress, and talk about every inch the duchess, y como. The party at the Plaza Hotel was under the honorary patronage of Their Majesties King Juan Carlos I and Princess Sofia of Spain, and as Pilar is the King’s sister, who better as the guest of honor? Every year, the Spanish Ball, as it has come to be known, awards gold medals to those who have made great strides fostering relations between the United States and Spain, and this year’s recipients were Martha Muse, the chairman of the Edward Larocque Tinker Foundation, Emilio de Ybarra y Churruca, the chairman of Spain’s Banco Bilbao Vizcaya, and the one and only John Richardson, the brilliant writer whose second volume of Picasso’s biography has just been published by Random House to rave reviews so laudatory and dazzling they could almost have been written by John himself — almost.
As for the fashions floating around the Plaza’s Ballroom, the standout ladies both wore black, Carolina Herrera in a bare, sleeveless dress with ay-ay-ay cutouts designed by Carolina Herrera and Annette de la Renta in a romantic strapless gown that everyone admired. But more of this Spanish fandango next week.

The New York couple that has everything is, hands down, Crown Prince Pavlos and Crown Princess Marie Chantal of Greece. He is tall, dark, handsome, royal and nice. She, the daughter of Chantal and Robert Miller of the duty-free shops fortune, is blond, beautiful and nice. They could both give lessons in social deportment to some of the local social upstarts who think they were born waving to the peasants from their balconies, misbeguided arrivistes that they are — but that’s another column.
Doda Voridis, the much-loved Greek tycooness and hostess, gave a party for Pavlos and Marie Chantal at her beautiful duplex on the East Side and then took the gang to the Hotel Carlyle for dinner. An orchestra played Greek music, and there was much singing and dancing and merriment, and not one miserable speech, thank Zeus. In the crowd were Marie Chantal’s two sisters, Pia Getty and Alexandra von Furstenburg with her husband, Alexander; Prince Michel and Princess Marina of Greece and their daughter, Princess Olga; Serena Boardman; Doda’s son Peter Embiricos and his wife, Anne-Marie; Andreas Dracopoulos (he is the late Stavros Niarchos’s nephew); Princess Laure de Beauvau-Craon; Sophie Coumantaros; Jane Marino; Eugenie and John Radziwill; Nan and Tommy Kempner; Cecile and Ezra Zilkha; Larry Lovett; Betsy Lovett; Lee Thaw; Basil Goulandris; Aleco Papamarkou; Karen and Peter Goulandris; Peter George Goulandris; Alex Gregory; Louise and Henry Grunwald; Sam and Judy Peabody; Kenneth Jay Lane; Khalil Rizk; Boaz Mazor; Pierre Durand; Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, and, well, oopah!

The Knight of Glin is one of those titles that reeks of romance and armor and plumed helmets. The present Knight of Glin, a fine Irishman named Desmond Fitzgerald, would look pretty silly walking into Sue Railey’s dramatically mirrored apartment that way, so he just opted for a dinner jacket. He was here in New York with his wife, Olda — her title is Madam Fitzgerald — on Christie’s business, and that’s what Sue’s dinner was all about. It was a cultured gathering, that is if the erudite Christopher Lloyd, curator of Queen Elizabeth’s paintings, is cultured enough for you. If not, you are dumb and dumber. Lloyd was in New York from London to lecture at the Metropolitan Museum, and you will be thrilled to hear he brought over many of the Queen’s miniatures with him, some of the finest in the world. He mingled with such guests as Marian Frelinghuysen; young Esmond Harmsworth, the half-brother of the present Lord (Vere) Rothermere and son of the late American-born Lady (Mary) Rothermere; Bobo Legendre; Kitty Carlisle Hart; Christopher Burge of Christie’s; Ed Gallagher; Denise Bouche Fitch and George Fitch of San Francisco; Mme. Baeyens, whose husband is a former French consul-general in New York; Tasmin and Teddy Lennox-Boyd, who live at St. James’s Palace in London, where he is part of the Queen’s court, and many others of that ilk and stripe. Sue wore a long, silk evening dress and a big jeweled turtle on her shoulder. It’s the only way, really.

Henry Koehler is an artist idolized by the horsy, doggy and horse-racing set, plus any number of strivers who would love to be horsy, doggy and boast stables. All this is with good reason, as Koehler is absolutely superb at what he does, a master colorist with a deep knowledge of his subjects, a virtuoso of composition and the possessor of an imagination as vivid as his paintings. His jockeys in their silks come alive in his oils, and his riding boots look as though they could ride right out of the picture. He is not Sir Edmund Landseer or Rosa Bonheur or a Munnings or a Herring. He is Henry Koehler, and for his fans and collectors, that is more than enough. Oh, and if you love a lovely landscape or a seasonal garden scene, he is your man. He even makes pigs look toothsome.
At a private showing of his latest work at the Newhouse Galleries, crowds turned up for the reception and the viewing. Usually at these things, people spend more time viewing each other than the art, but not here. Devoting most of their time to the paintings on the wall were such as Lil and Stephan Groueff, Bootsie and Evan Galbraith, Barbara Bancroft, Freddy Melhado, Gloria and Frank Schiff, Virginia and Billy Salomon, Lydia Redmond, Kathleen Harriman Mortimer and Stanley Mortimer, Count and Countess Schonborn and others too sportive to mention. Actually, the sporting pictures were so hot, they set off the fire alarm and brought out the Fire Department. (It was really the ovens for the hors d’oeuvres that set off the alarm, but don’t you like it better my way?) Presiding over the exhibit were Meg Newhouse Kirkpatrick and her husband, Stuart Kirkpatrick, who both, surprising no one, looked pleased as Punch.

(Next week read all about the Trophee des Arts gala at the Pierre Hotel, where Liza Minnelli handed the Trophee to Charles Aznavour, the longtime singer of French ballads, and Joan Rivers, the mistress of ceremonies, wore the best dress in the house, black. Black, as in the color we have always with us.)

Proceeds from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute Gala on Dec. 9 will go to the Costume Institute, not to the Council of Fashion Designers of America, as was reported in an earlier column.