Byline: Aileen Mehle

The big news in business and financial sections of newspapers everywhere the last several days has been the letter of agreement that Bernard Arnault, the emperor of the huge LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton empire, France’s foremost purveyors of luxury goods, has signed to buy a controlling stake (58 percent) in DFS, the duty-free group, which is also an empire. Although Arnault has made his deal with two major shareholders — Charles Feeney, a partner in DFS, and Alan Parker, the company’s attorney — the sailing may not be so smooth. Billionaire Robert W. Miller, who owns almost 39 percent of DFS, is contesting the deal and attempting to stop the sale, saying it violates terms of a 1991 agreement among DFS partners to submit any dispute among them to “a wise man,” who would solve the problem. The problem solver in this case is the noted lawyer Ira Millstein, who will rule on the status of the agreement. And thereby, patient readers, hangs another dilemma.
This year, the three chairmen of the great Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum on Dec. 9 are Liz Tilberis, the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Helene David-Weill, the philanthropic wife of financier Michel David-Weill and, of all people, Crown Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, one of the three beautiful daughters of none other than Robert W. Miller. All very well, but — the corporate sponsor of the gala is Christian Dior, owned by none other than Bernard Arnault, and Bernard Arnault is coming to the party! The big question is — is Marie-Chantal coming to the party? Or will the rift between her father and Arnault cause her to resign as one of the gala’s chairmen? The chances are very good that she will — and if you don’t think this is a big story in the fashion/business world, you wouldn’t know a big story if it hit you with a bat in the bustle.

The more than 600 guests gave Nancy Reagan a standing ovation after her speech at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Rita Hayworth Red White and Blue Gala at Tavern on the Green. Nancy has become a master at speaking, and this was perhaps the most poignant, heartfelt example of how she can hold an audience and move them with her words. Her message was that we must all do everything we can to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s — but until then, rely on an outpouring of love toward victims and their families — and never ask “Why me? Why us?”
Nancy, in a long “Reagan red” dress, was the guest of honor at the gala along with Dr. Zaven Khachaturian, and the ball, the 12th annual fund-raiser presided over by Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, raised $1.4 million. Yasmin, in a white lace ballgown, stood out in the red, white and blue fantasy tent designed by Bill Soffield, and among the revelers were Gov. and Mrs. George Pataki; Veronica and Randolph Hearst (he and Michael Fuchs were the corporate chairmen); ball chairman Claudia Cohen; Prince Pavlos and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece; Deborah Norville, beautiful in a one-shouldered dress, and Karl Wellner; Sale and Woody Johnson; Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera; Blaine and Robert Trump; Arnold Scaasi; Carroll Petrie; Princess Firyal of Jordan; Vera Wang and Arthur Becker; Bill Blass; Casey Ribicoff; Betsy Bloomingdale; Patricia Patterson; Patty Raynes; Joan Rivers; Orin Lehman; George Plimpton; Cecile and Ezra Zilkha; Louise and Henry Grunwald, and hundreds of others more or less like them.

Pat Buckley and big Lazard Freres banker Michel David-Weill put on what is likely to be called THE lunch of the fall season. The two of them led at least 325 guests who assembled at the Plaza to salute the Aga Khan as he received the Hadrian Award of the World Monuments Fund for his extraordinary efforts to revitalize Muslim communities around the world. He does this by giving architectural awards and prize money to give a jump-start to building from Indonesia to Yemen. David Rockefeller presented the award to the Aga Khan while his half-sister Princess Yasmin Aga Khan and his brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan, looked on. Among the other lookers-on were Brooke Astor with her friend from Italy, Princess Laetitia Boncompagni; Carter Brown; Nancy Brown Wellin; Lord and Lady Norwich; Mica Ertegun; Duane Hampton; Jan Cowles; Drue Heinz; Ashton Hawkins; Louise and Henry Grunwald; Chessy Rayner; Anne Cox Chambers, and — enough already. The night before, Veronica and Randy Hearst gave a dinner at the Fifth Avenue apartment for the Aga Kahn, who looked thrilled to see the Shahbanou of Iran there — but who wouldn’t? She dropped in after dinner, looking abfab in a black pants suit and a new short coif. But more of all this next week.

Princess Diana and the others who have made their feelings known about invasion of privacy have a new champion in photographer Terry O’Neill, who used to be married to Faye Dunaway, now starring in “The Chamber.” “Paparazzi should be shot,” O’Neill thunders. “Most of them can’t even use a camera, and I can see no reason why they should not be banned.” Look out behind you, Terry.

Isaac Mizrahi, Linda Wells, Nina Griscom and Chris Ramsey were seen stuffing themselves in the kitchen at Glorious Food. What does this all mean? Simply that they were tasting each other’s favorite American food in order to choose a dinner menu for the All-American Extravaganza Opening of the New York City Ballet’s winter season on Nov. 26. Isaac loves fish sticks. Nina loves Nathan’s hot dogs. Linda loves cheesecake with graham cracker crust. The word is still out on what Chris loves. And the gourmet jury is still out, too.
Lucile Peyrelongue, the lady planning that night’s event, has promised a short program with the company dancing excerpts from American composers and only one intermission before dinner. It won’t be a late night, she said, so that everyone can go home early to thaw the turkey. Lucille’s favorite American food is les pates macaroni au fromage. Oh, well. As I said, the gourmet jury is still out.

“She’s probably the biggest star I ever worked with,” says Bill Murray of his leading lady in “Larger Than Life.” “She has unusual patience, a very sweet personality and, unlike some screen stars, she never gave me attitude. Besides she’s the only one who’ll take me for rides — maybe because none of the other girls could lift me.” This paragon is Tai, a four-ton elephant. And these are the jokes, folks, theirs not mine.