Byline: Aileen Mehle

The Metropolitan Museum will be alive with the sound of liquid French vowels and not-so-liquid French consonants on Dec. 9. That’s when the House of Dior presents a grand retrospective of its haute couture designs through the years for the delectation of the 800 or more guests who would rather drop down stone-cold dead than miss this annual celebration of the Metropolitan’s Costume Institute, a gala long dubbed “the party of the year.” Leading the French pack are France’s First Lady, Bernadette Chirac, and former First Lady of France Claude Pompidou, who will both grace the evening with their presence. And, most importantly, Bernard Arnault will grace it with his. He is bien sur the Big Boss of Dior and then some. Arnault is bringing in the great couturier Gianfranco Ferre, erstwhile of the House of Dior (his contract is up at the end of the year), to supervise the show. One hears the exhibition will be on the ground floor of the museum with examples of Dior’s most thrilling fashions displayed on oval banquettes. Quelle merveille!
Where once there were three chairmen of the evening, now there are only two, Liz Tilberis of Harper’s Bazaar and Helene David-Weill, the French philanthropist who is married to international banker Michel (Lazard Freres) David-Weill. As you read here last week, Princess Marie Chantal of Greece, who was to have been the other chairman, dropped out after her father, Robert Miller, the duty-free shops tycoon, took umbrage when Arnault signed a letter of agreement to buy 60 percent of the shops from two of Miller’s partners, a move Miller maintains violates a pact between all the partners. So now there is bad blood between Arnault and Miller. As for the beautiful Marie Chantal’s loyalty to her father, well, that blood is much thicker than water.

Alice Mason, dressed by Galanos from top to toe, gave another one of her famed dinner parties, this one in honor of the noted writer and birthday boy Dominick Dunne and starring the media elite with most of the rapier wits gathered at Alice’s table. It may not have been the Algonquin’s Round Table exactly, but who needs Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott or even Robert Benchley when you have Howard Stringer, Mike Wallace, Barbara Walters, Nora Ephron, Richard Cohen and James Hoge practically sitting on top of each other (Alice’s tables are small) letting loose. The sharp badinage was accompanied with ribaldry on all sides and semihysterical laughter. Is that the way to have fun, mommy? Count me in.
Alice, one of New York’s top realtors, can sit 60 down to dinner in her apartment, and that doesn’t mean 59. In the crowd were such as Pia Lindstrom in tiered red chiffon and silver kid handbag shaped like a heart (an early Valentine?); beautiful Grace and Chris Meigher; Brooke Hayward and Peter Duchin; Jennet Conant and Steve Kroft; Amanda Burden and Charlie Rose; Emily and Jonathan Alter; Joe Armstrong; Nina Griscom and Dan Baker; Leslie Feely; Nick Pileggi; Paula Zahn and her husband, another Richard Cohen; Helen Gurley Brown and David Brown; Marilyn Evins in Geoffrey Beene’s black organza; Francesca Stanfill; Karen Lerner; Kitty D’Alessio; Anthony Haden-Guest; Judy Green; David Margolick; Gene Hovis; Lynn Sherr; Jennifer Patterson; Mary Wallace; Paul Wilmot; George Wayne of Vanity Fair and, of course, Alice Mason’s daughter, Dominique Richard in a wisp of a dress, newly divorced, newly blonde and newly ready to roll. Look out, world, or at least the East Side.

It’s the 1,100th Anniversary of Hungary, and on Nov. 12, there will be a concert and a dinner dance at Washington’s Kennedy Center to celebrate with Hungarian goose liver, tenderloin of beef with paprika and fabulous Gundel crepe with walnuts and hot chocolate sauce — hold the paprika. The entire evening has been underwritten by the Edward W. and Betty Knight Scripps Foundation. Among those who have said they’d be there are the American Ambassador to Hungary and Mrs. Donald Blinken; the Hungarian Ambassador to Washington Dr. Gyorgy Banlaki; Hungary Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laszlo Kovacs; Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy; Ambassador and Mrs. Arthur Hartman; Mica and Ahmet Ertegun; Buffy and Bill Cafritz; Robin Chandler Duke; Audrey and Enriquillo del Rosario; Luly and Tony Duke; Elaine and James Wolfensohn; Gen. and Mrs. Alexander Haig; Lucky Roosevelt; the Richard Cowells; New York Times columnist William Safire; Jan Cowles; Rosamond Bernier and John Russell; Polly Kraft and Lloyd Cutler; Catia and Schuyler Chapin; Tamara Guilden; Nan Kempner of New York, whose mission in life is never to miss a party no matter where, and 350 others just like them. Betty Scripps will sit in the Presidential Box between the Hungarian Ambassador and the Hungarian Foreign Minister, but, of course. Pass the paprika, please — and a little of that goulash.

Kristin Scott-Thomas, who appeared in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and played Lady Anne in “Richard III,” is casting off her image as a brittle British rose, cool to the touch. She and Ralph Fiennes smolder in a sizzling on-screen romance in “The English Patient” with Scott-Thomas in the part of Katharine, the upper-class wife of a British officer involved in a torrid affair with an intrepid explorer, Fiennes. The whole thing is described as intensely erotic and heartbreakingly romantic. Tears will flow.

Speaking of heartbreakingly romantic, Helena Bonham Carter, star of “Twelfth Night,” may finally be moving out of her parents’ house and in with Kenneth Branagh. Pass the scones, please — and a little of that raspberry jam.