Byline: Aileen Mehle
If tales of love triangles fill you with ennui — I mean, we’re all so jaded these days — how about a tale of a love quadrangle, something saucy to give you a lift when you need it the most? And how about if one of the four involved is Princess Diana? Even if her part in the little drama has been described as merely platonic?
A year or so ago, Christopher Whalley, an attractive, 40-year-old British millionaire property developer of whom you may have heard, met Princess Diana at London’s expensive and exclusive Harbour Club, where both worked out as frequently as possible. As they lifted weights and did push-ups, friendship flourished. If you believe what was written in the British press at the time, the workouts didn’t quit when they left the premises. Whatever, there’s no question they were — and are — great friends. Di greeted Chris each gym-time with “Hello, Sunshine,” and she didn’t care who heard it. They had tea together and lunch together, and this has been going on for more than a year. The media, scenting God knows what, kept nipping away double-time. Di, as we all know, skipped town and evaded reporters for a holiday in Barbuda, and Chris escaped to his country estate, where he swore his phone was tapped.
The plot thickens. A year ago, on a ski trip to Aspen, Christopher Whalley met 20-something Kristen Peck. At 5 foot, 11 inches, she’s a little hard to miss, even if she weren’t blonde and beautiful with legs up to her forehead. She’s also Harvard educated, splendidly athletic and runs a smart togs shop in Aspen, a must for the fancy folk who cluster there. A recently divorced American version of Princess Diana, Kristen could go out with whom she chose. She chose Chris Whalley, and he certainly chose her. Sparks flew, and the snow melted for miles around.
Subsequently, Kristen has been to London a number of times to visit Whalley, the last trip as recent as a couple of months ago. Delighted, he introduced her to his family. Auspicious indeed. Except…
Except when Kristen left Aspen, she also left behind a hunk, a young, blond hot-dogger named Ryan Cook, who really knows how to ski. But more of that anon.
Though Kristen is here and Whalley is in London, they talk on the phone constantly, and she is aware he has told friends that his relationship with Diana is strictly one of friendship and bloody well likely to stay that way. Meanwhile, he is not going to let the press interfere with his life, says he, and a couple of days after Di returned to London from Barbuda, he proved that he meant it. He and Diana began working out together again at the Harbour Club, and let the chips — and the media — fall where they may.
While this goes on, Kristen, confused and confounded, has returned to the loving arms of her Aspen hot-dogger, seeking comfort. Though she and Whalley still talk on the phone, he’s a long way away and, well, does absence really make the heart grow fonder? The way things are going, a hot-dogger in the hand is worth two developers in the bush — but you never know. Stay tuned.
Through the snow they mushed, braving a blizzard and trekking through the tundra, not to grandmother’s house but to the Park Avenue apartment of Nan and Tommy Kempner, where the Kempners and Gene Hovis were giving a 10th anniversary party for that adorable couple, Brooke Hayward and Peter Duchin. The icy wind blew in from the white hell such dear friends of the Duchins as Isabel and Freddie Eberstadt, Fernanda Niven, Dodie and Calvin Tompkins, Nick Dunne, Catherine Warren, Mica and Ahmet Ertegun, John Guare, Lyn Nesbit, Ashton Hawkins, Duane (in a black and white Bill Blass) and Mark Hampton, Camilla and Earl McGrath, Alice Mason (in a black Galanos and those beads), Louise and Henry Grunwald, Johnny Galliher, Kenneth Jay Lane, John Richardson, Chessy Rayner, Alex Gregory in head-to-toe raccoon, Glenn Bernbaum, Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, Shelley Wanger and David Mortimer, George Plimpton and Charles Michener. Then there were Kitty Carlisle Hart, looking regal as ever, lovely Amanda Burden and Charlie Rose in red rubber overshoes and Adele Chatfield-Taylor (she is Mrs. John Guare) with red ribbons in her hair. Chessy Rayner was wrapped in mink and antelope by Fendi, Brooke looked like an elegant ladybug in an orange and black sweater and knee-high black shearling boots and the hostess wore black evening pants and a pleated silver-gray shawl. They all gathered around the buffet table for smoked salmon, Bourbon baked ham, chicken pot pie, crab imperial, baked beans, cole slaw and chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. “Aren’t we having fun at this winter blizzard picnic?” said Tiny Tim — I mean, Tiny Nan? Of course.
Down in Hobe Sound, Fla., members of the renowned Jupiter Island Club are no longer waiting to exhale. Or for the other coconut to drop. They have just received the news that the outside deal for the controlling shares of the Hobe Sound Company fell through, causing all to breathe a sigh of relief. But there is still a rustle in the palms as club members work with the late Permelia Reed’s heirs to come up with a mutually satisfactory price to purchase the now-rather-run-down club from the estate. (Permelia Reed was the grande dame of Hobe Sound, who ruled at the club and whose word was law.)
Hobe Sound is, of course, a fortress of WASP-dom, and the moat is usually drawn up. When a buyer for the estate’s share emerged, the offer was $51 million, and the deal stated that the new owner would build condos on the other side of the waterway and the new condo owners would have rights to membership in the Jupiter Island Club. Strangers in the mist? Buy your way into a private club? Horrors!
Club members were given an option to equal the would-be buyer’s bid, but demurred on the high price and are said to be talking closer to $20 million. The clubhouse needs refurbishing, the golf course and the tennis courts need attention and the beach club really doesn’t make money, but still there’s interest. WASPs, you know, love shabby — as long as it’s their shabby.