In London, they’re making book that Prince Edward, the Queen’s youngest, will soon marry Sophie Rhys-Jones, with a spring date currently favored by many of the nobility and the elite. God knows what the proletariat has in mind. Still — stop the presses! — there are those who insist that as Sophie is reportedly letting her hair grow, maybe the merger will not take place until July, when her blonde locks will be long enough to sweep up under a veil and a tiara. I have now heard everything, and I’m sure you feel the same way. Come what may, there will always be an England.
Also from London comes the news that the world’s richest man, the Sultan of Brunei, is prepared to hand over more than $500 million for the Grosvenor House, the fashionable London hotel on Park Lane. The sultan is already the proud proprietor of The Dorchester, another swank hotel just up the street. Oh, and his little brother just bought Asprey’s, the famed British jewelers. But the rumor that the dear boys are dickering for Buckingham Palace is just plain silly.
So many parties, so little time. The New York idea is to heighten the holiday spirit by stuffing as many lunches and dinners and celebrations as is humanly possible into your stocking in the weeks before Christmas, and not giving up for a minute until you fall in a heap the day after New Year’s Eve. Wreak social havoc while you can. Don’t worry that little old January may be a party desert. Little old Jan will just have to take care of itself when the time comes — and you can throw in little old Feb as well.
Meanwhile, these are The Parties That Were: The majestic diva Jessye Norman, a personage who turns all heads, and the dedicated philanthropist Ezra Zilka were both honored in the lovely ballroom of the Essex House at the 1995 Trophee des Arts Gala to benefit the French Institute/Alliance Francaise. Jessye received the TrophAe des Arts for her extraordinary cultural contribution to France and the United States, and Ezra received the Institute’s first Pilier d’Or for his friendship and continuous support of the organization over 35 years. Lucile Peyrelongue, resplendent in black paillettes by Valentino, was the gala chairman, and present were the Ambassador of France to the United States Francois Bujon de l’Estang and Mme. Estang and Mme. Andre Jammet, the wife of France’s ambassador to the United Nations. Kevin Kline was the uproarious master of ceremonies — talk about witty and off the wall — and entertaining were such as baritone Richard Lalli, the Uptown String Quartet, students from the Harlem School of the Arts and Roy Gerson’s orchestra. The big hit was the screening of “Brava, Jessye!” with the great singer tearing apart some of her biggest hits. And let’s not forget the presentation of the Jessye Norman Orchid, named for the diva by the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, to the New York Botanical Garden.
In the crowd were such worthies as the John Haskells (he is the president of FI/AF), Guy Peyrelongue of Cosmair, the Donald Zilkhas, Cecile (Mrs. Ezra) Zilkha, Anne Cox Chambers, Annette de la Renta, Virginia and Freddy Melhado, Frank Richardson, the Michel Fribourgs, Kristina and Guy Wildenstein, the David Grangers, Lourdes Catao, Barbara Portago, Janice Levin, David Black, Liz and Tassos Fondaras, Gloria Gurney and others too Franco and Francophile to mention.
Art expert/collector Khalil Rizk of the Chinese Porcelain Company Rizks took over all of Mortimer’s to hail Princess Ira von und zu Furstenberg, the international social star and personality, who popped over from Europe to light up the city for a few days. It was some kind of a blast with everyone dancing away like cuckoo and finally joining a conga line, which may seem a bit on the retro side but is enjoying a vogue again these devil-may-care nights. The theme, don’t ask why, was red and black, and the ladies were asked to wear those colors. The sweet things all did too, matching the balloons cascading from the ceiling and the wonderful red anemones clumped in crystal in the middle of every table. The music was provided by an exciting samba band that came all the way from Rio and was probably heard all the way back. For added entertainment there were four voluptuous dancing girls who, covered here and there by a black and red feather, wriggled their everythings to a throbbing beatbeatbeat. Oh, wow.
Among the guests were such fun-lovers as Beatrice and Julio Santo Domingo, Nelson Seabra of the Brazilian Seabras, Doda Voridis, Blaine and Robert Trump, Deeda Blair, Carole Rochas of the Paris haute monde, Marina Palma, Khalil Rizk’s mummy Iole and his sister Joumana, Larry Lovett, Denise and Prentis Hale, Kathleen Hearst, Betsy Bloomingdale, Sandra di Portanova, Patty and Gustavo Cisneros, Pauline and Dixon Boardman, Crown Prince Pavlos and Crown Princess Marie Chantal of Greece, Patricia Patterson, Alia El-Solh, Emilia and Pepe Fanjul, Pia and Christopher Getty, Chessy Rayner, Mary McFadden, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Gaetana and Tom Enders, Louise Grunwald, Joy Henderiks, Alfred and Judy Taubman, Lee Thaw, Pierre Durand, John Dobkin, Jamie Figg, Bob Colacello, Johnny Galliher, Alex Gregory, Susan and John Gutfreund, Nan and Tommy Kempner, Kenneth Jay Lane, Boaz Mazor, Ken Rainin from San Francisco and Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera.
When Ira von und zu Furstenberg was a nubile 15 years of age, she married and somewhat later divorced Baby Pignatari, the late Brazilian zillionaire who was the greatest playboy of his day. Looking around him at the sizzling Brazilian-style scene, Reinaldo Herrera, who has been to every great party ever thrown since he was a little boy, said to Ira, “I think Khalil is a little confused. He thinks you’re still married to Baby.” These are the jokes.
(Friday read all about Alice Mason’s two holiday parties — when she celebrates she celebrates — where Carolyne Roehm and Nina Griscom Baker sparkled at Alice’s table and about Duane and Mark Hampton’s big holiday lunch at Mortimer’s for Kristen van Riel of the Paris van Riels who, someone said, pronounced the cheese souffle simply gorgeous. Ca suffit — and you can say that about the strikes too.)