Byline: Aileen Mehle

The buzz goes that Ellen Barkin stopped dating David Arquette because of their age difference — David’s 16 years younger. Still, that didn’t stop her from getting started with him, did it? Now, if you believe what her friends say — you don’t have to if you don’t want to — the new twinkle in Ellen’s eye is because she has taken up with an older man. He’s Matt Dillon, and he’s only nine years younger. So, bully for her. (You may have noticed — if you didn’t, no need to worry — that Ellen’s ex-husband Gabriel Byrne co-stars with Matt in “Frankie Starlight.” In little town Hollywood there are only so many male types to go around — and around and around and around.)

Julia Roberts will collect $12.5 million, a record for a female movie star, when she stars in “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” Never mind that her last two flicks have been less than thrilling at the box office.

MGM, perking up after a long drought, will be rushing its new “Richard III” film into release this month the better to qualify for an Oscar nod. Sir Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Maggie Smith and Nigel Hawthrone are all said to be magnificent. This “Richard III” is not your regular “Richard III” of song and story but a new version set in Britain in the 1930’s with, guess what, an abdication looming.

Bijan, the diminutive fragrance designer you see in all those adds smiling ear to ear at a taut, corn-rowed Bo Derek (shades of “10”), is sending out Christmas cards showing a head and shoulders shot of Bo, sporting her signature zillions of tiny blonde braids — and nothing else. Unless you count the 180 carats of diamonds Bijan intertwined in her hair. Not personally. There is a Mrs. Bijan — and a Mr. Derek.

Not only is Brad Pitt beautiful but, so far, a perfect beau. He’s so gallant that in many pictures taken of him and his love, Gwyneth Paltrow, together he’s holding doors and chairs and wraps like a little gentleman should. Next — his cape over a puddle?

We’ve all heard the been-around-for-a-while news that the engagement of Queen Elizabeth’s youngest, Prince Edward, to Sophie Rhys-Jones is imminent with an official betrothal probably to be announced at Christmas. The latest news in blue-blooded circles is that Elizabeth de Balkany, the daughter of Italian Princess Maria Gabriella di Savoia and French tycoon Robert de Balkany, is betrothed to the Italian Marchese Eugenio Modignani. What’s really cute is that Elizabeth’s great-great-grandfather King Umberto I of Italy and Eugenio’s great-great-aunt Eugenia were once scandalously involved, back at the turn of the century. In little old Europe there are only so many bluebloods to go around — and around and around and around.

In Buenos Aires, the big news is the approaching marriage of Miguel Angel Carcano, who comes from one of the finest families in Argentina, and the lovely Florinda Perkins. The wedding will take place at la Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus in Ascochinga-Cordoba on December 28 with a reception following at the Carcano estancia “San Miguel.” Miguel Angel Carcano, named after his famous grandfather, the distinguished diplomat who served as his country’s ambassador to the Court of St. James’s among other posts, is the son of Teresa Estrada de Carcano and the late Michael Carcano, both great friends of Jackie Onassis. The bridegroom’s aunts, great beauties, set London afire when their father was en poste. One, Chiquita, became Lady Astor; the other, Baby, became Lady Ednam. There’s nothing like a little hot Latin blood — unless it’s a lot of hot Latin blood.

On December 14, a trio of Norma Dana’s closest allies will team up to honor her and her legacy of service to Just One Break at a dinner dance at the Pierre. The three, Adair Beutel, Karen Clark and Jane Cammill, and the honorary chairman, Barbara Bancroft, have selected Philip Baloun to transform the Pierre’s ballroom into an art deco winter wonderland with glittering icicles cascading from the ceiling and tables covered in silvery net and centered with silver leaf trumpets filled with white lilies and silver leaves. The gentlemen will be trimmed in black ties, while the ladies plan to wear snow white dresses to complete the scene. La!
The committee of the evening honoring the elegant, blonde Norma, a civic and philanthropic leader who has spent 30 years raising money for many a top charity, is made up of such as Jessie Araskog, Nan and Tom Kempner, Patricia Patterson, Adalbert von Gontard, Thorunn, Berge and Soffia Wathne, Harry Platt, Carroll Petrie, Carolyn and Bill Chaney, the Eben Pynes, Aimee de Heeren, Gail Hilson, Susan and Coleman Burke and, yes, you get the picture.

Palm Beach is oohing and aahing over the dazzling new Poinciana Club designed by the gifted interior decorator Ann Downey, who lives in Palm Beach part of the year and in Paris, where she has a beautiful apartment, the rest. Shakira and Michael Caine were with Ann in PB over Thanksgiving and she gave them a preview of the club, which opened last week. In the heart of PB, it overlooks Lake Worth and is a glorious mixture of massive chandeliers and lanterns Ann designed and had made in Marrakech, hand-painted striped walls, green trellises in the Loggia Dining Room, a piano bar in the Papaya Room, tangerine trees, boxwood hedges and vibrant colors that all go to make for a tropical eden. Lyn Chase has designed the china, chef Todd Sicolo has created a lunch and dinner e la Palm Beach. Peter Beck is the club’s owner, and the board of governors is top drawer. The Poinciana already has several hundred members, and they’re all pushing in for the holiday parties and getting set for an early season. VA-VA-VOOM! Everybody’s been a little sick of that God’s Waiting Room stuff for a long, long time.

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