Byline: Aileen Mehle
Quidnunc alert! William (Bill) Simon, the widowed financier who was secretary of the treasury in the Nixon administration, is marrying again. The new Mrs. Simon-to be is Toni Donnelly, and she and Simon have known each other for years. The wedding will probably take place in Easthampton, where the bridegroom-to-be has a summer house. Toni Donnelly is described as vivacious and outdoorsy. Bill Simon’s offspring are described as not too vivacious about the whole thing, but isn’t that almost always the case? Oh, and I’m sure you, dear, illuminated readers, know the definition of “quidnunc,” but just in case — it’s one who seeks to know all the latest news or gossip. Hello, out there.
There are certain lives that cry out to be between the covers of a book especially if such world-shakers as cousin Winston Churchill, King George V, Queen Mary, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Gen. Omar Bradley, Gloria Vanderbilt and — ta-da — Camilla Parker Bowles figure on the pages. And they do, they do, in Lady Sarah Spencer-Churchill’s rich and riotous romp of an autobiography, currently being offered to editors. You can write something like that with great authenticity when you are as charismatic and wildly amusing as Sarah, who grew up the daughter of the 10th Duke of Marlborough at staggering Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of the Marlboroughs and perhaps the most famous of England’s stately piles. Cousin Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim and for some reason (Spencer-Churchill genes?) looked like a baby all his life — but you knew that.
Anyhow, Sarah, in this revealing narrative of royal and noble idiosyncrasies, dances us from her cloistered childhood when she and her siblings (her brother Sonny is the 11th duke) were tutored at home to her dazzling debut at Blenheim with 1,000 guests of awesome lineage; from her dreary days working in a wartime British airplane factory where she almost managed to lose two fingers to her coming to America on a troop ship, infant in arms, with 3,000 other G.I. brides, a preface to the Americanization of Sarah, who had become the bride of an American during World War II at a ceremony at Westminster Abbey. It was nothing the dear girl couldn’t handle. She can handle anything, and many say would have made a wonderful Duke of Marlborough if she’d been born a boy.
To some extent, this memoir was inspired by “The Glitter and the Gold,” a marvelous autobiography written in 1962 by Sarah’s American grandmother, her beloved “Granny,” Consuelo Vanderbilt Marlborough Balsan. This was the swan-necked Consuelo who, forced by her overpowering, status-seeking mother, Mrs. Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, to marry the ninth duke whom she abhorred, finally rebelled and divorced him to marry the Frenchman she loved, Jacques Balsan. Sarah has the same guts as Granny, to say the least. Sarah’s agent, Marianne Strong, is hoping a fabulous picture of Sarah and cousin Winston, both puffing away on huge cigars, will end up as the cover on this book of delicious memories.
Coincidentally, a new book arrived in the stores this month called “Lord Churchill’s Coup,” which is all about how the very first Duke of Marlborough, not only an ancestor of Sarah but of Princess Diana as well, got his command — he was a famous soldier — through an affair with an aging mistress of King Charles II. Yes, they were doing it then too. Like crazy.
Denise and Prentis Cobb Hale of the San Francisco social swim flew into town to see their fans and friends and after a week of nonstop lunches, teas, dinners and, who knows, maybe elevenses in their honor, flew out again, leaving fans and friends in little bloody heaps. This is what they do whenever they come to town, which is the reason their semi-annual visit is always referred to as Hell Week. This is just part of what they managed to do: A tiny lunch with Johnny Galliher at his stylish apartment; a splendid dinner at Carroll Petrie’s Fifth Avenue flat where Denise wore her gray flannel FerrA suit with her own diamond buttons; cocktails with Gaetana and Tom Enders and the rest of the city; lunch at Kenny Lane’s and at Nan Kempner’s; dinner at Cecile and Ezra Zilkha’s, where Denise wore a stunning white Lacroix and the guests included such as former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his toothsome wife, Mila; Princess Firyal of Jordan; Pauline and Dixon Boardman; Pat Kluge; Khalil Rizk; Nada and Nemir Kirdir; Christina and Guy Wildenstein; Judy and Alfred Taubman; Thorunn Wathne and Harry Platt; Reinaldo Herrera; Carroll Petrie; Anne and Tim Forbes; Nelson Seabra; Joy Henderiks; Gilbert Kahn; John Noffo; Lauren and John Veronis; Mica Ertegun; Kenneth Rainin (who flew the Hales in from SF on his plane, the dear boy); Kelly and Robert Day of the L.A. Days; Pierre Durand; Emilia and Pepe Fanjul; Carole Rochas; Liz and Damon Mezzacappa; Georgette and Robert Mosbacher; Judy and Ed Ney, and on and on into the night. The Hales also managed to squeeze in the Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum and Khalil Rizk’s dinner at Mortimer’s for Princess Ira von Furstenberg and then there was the lunch at Le Cirque Denise and Prentis gave for Gianfranco Ferre, the designing genius at Dior.
At the lunch: Lady Stevens from London, Graydon Carter from Vanity Fair, Judy Taubman, Carol Channing, Nick Dunne, Douglas Cramer, Mila Mulroney, Judy Ney, Nada Kirdar, Gaetana Enders, Khalil Rizk, Johnny Galliher, Rose Marie Bravo, Carroll Petrie, Cecile Zilkha, Casey Ribicoff, Grace Mirabella, Shakira Caine, Dreda Mele, Nan Kempner, Pat Patterson, Martha Stewart, Anne Cox Chambers, Georgette Mosbacher and more of the same.
Next week, read all about Khalil Rizk’s blast at Mortimer’s with a samba band all the way from Brazil, dancing girls that shook, rattled and rolled and such beauties as Patty Cisneros of the Venezuelan Cisneroses, Sandra di Portanova and Pia Getty dancing off both their shoes and whatever else wasn’t nailed down.