Byline: Aileen Mehle
For those of you who keep up with Joan Collins — no shoving, please — now hear this. Joan kicked off the London holiday season with a splashy party at her house in Belgravia, the best part of town. Wearing a body-hugging red dress by Valentino, she welcomed Princess Margaret; Roger Moore and his new lady, Christine Tholstop; Shakira and Michael Caine; Andrew Lloyd Webber; Nanette Newman and Bryan Forbes, and Robert Wagner and Jill St. John. All of them sweetly wished Joan bon voyage as she is off on a seven-city tour of the U.S. to launch her new book, “Health, Youth and Happiness: My Secrets” and her new fitness video “My Secrets of Fitness and Beauty.” Nothing like combining business with pleasure. And that’s not all. In the spring, Joan will start work on a new TV project with Dyan Cannon. That’s as in never say Dy Dyan, who refuses to sit back and watch her career go a-glimmering.
Meanwhile, on the Chinese Front, Michael Chow of all those Mr. Chow restaurants in Beverly Hills, New York and London, is spending the holidays in Beijing where the Chinese government is in the midst of a 21-day celebration honoring the 100th anniversary of the birth of Michael’s father, the late Zhou Xin Fang, long revered as a combo Laurence Olivier and Luciano Pavarotti, so great was his influence on the opera and theater in China. After an eight-foot sculpture of daddy is unveiled, Michael and his fashion designer wife, Eva Chun, will visit his brother, Chow Sho-Lin, the leading actor of the Shanghai Peking Opera Company, and his sister, Tsai Chin, one of the co-stars of “The Joy Luck Club.” Michael and Eva will be back in Beverly Hills in February in time for the Chinese New Year. I knew you’d want to know.
Palm Beach social types (plus the ever-hovering wannabes) will have more dish to dish over these post-holiday nights and days than who was — or who wasn’t — invited to the The Coconuts’ New Year’s Eve party, the most exclusive in town, if you bother to listen. Lavish parties, like big money, tend to make the resort’s collective eye light right up. So does another favorite topic, real estate.
The news of the sale of a major residential property to a star of international business and America’s third — or is it second? — richest man, the multibillionaire John Kluge, is just starting to ripple to the surface, and you may be reading it here for the first time.
Kluge has bought an impressive house located just off the ocean on El Brillo Way, the former winter residence of the late Sir Joseph and Lady Nickerson. Sir Joseph, tall, impressive and self-made, was not only one of Britain’s richest gentlemen but the country’s No. 1 shot, shooting being a sport he indulged in frequently when at home on either of his two vast shooting estates, one for grouse and one for pheasant, if you please. He played host there during the season to such big shots as King Juan Carlos of Spain and, from Palm Beach, the Pepe Fanjuls, the Warrington Gillets and the Dixon Boardmans. Nickerson died several years ago in the El Brillo mansion.
Before his day, the international hostess Kitty Bache (Mrs. Gilbert) Miller rented the house for many winters, bringing down her decorator, the legendary Billy Baldwin, to plump up the cushions and cover anything that assailed her impeccable eye. Thrilled to pay $60,000 for a couple of months in the sun, Kitty considered the house a bargain.
Naturally, there are far grander houses available in Palm Beach. For instance, the Nelson Peltz oceanfront estate built by the late Anita Young, is up for sale for $75 million! Kluge could have bought it with a flick of the pen, but the word is the current woman in his life did not want anything too huge or ostentatious. Sold to Kluge for $6 million and numbering merely 25 rooms, the Nickerson house is small potatoes compared to the Peltz palace.
Speaking of big fortunes, the Stanley Tollmans from South Africa are part of a large contingent of enormously rich people who have made Palm Beach a part of their lives. They own the resort’s recently revamped Chesterfield Hotel, named for another of their hotels, the Chesterfield in London, right off Berkeley Square.
To salute the New Year, Bea and Stanley Tollman had an open house that went on forever, and to grab people’s attention — we’re in been there-done that Palm Beach, remember — they flew in an entire circus from Las Vegas. Guests approaching the Tollmans’ big, white-pillared house on Via del Lago were met by trapeze artists in pink and blue tights swinging from the banyan trees and, inside, a tent was pitched on the terrace where clowns cavorted, fortune tellers plied their trade and an ice skating rink occupied the center ring. The caviar came by the vat and the champagne by the hogshead.
As for The Coconuts, the time-honored men’s club whose New Year’s Eve party is the hot ticket year after year, this year’s blowout was held at the new Colony Hotel Pavilion with Neal Smith and his band playing nonstop and supper served from 10 to 2 a.m. There were big private dinners beforehand including the Ridgeley Harrisons’ do at their splendid house on Jungle Road whose provenance includes a Widener and a Whitney. You all remember Ridgeley. He’s the model for that distinguished white-haired chap, Mr. Jenkins, sniffy hero of those ubiquitous gin ads you see in all the magazines, subways and bus stops. Fame is where you find it.
As for Judy and A. Alfred Taubman, they scaled down their New Year’s gathering this year. Judy is planning a big one for Al’s 70th birthday in February at their beautifully restored Mizner house on South Ocean Boulevard for which they just won an award from the Palm Beach Preservation Society. A drum roll, please.
Speaking of preservation, Richard Jenrette, chairman of The Equitable Companies, and one of the country’s foremost collectors and preservationists, is the honorary chairman of the 1995 Winter Antiques Show opening on Jan. 20 at the Seventh Regiment Armory, underwritten by Architectural Digest and benefiting the East Side House Settlement. The chairmen, Arie Kopelman and Louis Bowen, will welcome 66 dealers, and a special loan exhibition will feature a re-creation of the drawing room at “Edgewater,” Jenrette’s magnificent neoclassical Hudson River Valley house. Tiffany & Co. will honor the show by designing table settings inspired by the chairmen of the Jan. 19 gala preview on view at the store from Jan. 12 through Feb. 11. Tables will be created for Joanne Woodward, Anjelica Huston, Donna Hanover Giuliani, Peggy Rockefeller and, of course, Richard Jenrette, who has been called “the last gentleman on Wall Street.” (Can’t you just see all those investment bankers’ noses going out of joint?) If you don’t already know that Glenn Bernbaum of Mortimer’s will create a “Cafe Mortimer” right on the floor of the show, well, now you do. Another drum roll, please.