Byline: Aileen Mehle

Here’s a little story to take your mind off health care for a minute. It even took Hillary Rodham Clinton’s mind off that and more — while it lasted. It seems Barbra Streisand raved and raved to Hillary about the beauties of Gore Vidal’s cliff-side villa in Ravello and how she must see it on her visit to Italy. Hillary’s curiosity must have been piqued, because during her recent Italian trip with President Clinton, Hillary, along with Chelsea, made a special pilgrimage to see Gore and his breathtaking house, and in 98-degree heat, dear God. Another reason for the side trip might have been a chance to take a peek at all the Jackie Kennedy Onassis memorabilia Gore has gathered through the years. Like millions of the rest of us, Hillary was and is fascinated by Jackie, so this could have been a lure.
The bottom line is Hillary, Chelsea and the Secret Service never got as far as the main house, a half-mile hike from downtown Ravello, hell in that heat, but had to settle for Gore’s pool house, which is at least a quarter of a mile closer to the town square. (No, you can’t take a car to the place; there are no roads.) So Gore lugged all the pictures and mementos of Jackie he had kept through the years to the pool house where he and Hillary spent several hours under an umbrella, eating, drinking, gossiping and perusing the Jackie collection. One hears that later that evening, Gore, Hillary and Chelsea went to a Wagner concert in the Ravello piazza. If you believe the gossip, hours earlier Hillary had canceled a date to visit the ballet in Naples that same night with Italy’s First Lady, la bella Signora Berlusconi. La bella donna was left to cool her stiletto heels without our own First Lady in a totally un-air-conditioned theater. Peccato!

A British literary scandal that simply refuses to die involves Margaret, the late Duchess of Argyll, she of the roiling libido, and a book about her, an unauthorized biography called “The Duchess Who Dared.” And that she did.
The London publishers, Sidgwick & Jackson — an imprint of MacMillan, the English publishing house, not to be confused with the American firm — had planned to publish the first of several books about the flamboyant third wife of the Scottish Duke of Argyll, whose lurid divorce from the Duke enveloped London high society in flames. Cited in the suit were some of the biggest male names in town, all accused of being privy to Margaret’s favors — or favours, if you will. But the literary house has hit a snag in the persons of the Duchess’s two children by her American first husband, Charlie Sweeny. They are Brian Sweeny, an investment counselor who used to live in New York and hang out with the smart young set in the Sixties, and Brian’s sister Frances, the Duchess of Rutland. Threatening suit, the siblings have surfaced with a signed agreement by the biography’s author, Charles Castle, executed in 1974, agreeing never to make use of tapes and interviews with the Duchess that he had conducted during a long professional relationship as the proposed ghostwriter of Margaret’s autobiography.
Apparently, the stormy, self-willed Duchess, once the heiress to the Scottish Wigham fortune, didn’t like what Castle had put on paper and ceremoniously fired him — sacked him if you will. But not before first obtaining the agreement in question, which guaranteed never to use the information unless he continued as the author of her memoirs.
The children sent their mother’s executor to Sidgwick & Jackson to go over the galley proofs line by line. One hears the material was highly combustible and very blue, involving picking up men in bars, etc., and inviting them to her lovely landmark Queen Anne house plus references to a distressing health problem the Duchess suffered for several years. In the face of monumental legal and financial risks, Sidgwick & Jackson have shelved the book, at least for the moment. It was to have been published last Monday!

Be he live or be he dead, the Earl of Lucan, who vanished without a trace 20 years ago after his children’s nanny was found bludgeoned to death at Lucan’s London house in the posh Belgravia area — many thought the victim was meant to be Lucan’s estranged wife — has spawned a cottage industry. Books, TV films and a movie based on the unruly lord and the unsolved murder are all coming out this year. The police are still following every lead. And there have been sightings! People swear they have spotted the elusive Earl in, listen to this, Cherbourg, Botswana, Hong Kong and South America! Elvis, can you hear me?

A Howard Hughes TV miniseries is about to happen. Terry Moore, the weird tycoon’s ex-wife’s terminally inside book, “Murder By Neglect,” is due soon, and that, combined with her earlier book, “The Beauty and the Billionaire,” will hit the little screen. And from the “it never rains but it pours” department, Hollywood talk has Warren Beatty’s long-in-work movie project on HH heating up. No word when the cameras will start to roll, but the best guess is right after his baby boy is born. His and Annette Bening’s baby boy. She’s the one who’s showing.

Oscar de la Renta will be the perfect host to his fellow couturiers when they make their way to New York in September for The Fashion Group’s Night of Stars gala fashion show and dinner. The designer and his wife, Annette, will host an intimate cocktail party for Karl Lagerfeld, Hubert de Givenchy, Christian Lacroix, Gianni Versace, Philippe Venet, Emanuel Ungaro, Maurizio Galante and Gianfranco Ferre at his Park Avenue apartment prior to the big show.

Now that Penelope Ann Miller in “The Shadow” has brought to the screen the glory days of a 1930s “dame,” get set for Lysette Anthony to star in “Smack Goddess,” a Fifties-style suspense script she wrote reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe at her hottest. Lysette, an English actress, resembles MM. You can judge for yourselves soon when she bursts into flame in “The Advocate,” Miramax’s medieval murder mystery movie, supposedly a scorcher, so wear something light.

Can it be possible? Marylou Whitney will be making her very first trip to Newport ever on Aug. 13. She’ll fly from her Cady Hill House in Saratoga after taking in the first race of the day and turn up that night at the big Preservation Society of Newport gala for all to see. She will be staying with the Newport and Palm Beach hostess Barton Gubelmann.
Marylou’s late husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, took her to dozens of places around the globe during their long marriage (and bought her houses in many of them) but Newport wasn’t one of them. Some say the Queen of Resorts is already preparing overtime for Marylou’s entreÄ — she has been known to drop from the skies in a hot air balloon just like that — but you know how people exaggerate. Actually, they won’t start preparing until they see the whites of her ruffles.

Looking lovely in a simple long ivory silk sheath under a full-length sheer ivory organza coat designed by Zoran and carrying a bouquet of lilies-of-the-valley, Peggy Jacobs, the daughter of Rosalind Jacobs and the late merchant prince Melvin Jacobs, married Steven Learner, a young architect, at Temple Emanu-El in New York with a wedding luncheon afterward at The Four Seasons. The bride’s mother, noted for her chic, wore sleeveless short red piquÄ by Geoffrey Beene with yoke of red and white re-embroidered lace and more lace at the hem, all this under a big white straw cartwheel hat that made her hard to kiss and easy to kiss at the same time. The bride’s only attendant, Linda Zelenko, the matron of honor, wore navy blue silk, and the entire ceremony was low-key and understated, the way Peggy wanted it. The newlyweds will live in New York.

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