Byline: Aileen Mehle
Vanessa Redgrave, opening Nov. 21 at the Union Square Theatre in “Vita and Virginia,” was puffing away on a cigarette at the Russian Tea Room when she noticed Leroy Neiman sketching her from an opposite booth. So when he was finished, she asked him why me? “The way you held your cigarette, your entire wrist exposed,” said the gallant Neiman. “To an artist these are signs of vulnerability and emotion.” One shudders to think what secrets would have been revealed if she’d rolled her sleeves up over her elbows.
“Vita and Virginia,” the two-character play about the real-life love affair between Vita Sackville-West (Vanessa) and Virginia Woolf (Eileen Atkins) is directed by Zoe Caldwell, a wonderful actress who could have played either part magnificently herself.
As for Neiman, he has been commissioned privately to paint Luciano Pavarotti in two of his great roles: “Tosca” and “Pagliacci.” All that one has to do is open his mouth and you can see his emotion and vulnerability all the way down to his, well, you know.
It was sort of tit for tat at the hugely successful Carousel of Hope party at the Beverly Hilton, run incomparably by Barbara (Mrs. Marvin) Davis to raise millions for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. The royals on hand, Princess Margaret’s son Viscount Linley and his wife, Serena (in a Hervé Leger) and the Duchess of York (Fergie in a Rochas), were knocked out by the big movie stars who sashayed around in their theatrical raiment and big jewels, and the big movie stars were impressed by the royals, especially the Linleys. Barbra Streisand wasn’t a bit impressed that California Governor Pete Wilson was invited and didn’t try to keep it a secret from Marvin Davis, who tried to make it clear to the politically incorrect singer that Pete is after all the governor of the state and it isn’t the done thing to show him the door.
Liza Minnelli looked bouncy and blithe though the chances are she may have to have a hip replacement soon. Nancy Davis, Barbara and Marvin’s daughter, was a standout in her white satin and black lace Vera Wang, and the ever-adorable Cari Modine looked ever-adorable in her flouncy Isaac Mizrahi frock. (Husband Matthew is off in Malta making a movie.) Blaine Trump was a standout in red as she chatted with the famous Placido Domingo, who chatted right back. One of the best-looking women in the Beverly Hilton ballroom was Marianne Rogers, whose divorce from country music star Kenny Rogers has been final for about five minutes. She still thinks they’ll get together again, but then there’s that cute little waitress Kenny’s been traveling with, isn’t there? Everyone thought the John Travoltas made such an attractive couple, especially now that Travolta has lost most of the weight he put on for his hit role in “Pulp Fiction” and unloaded the three layers of hair extensions that gave him that greasy, grungy look we all love to hate.
Catching Up With the Parties: Casita Maria celebrated its 60th anniversary in the ballroom of the Plaza with everyone in black tie and in the mood for a fiesta. The decor by Philip Baloun was not only masterful but edible — mangoes, papayas and melon of every sort machete-d in half and piled among bamboo stalks hung with bananas and orchids. And please let’s not forget the coconut halves holding tiny candles. Carmen Miranda would have loved it.
Rita Moreno certainly did. She was one of the three recipients of Casita Maria’s Gold Medal of Honor presented to her by Ralph Destino of the Cartier Destinos. Oscar de la Renta presented Patty Cisneros with her medal, and Heather Watts hung his on Jock Soto, who dances with the New York City Ballet, usually with Heather as his partner. Co-chairman Diandra Douglas, there with her husband, Michael the Movie Star, joined co-chairman Jackie Weld in thanking Anne Eisenhower Flottl and Wolfgang Flottl for their splendid support, and then Bob Hardwick and his orchestra took over with a Latin beat. Caramba!
In the crowd: Jill Blanchard, Oscar and Annette de la Renta, Gaetana and Tom Enders, Samuel Botero, Lee Thaw, Anne Slater, Rita and Ian Schrager, Jamee and Peter Gregory, Gustavo Cisneros, Ana Cristina Alvarado, Lydia and Robert Forbes, Budd Calisch, Pilar and Juan Pablo Molyneux, Dolores Smithies, Kay Meehan and the master of ceremonies, Mr. Robert Woolley.
I.M. Pei, the world-renowned architect, was the honored guest at the Royal Academy of Arts dinner dance at the Rainbow Room where 200 guests gathered to celebrate. Pei is also an honorary Royal Academician of the London institution, so that makes it nice. The co-chairmen of the evening were Barbara Bancroft, seated between the British Ambassador Sir Robin Renwick and Kenneth Jay Lane, and Sandra Payson, and among the guests were Jorie and Geoffrey Kent, Lady Renwick, Alyne Massey, Nancy Dickerson Whitehead and John Whitehead, Jan Cowles, Nancy and Keith Wellin, Patricia Patterson, Francis Kellogg, Bea and Randolph Guthrie, Veronica Hearst, Ann and Moose Taylor from Denver, Gaetana and Tom Enders and on and on into the night. Alex Donner and his orchestra played. And played. And played. And played.
Bernard Combemale celebrated his 65th birthday at Gambusa, the new cabaret at Arcimboldo restaurant with lots of beautiful backgrounds (and foreground) music provided by four young singers from the Metropolitan Opera performing arias overtime. The room was filled with revelers including Princess Margarita of Romania, the French Ambassador to the U.N. and Mme. Merimee, Betty and Virgil Sherrill, lovely Frances Bergen (Candice’s mother) with Craig Stevens, Phyllis Wagner, Tamara Guilden, Jerry Zipkin, Lee Thaw, Kathy and Ace Greenberg, Judy Green, Edwin Sandys, Sue Railey and, last but not least, George Plimpton with broad and burly Winston Churchill in tow. Who among you does not know that Winston is the son of our beleaguered Ambassador to France Pamela Harriman, who, incidentally, looks decades younger than her son? Winston was ever so chatty at the party, telling listeners that his latest fling with an American woman ended when he came to his senses and not when mummy slammed down her dainty foot. I’ll believe it if you will.
Fe Saracino-Fendi of the family of famous Italian designers gave a lively party at the Fifth Avenue Fendi store to celebrate the New York City Ballet. Fe is a co-chairman of the ballet’s junior committee, and the evening was rife with dancers, choreographers and the lot. Like the lovely Darci Kistler, Tara and Michael Rockefeller, Mary McFadden and, well, you get the picture. It’s simple. Nobody stays home at night.