Byline: Aileen Mehle
You will be thrilled to hear that Francesca von Habsburg, the fetching Archduchess of Austria, has a mission, make that a MISSION, and like her husband’s, the Archduke Karl’s, title, it’s a serious one: to rescue and restore endangered art treasures throughout Eastern Europe. This all falls into place when one recalls that Francesca is the daughter of Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the billionaire German industrialist whose staggering art collection, most of it now hanging in a Spanish museum, is described as second only to that of the Queen of England.
Francesca started her Operation Rescue in Dubrovnik after the shelling of that beautiful city threatened some of its great altar pieces. Recently she’s been working in St. Petersburg at the Institute of Oriental Studies, where she discovered a great trove of precious Islamic masterpieces sadly in need of repair. A selection of some of the finest examples is now on display at the Petit Palais in Paris and will come to New York and the Metropolitan Museum in the fall of 1995. Stefan Carbone, the Museum’s manuscript expert, calls it the most important exhibition of its kind in the past 60 years.
The Archduchess is speaking at Sotheby’s on Dec. 13 at 6:30 p.m. on the consequences of Communist neglect to works of art. She’s got her slides at the ready and even some of the manuscripts themselves. This is all pretty wonderful when one remembers the Francesca of yesteryear, dancing wildly and with eye-popping abandon while the guests cheered at Rosemarie Kanzler’s fabulous Oriental party in Greece, wearing a graphic gold breastplate to a crowded party at Calvin (pre-Kelly) Klein’s and acting the ultimate spitfire in the more recent past when she was every rocker’s favorite fan. All B.A., of course, as Before Archduchess.
Five big olés to the Spanish Institute’s Gold Medal Gala in the Plaza Hotel Ballroom, one of the big annual New York fetes that isn’t running out of steam. The ballroom looked beautiful, all glittering and gorgeous with thousands of red roses (by Atlas Floral Decorator), marvelous lighting (by the Plaza) and lively, spicy Latin music by Bob Hardwick and his orchestra, whose new dance album is titled, of all things, “Dancing With The Rich And Famous.” The evening was in the presence of the King of Spain’s sister, Her Royal Highness The Infanta Dona Pilar, Duchess of Badajoz, marvelous in golden-brown lace and royal pearls. What a personaje! She walks in the door, and that’s it.
This year the Gold Medals were awarded to Monserrat Caballe, Spain’s glorious diva; Antonio Garrigues Diaz-Canabate, perhaps Spain’s most distinguished diplomat, and New York’s own Eric Javits, who has worked so diligently with the Spanish Institute for years and has done so much to foster Spanish-American relations. Mayor Giuliani was there speaking at the podium, and so was Donna Hanover Giuliani, looking her prettiest in black silk and seated at the main table.
The chairmen of the evening were Carroll Petrie in white ruffles by Chanel and the Hon. Angier Biddle Duke, who, besides filling other diplomatic posts, has been our ambassador to Spain. The sponsor of the evening was Banco Argentario of Spain, whose New York head, Marco Antonio Garcia, was also at the head table with his stunning wife.
In the crowd were such prestigious Latins and fans of Latins as Fernando Aleu; Placido Arango, one of the richest men in Mexico; the renowned John Brademas; Debbie and Nicky Zoullas; Michael Butler; Inmaculada de Habsburgo; Carmen and Felix de Pinies; the Hon. Jaime de Pinies; Christina and Salvador Assael; Pauline and Dixon Boardman; Kenneth Jay Lane; Beatrice and Julio Mario Santo Domingo; Emilia and Pepe Fanjul; Malu Futscher-Pereira; Betsy Bloomingdale, with Joe Hannon; the American-born Spanish Countess Aline de Romanones, with Bud Palmer; Schuyler Chapin; Lee Thaw; Count Vega del Ren; Princess Ira von Furstenburg; Khalil Rizk; Jerome Zipkin; Jane and Peter Marino; Barbara de Portago; Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera; Margaretha Javits; Daniela Gardner; Bernabe Marti (he is Monserrat Caballe’s husband), and on and on into the noche. Viva Espana!
You could say Dani Janssen, blonde and seductive and, never mind all that, a terrific cook, is the ultimate Hollywood party giver. Her latest little sit-down was for 42 or those above-the-title people we all know and love, and that would include Barbra Streisand (who arrived with old beau Richard Baskin), Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson. To say nothing of Bruce Springsteen, Diane Lane and Christopher Lambert (together, although they are divorcing), the MCA/Universal powerhouse Sid Sheinberg and his wife Lorraine, Timothy Dalton and Penny Marshall. Everyone tore at the monkey bread, Dani’s specialty, and what they couldn’t eat, they took home. Sweet.
At one point, that devilish Jack Nicholson, seated at a table with Rita Wilson, Barbra Streisand and Penny Marshall, said to Rita, referring to her upcoming film, “Mixed Nuts,” directed by Nora Ephron, “So Rita, how does it feel to work with a broad director?” It took the others at the table, all “broad” directors, a minute for that to sink in. For his cuteness, he got pelted with anything the “broads” could lay their hands on. Jack always did like to stir up things at the table — oh, and everywhere else.
Sean Connery’s wife, Michelline, took him home and put him to bed and then came back to the party. When Bruce Springsteen left, he took along a container of Dani’s sweet potato casserole. Adorable.
Lynn Wyatt of the Houston Wyatts will become a grandmother around about New Year’s Eve, thanks to her son Steve and his wife Cate, who live in Virginia. So while Lynn was visiting in nearby Washington, Buffy Cafritz gave her a lunch to celebrate the good news. They all came — Donna McLarty, Deeda Blair, B.A. Bentsen (former Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen’s wife), Susan Brinkley, Lady Renwick (wife of the British ambassador), Polly Kraft-Cutler, Barbie Albritton, Elaine Wolfensohn, like that. Hot stuff. When Buffy Cafritz invites, they all come, never mind what their political affiliations. That’s social clout.
The exciting on dit in Palm Beach is that John Kluge, one of the richest Americans, is looking for a house in the toniest section of the resort. There are a lot of rich people in PB, of course, but none with Kluge’s deep pockets, which drop to the floor and run around the block. Meanwhile, Pat Kluge, John’s ex-wife, has rented the Southampton house of the Angier Biddle Dukes for the coming summer. Robin and Angie Duke will move into their bigger Southampton house, the one that belonged to Angie’s late mother, Cordelia Drexel Biddle Duke Robertson, which they’ll decorate from attic to basement.
There are always dresses that stand out at any frolic, so herewith some of the hits of the recent Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum: Eliza Reed’s red taffeta designed by Balmain/Oscar de la Renta, with a narrow waist and a full skirt that actually rustled. (Oscar de la Renta is Eliza’s step-father, so that’s nice). Veronica Hearst in a long black knit with black lace. Betsy Bloomingdale’s long column of black chiffon by Dior. Bootsie Galbraith’s pretty ruffles. Carolyn Chaney’s drop-dead black silk Arnold Scaasi from his new collection, off-the shoulder, with a tulip front that gave the crowd a lovely peek-a-boo at her legs. Princess Firyal of Jordan’s golden tunic and long matching skirt. And, last but not least, the beautiful rising-star model, Carolyn Murphy, showing off the best of Ralph Lauren.