Byline: Aileen Mehle

The debutante season burst into bloom in Paris last week with the 11th Crillon Haute Couture Ball held at the Crillon Hotel on the Place de la Concorde. Actually it’s the one and only debutante ball in Paris, so that more or less takes care of the whole blooming season, wouldn’t you say?
Two dozen girls, aged 15 to 19, from 12 different countries, came out at the gala, budding beauties from Brazil, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Monaco, Poland, Spain, England and the United States. The evening began with a fashion parade with the girls all wearing the latest creations from their favorite fashion houses and their mothers doing pretty much the same. They don’t call it the Haute Couture Ball for nothing. This stylish march was followed by a gourmet dinner fit for the likes of Marie Antoinette and after by the grand ball for 300 tippy-tops, a benefit for Paris’s Pierre and Marie Curie University and its medical center.
Among the sweet young things making their bows to society were standout Princess Paola Orleans e Braganza Sapiecha of Brazil in a not-so-sweet but really skimpy and sexy Jean Paul Gaultier. Blame it on the bossa nova. America sent four of its finest buds along, Lydia Shaw, Amanda Hearst, Vanessa Traina and Victoria Traina. Beautiful Miss Lydia, 17, wore a sleeveless cream silk sheath by Thierry Mugler embroidered in gold and pewter sequins. Fresh off the fall catwalk, the dress was slit up both sides showing off gold gladiator sandals with straps wrapped around her legs. It was enough to make a hungry lion purr. Lydia’s mother, Patty Hearst Shaw, wore a black beaded Escada with a dazzling ruby and diamond necklace. If you missed her, you saw her anyhow.
Amanda Hearst, 18, Lydia’s cousin, swept down the grand staircase in a white strapless gown by Carolina Herrera with a full skirt and a top sprinkled with white bugle beads. In her long blond hair, a pearl tiara by Mikimoto nestled, oh, my. Her mother, Anne Hearst, also wore a Carolina Herrera, a chocolate skirt and a beige beaded top. Her string of jumbo gray pearls were very jumbo…
Danielle Steel of San Francisco, author of best-selling blockbusters, slipped into a navy gown by Christian Dior to bring her two lovely daughters, Vanessa and Victoria Traina, to the ball. Vanessa had poured herself into another Dior, a striking strapless gown with a multicolored sash. Victoria wore a jazzy blue Christian Lacroix with a bustier and a tiered skirt that flounced to the floor. While they all sipped Veuve Clicquot, Danielle remarked that she was looking for just the right Paris property on the Left Bank so she could move from her 55-room mansion overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge to Paris, where, just in case, she has been keeping two apartments at the Ritz for the past 20 years and is ready for a change. You can do that whenever you feel like it, especially when you keep writing best-sellers, year after year, ’til the cows — and the lolly — come home. But you knew that.

Maestro Giancarlo Menotti, a giant of the music world, famous composer, conductor, charmer, paused in New York for a tiny visit — very andante — on his way to a festival in his honor in Detroit. It was just long enough for Judy and Sam Peabody, cultural stalwarts and charter members of the social swim, to bid his fans and friends to cocktails at their elegant Park Avenue apartment. They all came, of course. Who wouldn’t for Giancarlo, he of the prodigious talent, the noble mien and the bella figura to end all belli figuri? Oh, and the sunny smile. Darling Giancarlo.
He and his son, Francis, known as Chip, had traveled from Yester House, Giancarlo’s estate in Scotland, where the maestro lives with his son, his daughter-in-law, Melinda (she is Happy Rockefeller’s daughter), and his two handsome grandsons, Claudio and Cosimo. “I am always happy to be in New York,” he said. Not nearly as happy as his admirers are to see the dear man.
The great divas Renee Fleming and Marilyn Horne were there to kiss his cheek and gathered about him were such worthies as the noted composer and musical figure Ned Rorem, Olga Rostropovich (she is the cellist Mtislav Rostropovich’s daughter), Carter Bray of the New York Philharmonic, the philanthropist Jill Sackler, Camilla and Earl McGrath, Prince and Princess Alexander Romanoff, Mieta Niscemi, Jean and Gordon Douglas, Lee Thaw, Joshua Bell, Kitty Carlisle Hart in a wonderful black velvet hat about as big as a small wagon wheel, etc., etc., etc. As for Judy, she was molta bella figura herself in red beaded pants and a black top.

Liv Tyler, who stars in the epic trilogy, “Lord of the Rings,” never read the Tolkien books before she was chosen for the role of Arwin, but after reading these classics (and starring in all three films) you will be thrilled to hear that she has become a fanatic. “I’ve never been a fan of fantasy books or movies,” she says. “But this film is beyond that. It’s a universal story of good and evil+with interesting characters and their flaws and passions, which today’s fantasy genres seem to lack.” She means it. She feels the books should be required reading in schools instead of “Moby Dick.” So don’t call her Ishmael.

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