Byline: Aileen Mehle
Everyone knows that lovely, lovely First Lady Laura Bush came to New York to help Rudy Giuliani light the red, white and blue Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. But did you know that before she arrived to turn on the switch she stopped by Arnold Scaasi’s couture salon to take a breather? That is if you call fitting her clothes for her first holiday season in the White House a breather. Laura Bush does, and Scaasi, who has a pretty lady to work on — and with — is making her look prettier and chic-er every time she appears in public. What a good person.
At the Kennedy Center Awards Gala, Scaasi resplendently dressed Laura Bush in a white lace top and a tiered black satin skirt. The next night at the Congressional Christmas Ball at the White House, she wore a slinky, scooped-neck Christmas red damask dress with a three-strand diamante necklace from Scaasi’s jewelry collection archives. She was a smash.
What Scaasi was fitting before the Christmas tree celebration were two dinner suits — one in hot pink and gold brocade and the other in luscious burgundy velvet. Also in the works is something russet to match the First Lady’s russet hair. Scaasi is excited. “Laura has a trainer,” he says, “and exercises every day and has lost two inches all around.”
Even though Laura Bush loves desserts, she may not be dipping into the Christmas pudding this year, given her new regime. Scaasi has changed the whole feeling of her wardrobe. Notice how great she looks on the cover of Newsweek in his little red suit. Scaasi is also exhausted. The dear boy is off to his new Palm Beach villa to recuperate, but never fear: He will rise to design again.
John Loring of the Tiffany Lorings has done it again with his just-published book, “Magnificent Tiffany Silver” (Harry N. Abrams). It’s a pictorial history depicting silver trophies that go from stunning to over-the-top with tales of the great fortunes that backed American sports — and it’s as visually sumptuous as his 10 previous books. Dear John.
Eighty of Tiffany’s nears and dears joined Fernanda Gilligan, the hostess of the evening, to celebrate with a family dinner at John’s 1850’s Manhattan town house, the one with the Venetian-style garden where, because the weather was clement, some of the more outdoorsy guests gathered. Inside, huge replicas of the pages from his book took the place where his famous poster collection usually hangs — the Vanderbilt’s massive candelabrum, August Belmont’s dramatic racing trophies, Theodore Roosevelt’s Porcellian Club loving cup, an Ogden Goelet racing cup for schooners, that sort of thing.
The dining room was decorated with actual masterpieces from the book: the ultimately extravagant “Swan Centerpiece,” one of Tiffany’s most elaborate pieces of silver made as a showpiece for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 shined and shimmered from the buffet table. It was loaned by the Doris Duke Foundation in Newport. “The Falcon Vase,” an enameled silver Tiffany showstopper from the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 (where tire king George Firestone bought it), was loaned for the evening by its present owner, the exuberant art collector Anka Palitz, who was wearing that huge enameled Schlumberger parrot brooch from, surprise, Tiffany’s.
John Loring himself cooked the dinner, an intimate meal of “designer meat loaf,” Irish lamb stew, Thai chicken curry and Caribbean tiger shrimp served in the shadow of all that silver grandeur. Delicately digging in — some more delicate than others — were such as Jean Briggs of Forbes magazine; John Loring’s glamorous cousin Barbara Cates; his glamorous friend Anne Slater with John Cahill; Amy Fine Collins; real estate mogul Richard Ravitch; Eleanor Lambert; Randy Jones, publisher of Worth magazine; Nancy Holmes, also of Worth; Travel and Leisure editor Nancy Novgrod with her husband, John, and about 68 others more or less like them.
Over at Sotheby’s, Swatch celebrated its 19th anniversary at the “Wristory Auction” to benefit God’s Love We Deliver. A grand total of $800,000 was raised in a live auction of 25 extraordinary Swatch watches from the collection of the company’s founder and chairman, Nicolas Hayek, in Switzerland. The bidding in New York and via cable to Berlin, Zurich and Milan raised $400,000, which was spontaneously matched by G. Nicolas Hayek Jr., the honorary chairman of the evening and the son of the company founder. Blaine Trump of God’s Love We Deliver gave him a great big hug while the sea of bidders — 600 of them — cheered. Along with Blaine, Matthew Modine and Henry Buhl chaired the benefit and the members of the committee included such loving stalwarts as Martha Stewart, Peter Bacanovic, Helen Schifter, Mario Buatta, Jamie Niven, Joanne de Guardiola, Pete Hathaway and Susan Fales-Hill. When the model Heidi Klum showed up, you could say it was the cherry on the sundae.
A telephone bidder from Japan paid $105,000 for a special collection of six Swatches; Henry Buhl bought the Smart Swatch and the Smart Car for $15,000, and the dinner party at God’s Love We Deliver hosted by Joan Rivers and cooked by David Waltuck of Chanterelle went to Ann Jackson of In Style. Blaine and Robert Trump bought the United Nations 50th Anniversary Swatch and a set of four chairs commissioned and used in the General Assembly on that occasion.
Hugh Hildesley of Sotheby’s was the spirited auctioneer and you should know that the custom-designed chairs the bidders sat on were taken home in Wristory canvas tote bags. It was quite a sight watching the ladies and gents kneeling on the floor disassembling the chairs and lugging them out. Free, you know.