Byline: Aileen Mehle

Diamonds are a First Lady-to-be’s best friend. Lovely Laura Bush will make her debut at the pre-inauguration Texas Ball wearing diamonds — a three-stone diamond necklace symbolic of the “past, present and future.” On her delicate Texas ears, she’ll wear diamond stud earrings. A prettier picture you’ll never see, because the necklace was designed especially to complement her champagne-colored charmeuse gown. The ball’s dress code is black tie and boots, and ain’t that a kick in the head.
Sue Gregg, Laura Bush’s Dallas jeweler, designed the necklace, which will go just fine with her evening and day looks. It’s made with links and bridges set in 18-karat yellow and white gold. The earrings, bezel-set in 18-karat white gold, are intended to set off the brilliance of the diamonds’ 66 facets. As for her clothes, you already know that Michael Faircloth of Dallas has designed her entire inaugural wardrobe. At least 10,000 people are expected at the Texas Ball, but Laura will be the star, won’t she, George W.?

Richard Holbrooke, our ambassador to the United Nations until the new Bush administration selects its own man or woman, received the Harvard AIDS Institute’s Leadership Award at a dinner on the St. Regis Roof. The award was presented in recognition of Ambassador Holbrooke’s valiant effort in the recent U.N. Security Council summit to define AIDS in Africa as a drastic issue of national security.
Holbrooke, in an eloquent and modest speech, accepted the honor, which he said he really didn’t deserve. His admirers disagree. To quote Newsweek: “Ambassador Holbrooke has galvanized national public opinion and brought unprecedented attention and support for the devastating epidemic in advocating more international resources, in insisting that U.N. peacekeepers be educated about HIV/AIDS, and linking U.S. support to U.N. efforts addressing all aspects of the epidemic. His leadership in putting AIDS in Africa in a new framework is one more example of his courage and diplomatic skill.” Hear, hear. And speaking of galvanizing, Holbrooke’s most shocking remarks at the dinner concerned U.N. peacekeepers, whom he held greatly responsible for the spread of AIDS in sub-Sahara regions. He reiterated this frightening fact a number of times. It sank in. The percentage of the disease in these countries is staggering, in some instances as much as half the population is affected.
Among those in the crowd: Kati Marton, Holbrooke’s author wife who visited Africa with him and witnessed the horrors; Dr. Max Essex, chairman of the Harvard AIDS Institute; Mrs. William (Deeda) McCormick Blair, the Institute’s co-chair, so chic in black velvet and a full ruffled skirt; William McCormick Blair; Maurice Tempelsman of the International Advisory Council; Buffy and William N. Cafritz of Washington; Cathy and Stephen Graham of the media Grahams; Marguerite Littman of London; Judy and Sam Peabody; Mrs. Lewis (Patsy) Preston; Khalil Rizk; Casey Ribicoff; Pierre Durand, and Mary McFadden in a strapless gold-encrusted black velvet of her own design.

On another note entirely: There were three people in bed on the set of MGM’s suspense movie, “Antitrust,” opening this weekend, but it wasn’t your everyday menage a trois — and audiences will only see two on-screen. Young Rachael Leigh Cook was a tiny bit shy and uncomfortable about playing a love scene with hottie Ryan Phillippe — whom she barely knew, and his being married and all. So the director Peter Howitt, taking pity on our Rachel, jumped into bed with her and Ryan and started a pillow fight, relieving the tension. (Oh, so that’s how you do it!)
Due in the spring, also from MGM, is “Breakers,” a comedy about a sexy mother/daughter con team who target rich men and strip them of their fortunes. It stars Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Gene Hackman and Anne Bancroft etc., and that’s pretty exciting right there. Sigourney plays the mother con whose many personas include “Olga,” a seductive Russian emigre, and “Angela,” a tease supreme. Daughter Jennifer Love Hewitt does a 180-degree turn from playing the sweet girl next door and teen horror movie idol. Sigourney says she had such fun making the movie. “It’s a long time — since the days of Carole Lombard and Claudette Colbert — when women were allowed to be so villainously funny and endearing at the same time. And there’s something very appealing about the mother/daughter characters, because just like us, they work for a living. It just happens that what they do is completely dishonest.” Oh. Well, now that she’s explained it to us…

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