Byline: Aileen Mehle

Karenna Gore, that close to becoming First Daughter, and her husband, Dr. Drew Schiff, are expecting their second child. Just by looking at the two of them — well, it has to be a beautiful baby.

You will be thrilled to hear that Selma Blair was thrilled to play the part of Reese Witherspoon’s nemesis in the upcoming comedy “Legally Blonde” (MGM). In the movie, Blair is cast as the quintessential Ivy League/preppie/Greenwich type who steals Witherspoon’s blue-blood “intended” away. “Selma was perfect for the part,” says the flick’s director, Robert Luketic. “I flew into New York to meet her and the instant she entered the room I knew she was the perfect ‘Vivian Kensington’ character.” Is that a compliment?
As for Selma herself — “I’m never without my pearls or my headband in real life.” But really, darling, the girl’s merely joking, although she did spend several years in a prep school. Says she, “I’ve encountered the ‘Vivian Kensingtons’ of the world. She’s all kinds of awful, a …. caricature who’s really wretched and looks down at anyone different from her.” Just the kind of role you can sink your fangs into.

For “Blow,” Penelope Cruz had to change her native Castilian Spanish accent to the very different sounding Spanish of Colombia. “I spent a lot of time with Colombian women,” says the simmering screen star. “Which was very helpful because I think they’re much more feminine than other women, and everything is kind of bigger.” Well, let’s hope not everything. Oh, I love quoting showfolk.

The American Academy in Rome, that glorious hotbed of the arts, celebrated just about everything cultural at its annual party at Cipriani 42nd Street. Everyone said don’t you think this party gets better and more beautiful every year? All the fans and friends either said yes or si. After all, there were a lot of Italians there. And of course the Renaissance glamour of Cipriani’s set just the right Italian tone.
This year, the look was cool and modern to go along with the designs of the honored guest of the evening, the noted architect David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Each table was covered in silver and centered with a wrought-iron skeleton of a skyscraper with every white flower for miles around bursting from its base. There was an audible gasp as the guests swept into the room. Spring, New York style.
All the big names in architecture were there to salute David, either on video (Paul Goldberger, Robert A.M. Stern, Frank Gehry, Philip Johnson, Richard Meier) or in person, the better to rub his shoulders and pat his back. Some say he’s architecture’s man of the hour with his buildings going up in Berlin, London and New York, where he’s regarded as an historic preservation hero for converting the Farley Building into the new/old Pennsylvania Station. He is also, for your information, the trustee in charge of all restorations at the American Academy in Rome.
In the swarm of architects were such names to reckon with as Robert Venturi; Michael Graves (the master of ceremonies); Cinzia Abbate, who flew in from Rome; Peter Eisenman; Alex Gorlin; Graham Gund; Andrea Woodner; Charles Gwathmey; I.M. Pei; James Stewart Polshek; Moshe Safdie from Jerusalem, and, to show the flag, a full complement from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
Sid and Mercedes Bass, huge supporters of the Academy, were the chairs of the evening, and Mercedes was praised in all the speeches for her unique touch. As the chairwoman of the restoration of the Villa Aurelia at the Academy (it opens in June 2002), she designs all its parties with a special flair. She was dressed with flair, too, in gray chiffon by the California designer Chado, worn with a Mme. Gres-like jacket. Stunning, my dear.
Not to be missed in the perfumed pack were Princess Firyal of Jordan with financier Lionel Pincus; Nancy Kissinger in a black velvet Balmain; Henry Kissinger; Betty and John Sargent; Annette de la Renta in an Oscar de la Renta and with Oscar de la Renta; Mica and Ahmet Ertegun, who are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary on the St. Regis Roof Thursday night; Jayne Wrightsman; Duane Hampton; Beatrice and Julio Mario Santo Domingo; Jane and Michael Eisner of Disney; Judge Kimba Wood and Frank Richardson; Cecile and Ezra Zilkha; Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro; Patty and Gustavo Cisneros; Patricia Patterson; David Childs’s radiant wife Annie; Ann and Ed Hudson of the Fort Worth Hudsons, like that. That glamorous standout was Adele Chatfield-Taylor, the president of the Academy, looking marvelous in a Mary McFadden.
Then, representing art, architecture, writing and general giant braininess were such as Adele Chatfield-Taylor’s dashing playwright husband, John Guare, now in rehearsal with his new play “Chaucer in Rome”; Chuck Close; Renata Adler; Viscount and Viscountess Norwich; Michael Sovern, who gave the opening toast; Dorothy Lichtenstein; Dorothy and Lewis Cullman; trustee Cynthia Hazen Polsky; Ellen Phelan and her sculptor husband Joel Shapiro, and others too gifted to mention. The Academy is on the map!

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