Byline: Aileen Mehle
Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, who decorates the New York and Beverly Hills scene, usually on the arm of her pal Merv Griffin, is returning home to Belgrade with a song on her lips and joy in her heart. You’d have a happy face too if you’d just heard the news that the current Yugoslav government has abolished the 1947 decree, issued by the then-Communist regime, confiscating the property, citizenship and passports of Yugoslavia’s royal family. That means Elizabeth.
So she’ll be getting a brand new passport, at a concert in her honor, in Belgrade on April 7 — it’s her birthday. And on April 27, she’ll publish the children’s book she has written in Serbian called “The Apple and the Butterfly.” Oh, and she’ll be buying a house in Belgrade because she’ll need a place to live while waiting for the Karadjordjevic family property to be returned. After 54 years of exile and a bunch of cuckoo Commies on the loose, you can imagine how tangled the legal issues are. (Elizabeth is the only living member of the family who was actually born in the royal palace).
This princess is much more than just another pretty face, though she certainly is that. When the most recent years of turmoil began, she formed the Princess Elizabeth Foundation and has traveled to Yugoslavia 12 times since, taking clothing and other necessities to the children there.
Beauty runs in Elizabeth’s family. Her maternal aunt was the stunning Princess Marina of Greece, who married Queen Elizabeth’s uncle, the Duke of Kent, the youngest brother of the Duke of Windsor. Her half-American daughter, Princess Katherine of Yugoslavia, is good-looking enough to have been in pictures.
As for Elizabeth’s love life, let’s just say between husbands and lovers she hasn’t missed much. Richard Burton, among others, was crazy about her, as were the three good-looking men she married, American Howard Oxenberg, British Neil Balfour and the late South American Manuel Ulluoa. Say this for Elizabeth — she’s one beautiful woman who never settled for an ugly man. (Take a good look around you, ladies).
Can you be too blonde? That could be Reese Witherspoon’s problem in “Legally Blonde,” an MGM comedy set for summer. Her character is the president of her sorority, a Hawaiian Tropics girl, Miss June on the USC calendar and, above all, a real blonde. All she wants to do in life is “marry a Connecticut blue-blood.” Preferably one without an overbite?
Once a year, the Metropolitan Opera celebrates with its glamorous “On Stage at the Met” gala, a grand dinner at which its most generous benefactors are invited to sit at tables onstage, right in the middle of a gorgeous set, stage scenery taken from the Met’s most lavish productions. (This setting was taken from “Manon,” designed by Jean-Pierre Ponelle).
Powerful corporate figures abound at this event because that’s where the money comes from, honey. This year’s dinner and dance, the 16th, honored Texaco, a great supporter for 61 years, and its chairman and ceo Glenn F. Tilton. The evening’s chairmen were Charles R. Lee of Verizon Communications, John A. Ross of Deutsche Bank and William C. Steere Jr. of Pfizer. The chairman of the benefit was Mrs. Ezra (Cecile) Zilkha, the Met’s vice chairwoman, who, as we all know, can run a country, never mind a company.
About 750 guests gathered on the tiers of the Opera House for a drink before going on to dine and dance and listen to songs sung by Placido Domingo, Danielle de Niese and Jossie Perez. The Michael Carney Orchestra played for the dancing. At least $1.8 million was raised, and that gives you an idea of why Cecile Zilkha can run anything.
Bill Tansey designed the table’s centerpieces — tall lemon leaf topiaries rising above white floral arrangements of French Polo roses, Japanese roses and viburnum. The tables were covered with embroidered organza overlays over peach cloths. The menu, created by Jean Claude Nedelec of Glorious Food especially for the evening, starred three courses — Coho salmon with spinach mousse, beef tournedos and warm chocolate souffle cake with blood orange sorbet. And these are just some of the people who ate it: Mr. and Mrs. Michael Armstrong (AT&T); Mr. and Mrs. James Kinnear (he is the Met’s chairman); Mr. and Mrs. A.J.C. Smith (Marsh & McLennan); the great philanthropist Alberto Vilar; Sir Crispin Tickell; the Hon. and Mrs. Edward Ney; Mr. and Mrs. Tony Randall; Anna Moffo; Selwa (Lucky) Roosevelt; Mrs. Richard Braddock (the Met Opera Guild); Mr. and Mrs. Peter John Goulandris; Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt 4th; Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Volpe (he is the Met’s general manager); Ezra Zilkha with his (and Cecile’s) darling daughter Bettina; Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Stern; Mr. and Mrs. George Lindemann; the British Ambassador to the U.N. Sir Jeremy Greenstock and Lady Greenstock; Mr. and Mrs. Byron Janis; Mr. and Mrs. Chuck Scarborough; Mr. and Mrs. Ivan Seidenberg (Verizon); Mr. and Mrs. H. Edward Hanway (Cigna); Mr. and Mrs. Paul Montrone (he is the Met’s president and the head of Fisher Scientific International), and others too powerful to mention. I just love a stage full of business leaders, don’t you — the blue chippier, the better.