THE WEDDING PLANNERS
Byline: Bridget Foley
NEW YORK — “He deserves it!” That’s Diane Von Furstenberg’s answer when asked why she and Barry Diller will marry today at City Hall. They made the decision somewhat impetuously, over the course of last week. But these kids aren’t rushing into anything. As the photographs here indicate, this marriage has been a long time in the making — 26 years, in fact. “I was 28, Barry was 33.” Von Furstenberg recalls the very beginning of their long and winding relationship, much publicized and speculated on from the start.
It’s Thursday afternoon, and for a woman whose nuptials are less than 24 hours off — to be followed later tonight with a party for 200 in her West Village home/office/studio, with home cooking, no less — she is amazingly calm. As she tells the story of their first meeting, Diller came to a party she threw in honor of Sue Mengers. He had just become chairman of Paramount Pictures, and as a lover of all things Hollywood, she thought he would be “a great friend to have.” That thought proved prescient. “We fell madly in love,” she says. “From day one, he totally trusted me, totally opened himself to me. He loved me unconditionally and he’s never stopped.”
So what took them so long? Anyone with the slightest rich-and-famous fascination knows, these two have complicated lives. “I have lived so intensely,” Von Furstenberg says. “I can’t pretend I haven’t lived.”
Early on, she and Diller lived together for five years, before, she explains, “I went off. I don’t know, I just fell in love. I went off to Bali with one man for five years, and then somewhere with another for five years. Barry, somehow, was always there, is always there. As I grew older and he grew older, we were even more there for each other.”
If it all sounds a bit too Cole Porter for the undersophisticated to comprehend, that freedom has worked for Diane and Barry, not to mention the other loves of her life — all of them. “Every man I’ve loved or been very very close to, I have a personal and ongoing relationship with now,” she says. “I definitely have a talent, I have to admit. And it’s not easy, it’s a lot of hard work.”
To that end, one of her first phone calls about the impending marriage was to her ex, Egon Von Furstenburg, “to get his OK,” even though they haven’t been together since the Seventies. He advised her “‘to make sure you are always happy.’ And he said, ‘in any case, you will always be Diane Von Furstenberg.”‘ But no, contrary to local gossip, she did not ask him if she could keep the title of Princess.
While Von Furstenberg stresses that she never went looking for a replacement father for her children — “They have a wonderful father who I love dearly” — they love Barry as well. “My children are his family. He’s known them…let’s see…Tatiana was four the first time he came to my house in Connecticut.”
In fact, the wedding started out as a birthday bash for the three — Diller, Alexandre and Tatiana. (Today is Diller’s 59th.) Alex wanted to have a party; given that she has to show a collection next week, Diane balked at first. Then she decided to throw a bash for the “three Aquarians.” But at some point, those plans evolved into a wedding. “He said it first,” Von Furstenberg says of Diller. “‘Wouldn’t it be nice?’ We always say we’re going to do it, maybe Christmas, maybe my birthday, and we don’t.”
Diane says tonight’s fete will feature three birthday cakes and no wedding cake, “but maybe my son will say something.” Then again, at first she said no to a bouquet as well. But at Wednesday night’s Orchid Dinner at the University Club, she admired the centerpiece. The florist, Ron Went, happened to be at the table, and it was a done deal: a bouquet of lily of the valley and sweetpeas, both in honor of her mother, Lily, who died recently.
Von Furstenberg knows that her mother would have been thrilled, even though she was not pushy about marriage: “The women in my family are not the marrying kind.” In a conversation shortly before Lily’s death, Diane mused that the marriage would take place “‘Sooner or later.’ She was the one who said, ‘He deserves it.’ So I knew it was right.”
But calling the whole thing off at the altar and continuing their present relationship, would be just as natural. “Maybe one of us will still change our mind,” Von Furstenberg suggests. “And neither would take it badly, if the other said, ‘Let’s not do it.’ Neither of us would be offended. That’s how large the thing we have is — it’s hard to explain.”
In fact, Von Furstenberg talked through her decision with her daughter. “I called Tatiana and asked, “Am I betraying myself? Am I going from being a free woman to a kept woman, a trophy wife? I don’t like obligation. I love the idea that everyday is a choice. Barry always gives me a choice. His love is always so strong, so noble. It’s a luxury.”
Von Furstenberg notes that the talk has turned quite serious. A guest then offers a tacky inquiry: “Pre-nup?”
She answers with a resounding no. “People make such a big production out of weddings, then they have the lawyers come in,” she says. “We’re not making anything of of it. There’s nothing to discuss — it’s very nice, isn’t it? I don’t think I’d ever — what’s the point?”
If all goes as scheduled, bells will ring at City Hall this afternoon. Von Furstenberg will wear the cream dolman-sleeve dress she made Thursday morning, with a sable vest and alligator boots, unless she “changes her mind.” In the evening, her guests will feast on a buffet of chicken curry, pasta, eggplant parmigiana and assorted salads. The adjacent space, soon to be Von Furstenberg’s store, will be set up like a nightclub, with a Cuban band and deejay.
“We decided last week that there would be no big preparation,” she explains. “I think it’s terribly glamorous, no, not glamorous, romantic, to have a companion all this time and do so little preparation. This is not a beginning. It’s just another link in the chain of life. “Actually, I like to play things down,” she continues. “I went through radiation. I played that down. I don’t like to make a big deal.”
Yes and no. Von Furstenberg may offer her guests her impeccably prepared version of home cooking, but she’s not about to hand them disposable cameras to capture the moment. “That’s the paradoxical side of me,” she acknowledges. “The first person I called was Annie Leibovitz. ‘Annie can you do the picture?”‘
Still, Von Furstenberg says that nothing that happens today will alter her relationship with Diller. “Whether we’re married or not, it doesn’t change,” she says. “Barry is my family forever. That will never change.”
She remembers a long-ago anecdote. “One day when we first fell in love, we saw two old people crossing Lexington Avenue. ‘That’s us in a few years.’ It became a joke. But that is us in a few years. I feel like I’ve been married to Barry for a long time.”