Byline: Aileen Mehle

Oh, my Gawd. The word from Europe is that His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco is planning to lower his serenity quotient a little by jumping in the ring to fight Vladimir Putin of Russia. Believe it or not. Both are practiced judoists. Albert has avidly followed the sport since he was a mere youth. President Putin has a black belt. When they met last summer at the International Olympic Committee Conference in Moscow, Albert challenged Putin to a match. They will square off at the opening of the International Judo Competition in Moscow later this month. Place your bets and go to your corners and catch me, I’m falling.

Giorgio Armani, make that generous Giorgio Armani, has come to the rescue of Anand Jon, the young New York designer who was originally slated to present his collection on Sept. 11. Armani has lent Jon his beautiful showroom, Armani Collezioni on 42nd Street, on Oct. 23, so that he can show his collection this season, a show that otherwise would have been lost because of the enormous expense required to put it on twice.
Among the new generation of social beauties who will appear on the catwalk is Amanda Hearst, the teenage daughter of Anne Hearst, the granddaughter of the late Randolph Hearst and the great-granddaughter of the publishing titan William Randolph Hearst. Amanda, reed-thin, will parade down the runway in a white poplin shirt and a pair of patriotic-striped Capri pants before slipping into a black lace gown for the show’s finale. Other dewy young things who will be showing off Anand Jon’s wares are Princess Olivia de Borbon and Marissa Bregman. Old hags over 21 need not apply.

It should be a “Traffic” jam at the Plaza Hotel on Oct. 16 when Casita Maria honors Laura Bickford, the producer of that much-acclaimed film. The movie’s Oscar-winning star, Benicio Del Toro, is planning to be there, broken arm and all, to cheer Laura on as she accepts the Gold Medal of Honor along with the two other honorees Iris Cantor, the collector and philanthropist, and Eduardo Sanchez Junco, the owner and publisher of Hola, the magazine that only says nice things about nice — or naughty — people. (Sanchez Junco once paid a lot of money to get his hands on an indiscreet photo of Princess Diana, taken while she was on holiday on a secluded beach. He then sent it to royals so it would never see the light of day. Is he a gran caballero or what?)
Anne Eisenhower Flottl and Jackie Weld Drake are the co-chairs of this year’s Casita Maria Fiesta with Anne doubling up as an honorary chairwoman along with her husband Wolfgang Flottl. Gaetana Enders, Hola’s editor, will present her boss with his gold medal. Mario Buatta is the master of ceremonies. Such a hooty-hoot-hoot, that Mario. Philip Baloun will design the party and Bob Hardwick will do the music. Among the expected guests are Lucile and Guy Peyrelongue, Patty and Gustavo Cisneros, Barbara de Portago, Daisy and Paul Soros and, stand back, Denise Quinones, the reigning Miss Universe.

They all came, the invited nears and dears, to cameo-beautiful Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave’s cocktail party at the newly restored rooms of the famed Villard Houses, now known, because nothing ever stays the same, as the Villard Bar and Lounge. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Everywhere you looked there was someone more or less worth looking at — statuesque Princess Michael of Kent, here from the purlieus of London’s Kensington Palace to lecture and lend her considerable presence to every lighted candle; former Ambassador Ed Ney and Judy Ney; Virginia and Freddie Melhado; Jamie Niven; Christopher Cerf, whose late father, the renowned publisher Bennett Cerf, once occupied these same premises when he ran Random House; Kenneth Jay Lane; Judith Villard, and simply oodles of others, all peeking into the various nooks and crannies of what was once Alexandra’s magnificent family home.
Stop me if you’ve heard all this before but her great-grandfather, railroad magnate Henry Villard, built this grand mansion on Madison Avenue more than a century ago. The ultimate entrepreneur, Villard came to this country in 1853, a penniless German immigrant who spoke not a word of English. Within three years, he had mastered the language and went on to become a Civil War journalist, financier and owner of the New York Evening Post. You can read all about his fortunes and misfortunes in Alexandra’s book, “Villard: The Life and Times of an American Titan.”
The Villard Houses, now a national landmark and the current site of Le Cirque restaurant, were designed in 1883 by the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, whose leading light was Stanford White. The Villard Bar and Lounge is a two-story masterpiece with original Tiffany windows, rich wood paneling, sliding carved mahogany doors with stained glass inserts and ornate fireplaces made of marble, wood and gold. You can even get a drink there.