Byline: Aileen Mehle
The evening was called “The Great Whites of Tiffany,” and it was quite the most glamorous occasion, the most magical underwater fantasy imaginable. Everyone said so, including people who almost never rave about parties. And the setting, a shimmering American Museum of Natural History, has never looked so watery-beautiful.
By “Great Whites” Tiffany didn’t mean it was celebrating — help! — sharks but great white pearls from the South Seas, those lustrous gems that “have captured the imagination of kings, poets and scientists.” Half a million individual pearls were on display as well as over 6,000 wondrous objects including a dress ornament from Czarina Elizaveta Petrovna, Peter the Great’s daughter, and the cultured pearl necklace Joe DiMaggio bought for his bride, Marilyn Monroe. I’ll take the dress ornament.
The guests were viewing for the first time the Museum’s amazing exhibition, “Pearls,” as well as witnessing a dance performance called “Living Oceans” and the remarkable under-the-sea decor created by Robert Rufino. The soft lighting, wave-like, conjured an aura of depth-of-the-ocean mystery. The shark-gray table coverings were centered with giant oyster shells overflowing with pearls. Ladies were asked to wear “a touch of white” as in pearls.
Meryl Tankard, who masterminded the opening ceremonies at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, choreographed the sensuous dancing sea-creatures, mermaids, seahorses and periwinkles dressed in costumes by Angus Strathie, the man who dressed Nicole Kidman in “Moulin Rouge.” (Hated the movie, loved the clothes). They danced to the New Age music of water drums, rain sticks and gongs and the voice of Mara Kiek, the Australian artist. Vera Wang designed the beautiful sea blue evening dresses worn by seven models who floated down the runway, dripping in Tiffany South Sea pearls. Then there were the stand-outs. Kyra Sedgwick wore a Victorian-inspired string of pearls the size of golf balls. Mary-Louise Parker wore a luminous double strand, all from the South Seas. Tiffany’s pride, Paloma Picasso, wore a Mabe pearl necklace and earrings of her own design. Anne Slater wore her very own pearl and a white satin blouse by Zoran. Tiffany executive Fernanda Kellogg wore a pearl necklace from — where else? — held together by a diamond crab.
Restaurant Associates provided the Pacific Rim cuisine starring among other delicacies cookies shaped like oyster shells with a pearl hiding inside. Each lady, courtesy of Tiffany, went home with a white South Seas pearl suspended from a black silk cord. Oh, and remember to have your pearls cleaned professionally once a year and, in between, wipe them gently with a damp cloth and put them in a velvet lined pouch. Hairspray, perfume and lotions will damage the surface of your pearls, so they should be the last thing on and the first thing off. Unless, of course, you have other ideas.
A few aficionados refer to it as the Spanish Institute’s Gold Medal Gala. Everyone else calls it the Spanish Ball. Either way it is one of the most celebrated galas of the fall season with a lot of hot-blooded Spaniards arriving in town for a noche de ronda and a lot of New Yorkers, hot-blooded and otherwise, joining them for the fun.
It all happens at the Plaza Hotel on Nov. 14 with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain as honorary patrons, and the king’s sister The Infanta Dona Pilar, Duchess of Badajoz, as the honorary chairman. It’s tickled-pink time when Dona Pilar comes to New York. Because what this unique woman really is is a force majeure with an irresistible personality, a ripping sense of humor, extraordinary charm and a very large brain. Oh, and the minute she walks into a room you know that SOMEBODY just swept in. Class will tell.
Dona Pilar is bringing her daughter, Simonetta Gomez-Acebo y Borbon, and Simonetta’s husband, Jose Miguel Fernandez Sastron, with her. Also two of her four sons, Juan Gomez-Acebo y Borbon (he is the Vizconde de la Torre) and Beltran Gomez-Acebo y Borbon. They’re all young and good-looking, gracias a Dios.
Every year, three exceptional people who have done much to foster relations between Spain and the United States are honored with the Spanish Institute’s Gold Medals. This year they are Placido Arango, the Spanish tycoon and philanthropist; Dave H. Williams, the chairman of White Williams Private Equity Partners and the chairman of the Foreign Policy Association, and his wife, Reba White Williams, the vice chairman of White Williams Private Equity Partners. You should know that this trio shares international business accomplishments, a passion for art and, of course, philanthropy.
You should also know that the chairs of the evening are Beatrice and Julio Mario Santo Domingo of Colombia and New York; Annette and Oscar de la Renta of the Dominican Republic and New York, and Emilio Ybarra, the chairman of Spain’s Banco Bilbao Vizcaya.
How do you say not too shabby in Spanish? Never mind.