Byline: Aileen Mehle

Prince Andrew’s newish girlfriend, p.r. girl Emma Gibbs, hails from Australia and has secretly been dating Queen Elizabeth’s middle son for the past several months. She has told friends she is quite excited about the whole thing, whatever the whole thing may be. Let’s hope it doesn’t get too exciting. Emma has just hired herself a bodyguard to keep away rapacious photographers and the odd ratfink. Dating royalty is one thing, but a good p.r. girl like Emma knows that too much untoward publicity is another. It can make a Queen frown over her spectacles and right through you. Anyhow, isn’t one p.r. in the royal family enough? Hello, Sophie, hi there! Remember, no furs, dear.

If a glittering gala is your thing, get set for May 4, when the patrons of the New York Philharmonic celebrate the great Stephen Sondheim’s 70th birthday at Avery Fisher Hall. After hearing this legendary composer/lyricist’s most famous work, “Sweeney Todd,” performed by opera luminary Bryn Terfel, Broadway star Patti LuPone and the sensational Audra McDonald, guests will sweep into the Grand Promenade of the concert hall to confront a murderous scene, a transformation of the Promenade into a blood-red and black vision of macabre splendor. “Sweeney Todd” isn’t a hardy-har-har comedy where everybody dances around a Maypole, you know. Charles Masson will set the scene and do the menu. The tables will be covered in inky black with pie centerpieces from which will protrude knife handles and red roses the color of flowing blood. Eeekkk! The idea is to evoke the infamous Demon Barber of Fleet Street and his dear little comrade in cookery, Mrs. Lovett, whose all-too-human specialties are big bestsellers. Napkins will be tied with hollowed osso bucco bones and red glass votive candles will shed their glimmer on black ballroom chairs with red velvet cushions. To die for.
The menu will add to the glamorously ghoulish, Londonish atmosphere — caviar pie (no knife handles), roast rack of lamb with beet frites and rhubarb pie (no knife handles). Bloody good, yes?
Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols will be there and Rosie O’Donnell and Barbara and Gerald Levin and Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel and Carl Spielvogel and Beth Rudin DeWoody and the evening’s chairman Benjamin M. Rosen and hundreds of others too macabre to mention.

Elton John went shopping on 57th Street and snapped up two cunning little kilts, one for himself and one for his best friend — and I’m not talking about his dog. His pal is the filmmaker David Furnish, and those smart little Burberry plaids are said to become him. Elton also swept up anything else he could find, including bathrobes, pants, hats and swimsuits. May his entourage wear them in good health. And may Elton and his dog keep their sporrans dry.

Believe it or not, sometimes you make a happy choice and everyone winds up happy. That’s what happened when Americans for the Arts chose to give its Philanthropy Award to Jo Carole Lauder for her many contributions to the world of arts but in particular for the leadership she provides for the Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies Program. In cooperation with the State Department, the program places outstanding works of art from American collections in our embassies around the world. But that’s just one piece of it.
Jo Carole has worked so tirelessly for the Museum of Modern Art that someone said MoMA is thinking of erecting a statue in her honor in the Sculpture Garden. While the museum mulls it over, Hillary Rodham Clinton is abandoning the campaign trail long enough to present the award to Jo Carole on April 17 at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. Others receiving prizes that night for their good deeds include playwright Wendy Wasserstein, architect Frank Gehry and his patron Tom Krens of the Guggenheim Museum, Peter Bijur of Texaco and the actress Uma Thurman, who will receive the “Young Artist Special Recognition Award” in the theater, which Robert Isabell will decorate with masses of cherry blossoms and Virginia lilac. Glorious Food will feed the multitudes. Mrs. Randolph (Veronica) Hearst is the chairman of Americans for the Arts, and the master of ceremonies that evening will be Charlie Rose of your TV and mine.

Tama Janowitz, whose last book, “A Certain Age,” popped up on certain bestseller lists, is just back from India and ready to celebrate her birthday, so R. Couri Hay is giving her a party at the opening of Nolita, expected to be the hot new restaurant north of Little Italy. Cornelia Guest is coming, of course, and also invited to drop in are designers Nicole Miller, Lana Marks, Vera Wang, Zang Toi, Stephen Sprouse and Zandra Rhodes. Also, such civilians as Anne Hearst, Karen LeFrak, Joanne and Roberto de Guardiola, Jay McInerny, like that. Tama’s five-year-old daughter, Willow, will help mommy blow out the candles — not that there’ll be enough of them to burn the place down.

Emma Thompson, conspicuously out of the news and off the screen for nearly two years, is coming back with a vengeance and bells on. She will star in the movie version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Wit” for Mike Nichols. Well, if you want to come back, who better to come back with than Mike?

(Friday’s column will star Dick Jenrette, the financier/preservationist, and Christopher Forbes and his incredible new book on the Forbes collection of Faberge. Just trying to hang in there. I can if you can.)