Byline: Aileen Mehle

The dazzlingly brilliant Mary Wells Lawrence, easily the most famous woman in advertising — you haven’t lived until you’ve heard and seen Mary make a presentation to prospective clients, as I have — was inducted into the prestigious Advertising Hall of Fame at a huge luncheon for friends, fans and big names in the advertising industry. It happened in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf with 750 guests there to pay homage. Friends, fans and advertising biggies were there too for Stanley Marcus, the merchant prince, and Bernard Flanagan, the famed flack of Dow Jones & Co. Inc., who also joined Mary, the founder of the Wells Rich Greene agency, as members of the Hall.
As Mary is one of the women I admire most in the world for her incredible talent, her imagination, her charm, her generosity, her caring and her kind and loving heart, here are some of the words describing her and her distinguished 30-year career, either spoken by Burt Manning, the chairman emeritus of J. Walter Thompson Company, when he introduced her — and he ought to know — or as accolades lauding her in the program.
“Her star quality rocked Madison Avenue, but more importantly, her intelligence and substance forever changed the advertising industry….She made Wells Rich Greene into a creative powerhouse….Her whimsical commercials for Braniff, Alka Seltzer, etc., and her famous advertising slogans, some of the most famous ever crafted, revolutionized the industry….She attracted a roster of blue-chip clients such as Procter & Gamble, Ford Motor Co. and Ralston Purina, which had been the exclusive province of the male-dominated advertising industry….Her impact was so profound that she was selected by Vice President Rockefeller to be a member of his Commission on Critical Choices for America, and President Ford invited her to become a member of the President’s Council on Inflation and to represent Business at the Economic Summit in Washington….She raised the standards of quality with blazing originality that changed the very nature of advertising — and instilled in Wells Rich Greene a commitment to public service which became rooted in the agency’s culture and tradition.”
Mary sold her agency in 1990, but her achievements are indelible. If you ask me, that’s only the half of it. She is a wonderful wife and mother, a superb hostess in her magnificent houses all over the world — and she is writing a book for Knopf about her life in advertising to be published in 2001. She is merely the greatest and the fairest of them all.

On another note: At the ripe old age of 21 — well, ripe anyhow — is Mena Suvari getting set in her ways? Hot — and I mean hot — on the heels of her Lolita-like role in “American Beauty,” Mena’s up next this summer in Columbia’s big one, “Loser.” She plays a student who only has eyes for her much-older English lit professor, played by Greg Kinnear. Are the studios in a quasi-nymphet-meets-upper-middle-aged guy rut? At the moment the answer is yes. Even Mena herself is in one in real life. She has just secretly married cinematographer Robert Brinkman, who is 38 and not exactly tottering, but, nonetheless, when he’s 100, she’ll only be 83.

Kim Basinger is said to deliver a powerful performance in her upcoming movie, “I Dreamed of Africa,” opening next month. This is Basinger’s first role since her Oscar-winning performance in “L.A. Confidential,” and she was thrilled to be on location in Africa filming the fierce, passionate, true love story of an indomitable woman, Kuki Gallman. All Kuki wanted to do was discover adventure, lose her inhibitions and meet the challenges of life in a land of beauty and mystery. That’s all. Really, that’s all. I promise you — that’s all.
“Reading Kuki’s book brought me closer to Africa than my previous visits ever had,” says Kim. “It takes place in a magnificent setting and tells a very human story with which we can all identify. Like each of us, Kuki has experienced the good and bad, the ugly and the beautiful. As a wife and mother, she had intense fears and dreams, and her concerns for wildlife particularly attracted me.” (PETA will never throw a pie in her pretty face.)
For Basinger, the filming of the picture was one of the most frightening and fulfilling journeys of her life. Supposedly she learned more about herself than she ever knew possible. Besides learning to cope with the harsh African experience, she had to learn to handle tractors, snakes and horses and spend hours in a dust storm working with dangerous animals. “Had you ever in my life told me I would wrestle a 13-foot python, I’d have said you were insane.” Thus spake our heroine.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck, who currently can’t be pried apart — don’t ask about tomorrow — are together in the flick “Bounce,” due in the fall. And the word is they’re looking for another movie to make together. Seems like old times. Bounce?

The backstairs buzz from Buckingham Palace — and aren’t we all quite giddy with expectation? — is that Prince Andrew is being seen with a beautiful, blonde p.r. type called Emma Gibbs. Some of his chums have been unkind enough to allow that though she is undeniably attractive and bubbly, probably her main attraction for Andy is that she laughs and laughs at all his dreadful jokes. They said it, I didn’t.

Buffy Cafritz, Washington’s bipartisan hostess extraordinaire — that means everybody in town likes her — flew into New York for Kip Forbes’s book party at the Russian Tea Room. Kip has written all about his family’s magnificent collection of Faberge objects, but more of all this later.