Byline: Aileen Mehle

Along with the arrival of the Easter Bunny comes the arrival of the 1999-2000 International Best Dressed List, a tradition that’s been going on for 60 years. The List is the brainchild of fashion oracle Eleanor Lambert, its founder and conducter since 1940. The members of the List are decided by an annual poll of fashion experts, editors and journalists plus a collection of surveyors of the scene, more or less. It’s up to you to decide whether the pollsters deserve a great big Easter egg or whether they laid one themselves.
So whether you greet the news with cheers or jeers — well, everyone is entitled to an opinion, don’t you always say? As for me, a voter, I feel a number of the women — this year there are 13 on the List — belong there, because, always beautifully and suitably dressed, they are standouts in any crowd or at any gathering. As for a few of the others, their selection is dicey at best and rather puzzling. If after reading some of the names you say “Who???” — so did I. And doing what I do, I’ve been to some big towns and heard me some big talk.
So herewith without further editorializing, please find the 13 lucky ladies who ascended to Best Dressed-dom this year: Nicole Kidman, the ravishing actress wife of Tom Cruise, who has the height, the beauty, the carriage and the confidence to deserve the accolade. Mrs. Henry (Marie-Josee) Kravis, the Canadian-born economist wife of the American financier. Eliza Reed Bolen, an executive at Oscar de la Renta, who also happens to be her stepfather. Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer, an executive at Estee Lauder and also Estee’s granddaughter. Victoire de Castellane, known primarily to the fashion crowd in Paris where she designs jewelry. Mrs. S.I. (Victoria) Newhouse, wife of the Conde Nast chairman and an authority on architecture. Brooke de Ocampo, an American married to an Argentine landowner. Countess Riprand (Beatrice) Arco, a Hapsburg descendant married to an Austrian baron and financier. Susan Fales-Hill, the American television series producer. Mrs. Robert (Blaine) Trump, active in New York society and just as active a philanthropist (God’s Love We Deliver). Chloe Sevigny, the American movie actress and Oscar nominee. Mrs. Martin Summers, the American-born wife of the London art dealer. And Sydney Picasso, married to Pablo Picasso’s son Claude and an art authority associated with the Paris museum Jeu de Paume. Let us now observe a moment of silence.
It’s pretty well-known that after a woman has been on the List for several years, she automatically becomes a member of the Best Dressed Hall of Fame. Elevated this year are Princess Pavlos of Greece, the former Marie Chantal Miller; Patricia Herrera, the fashion journalist daughter of Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera; Cosima von Bulow Pavoncelli, the London socialite who is Claus von Bulow’s daughter; Lady Charlotte Fraser of London, daughter of the late Earl of Warwick, and Sophie Vari of Paris and New York who is married to the renowned artist Fernando Botero. So be it.

The British royal family has taken a giant step in its acceptance of Camilla Parker Bowles as maybe, maybe, maybe and perhaps, perhaps, perhaps the next wife of the Prince of Wales. Camilla was invited to spend Holy Week and Easter at Balmoral, the royal residence in Scotland, with Prince Charles and his sons, William and Harry. Camilla has stayed at Balmoral before, but never when William and Harry were there. Although she had previously met them in London, at Balmoral she always had to wait until the boys had left the premises. In an attempt to keep her visit secret, Camilla flew into the Inverness airport, not Aberdeen, where Balmoral guests usually land, then slipped into the huge estate by a side road last week two days after Charles and the boys had arrived. There will always be an England.

You will be thrilled to hear that things are back on track between Nicholas Cage and Patricia Arquette, so much so that they have been house-hunting around Paradise Island in the Bahamas. The Hollywood lovebirds recently showed up billing and cooing at the Paul Hallingby’s beachfront house in Nassau’s Lyford Cay with an eye to renting or maybe even buying. They need a place to nest in the winter.

Denise Hale, the San Francisco socialite and personality (I’ll say!), celebrated her birthday in a profusion of rust-colored roses at the terribly chic new restaurant Ana Mandara, the new venture of Don Johnson, Cheech Marin and Trevor Traina, the son of the famous novelist Danielle Steel and John Traina, friends though divorced. John Traina gave the party for Denise, and doesn’t it speak well for that volcano dressed in a Ferre dress that the power elite of SF beat a path to the restaurant door to wish her the best? Her friend, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Jr. was there along with Chief Justice Ronald George and his wife Barbara; Don Johnson with his wife Kelley and his daughter Dakota; Florence Fong, the matriarch of SF’s most powerful Chinese family; the town’s young glamour couple Vanessa and Billy Getty; Walter Shorenstein; Sandra and Douglas Smith; the two Traina sons, Trevor and Todd, like that. Joan Collins and George Hamilton popped in after dinner, thereby missing the lobster ravioli, the marinated quail, the Chilean sea bass in banana leaves, the vanilla ice cream with crispy caramel rice and a lot of speeches about what a killer Denise is. But you knew that.
Let us add in passing that Kelley and Don Johnson are arriving in Viet Nam in a couple of weeks to indulge in a second honeymoon. Don will surprise Kelley with a piece of beach front property on Bamboo Island. That’s a surprise alright. Wouldn’t a simple emerald bracelet suffice?

Monday night is the kick-off cocktail party for the Bronx Museum of the Art’s June 16th benefit. Among those expected are such committee members as Bettina Zilkha, Tiffany Dubin, Richard Torrenzano, Mary Boone, Holly Solomon, Larry Rivers, Zang Toi and the committee chairman, Michele Klein. How do you say kultur-klatch in German? Oh, I know, I know, I know.