Byline: Aileen Mehle
Ira von Furstenberg is not just another pretty princess who sits on a cushion sewing a fine seam and contemplating her bloodlines, even though the bloodlines are very blue. Her Italian mother, Clara, is an Agnelli on her father’s side; her late father, Prince Tassilo von Furstenberg, was the son of a Hungarian countess and a prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her maternal grandmother was Princess Virginia San Faustino, an American. So that takes care of that.
Ira first married when she was 15 in a spectacular ceremony in Venice. The titled groom was German-Spanish Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, and the wedding received media coverage all over the globe. When that was over, she married the Brazilian playboy-industrialist Baby Pignatari. Don’t think for a minute that went unnoticed in all the world capitals. When that was over, she moved to Paris and Rome and began a movie career under the aegis of the famous producer Dino di Laurentis. When she gave that up, she traveled to all parts of the world she hadn’t already seen. Now she lives in Paris, Biarritz and London, pursuing her latest career, the design of beautiful objects, many of them combined with gems and semiprecious stones, the sort of adornments that look marvelous on a table or highlight the decor of a room.
She has made more than 800 one-of-a-kind objects, each signed and numbered — boxes, Indian jeweled handmirrors, picture frames, bookends, trays, on and on. Her latest effort all began when she couldn’t find a gift she liked for her friends Anne and Kirk Douglas, so she decided to make one. Now, her collections are exhibited in such exalted purlieus as New York’s Chinese Porcelain Company, where a crowd of collectors and would-be’s gathered to admire beautiful examples shining behind vitrines. Afterwards, there was a party for Ira in the Magic Room of the LVMH Tower with such dear ones (to her) present as her nephew Alexander von Furstenberg, Conrad Black, Veronica Hearst, Arianna von Hohenlohe, Dixon Boardman, Doris Brynner, Betsy Bloomingdale, Catie and Don Marron, Nan Kempner, Paul Wilmot, Khalil Rizk, Robert Higdon, Beatrice and Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Lee Thaw and David Metcalfe, many of whom have already seen Ira’s exhibitions, in Palm Beach, Monaco, Milan, Istanbul, Paris, London, Salzburg, Munich and Biarritz, and some of whom will visit Madrid when she shows there at the Thyssen Museum and even go to Hong Kong to see her work at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. That’s what friends are for.
Janice Levin, the New York philanthropist, gave a $1 million gift to Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies (their reason for being is to keep American embassies around the world up to snuff), specifically for a beautiful sculpture garden, named after her, at Winfield House, the U.S. ambassadorial residence in London. So to show the proper appreciation, there were parties for Janice all over London. Jo Carole and Ronald Lauder took over Harry’s Bar for a dinner for 80 in her honor. The next day, our Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, Philip Lader and Mrs. Lader gave a big lunch at Winfield House in Regents Park. Recently renovated to the tune of $16 million, it boasts the second largest private gardens in London. Buckingham Palace boasting the first.
Before lunch, her garden was dedicated as Janice cut the ribbon. And Jo Carole read a letter from Mrs. Walter (Lee) Annenberg, who lived in Winfield House when Walter was our ambassador in Great Britain, promising an additional $5 million for its upkeep with the proviso that the exquisite 16th-century Chinese wallpaper in the drawing room, given to the residence by the Annenbergs during Walter’s posting, be forever maintained. That night everyone turned up at Spencer House for Lord and Lady Rothschild’s dinner. By now, you have to know who the guest of honor was.
When Mrs. John (Lauren) Veronis received the Rosenwald Award for Outstanding Philanthropy at the Irvington House for Immunological Research dinner at the Pierre Hotel, many big names in the field of immunological medicine were part of the evening, specifically Dr. Irving L. Weissman of the Stanford University School of Medicine and Jonathan M. Rothberg, the chairman of the Curagen Corp., who were honored along with Lauren. (So if anyone had asked, “Is there a doctor in the house?” there might have been a stampede.) Charlotte Moss and Frederick Frank were the dinner chairmen.
Lauren wore a long black one-shouldered dress, perfect to be surrounded in, and surrounding her were such guests as Allison Cowles and Punch Sulzberger, Mary Ellen and John Brademas, Jan Aronson and Edgar Bronfman, Marie Josee and Henry Kravis, Shirley Lord and A.M. Rosenthal, Perri Peltz and Eric Ruttenberg, Alison and Leonard Stern, Irvington House President Patricia Chadwick with her husband, John, all sorts of Veronises and Peltzes and a ballroom full of others just like them.
On another note: Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas are supposed to set cinema screens on fire with their scorching love scenes in MGM’s erotic thriller, “Original Sin.” It was filmed in Mexico (filling in for Cuba) with scenery to die for — Morelos, Ttaxcala, Campeche, Mexico City — plus numerous views of Jolie’s and Banderas’s body parts. I can wait if you can.