Wish You Were Here

As we wade through the vale of tears, with diminished trust funds and threatened bonuses, our standards certainly call for flexibility. “I’ll go through life either first class or third, but never second,” declared the urbane Noël Coward when the box office receipts were not up to snuff…and adjust we will.

But then, there is always “ultra” class. Let’s reflect with awe on the custom flying palace of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. The Airbus A380, which usually seats 600, will have its interior converted by British firm Design Q. There is the de rigueur onboard garage so that the prince can be driven right up to the threshold of the plane’s three-floor elevator. Also included in the $485 million price tag: a concert hall with a baby grand piano, five bedroom suites, a boardroom with a holograph projector and a full-size steam room…one can but dream.

Although London’s gloss shows a slight tarnish, I enjoyed a very full dance card. Ascot week rallied under radiant blue skies. Significantly fewer American faces in evidence in the Mayfair nightspots. A civilized dinner with Countess Bathurst at Mark’s Club, a riotous evening at Annabel’s with Baroness van Zuylen, a lunch at the celeb-filled Wolseley with Barry Humphries’ (aka Dame Edna) son, Oscar, cocktails at Sketch with Nathalie Hambro, a private drinks party at Partridge of Bond Street for Jasmine Horowitz and two days of Ascot racing from the royal enclosure with the ever-charming Egyptian oil player, Aziz Radwan.

After 75 illustrious years, the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques fair sadly bit the dust…declining profits, increasing costs and having been somewhat eclipsed by burgeoning Olympia all forcing its demise. A new event is planned for next June, called Masterpiece 2010, according to chairman Simon Phillips, though a venue has yet to be established. With yet another end to an era of royal patronage, it was no wrench for the British Heritage Group to accept the resignation of Prince Charles. Long overdue, in the opinion of contemporary English architects whom he has held in chains for years. The last straw was HRH meddling with the Qatari royal family, which put the kibosh on Richard Rogers’s Chelsea Barracks project.

How can we ignore the Pandora’s Box created by the Jackson Family following the King of Pop’s untimely demise? The inevitability of his doom continues to play out like a macabre Baptist revival. In death, he retains his title of King of the Billboard, with his iconic songs taking all top ten spots on the sales charts in the week following the wake.

Although indubitably a Stars & Stripes adoptee, I always spend my Fourth of July playing host to a group of chums abroad. This year I sprung for a Victorian castle in County Limerick, Ireland. Our well-fed butler, Mr. Butterworth, played along with the mad American posse as we hoisted Old Glory above the crenellated turrets for the seven days in residence. There were no extravagant New York fireworks, but the barbeque grills worked perfectly as the fog rolled in on the forbidding battlements.

Back stateside with our equally chilly and soggy start to summer, bucolic Whimsy Farm in Sagaponack was host to the God’s Love We Deliver Ninth Annual Midsummer Night’s Drinks. A few nights earlier, I had motored out to Fairfield, the 63-acre oceanfront estate of Ira & Ingeborg Rennert. They had graciously opened their 110,000-square-foot home to benefit Southampton Hospital. One hundred guests sat down to dinner in the palatial dining room. I enjoyed chatting with macho former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who recently impressed the Watermill locals by telling a man harassing him in the street to “Get away from me, or I’ll kick your a**.” We do need our fearless leaders.

Diane von Furstenberg opened the doors of her chic Meatpacking District boutique to toast fellow perennial Gloria Vanderbilt’s current roman a clef. The slim volume of sexploits attracted a swank crowd, including a scantily clad Barbara Walters, Salman Rushdie, Fran Liebowitz, Barry Diller, Liz Smith, and a host of Hearst scribes. Let me not forget a hilarious evening at the Café Carlyle with unsinkable trouper Debbie Reynolds, and after her show with her close friend Liza Minnelli. What a treat…

Forgive this self-promotion, but our editors were kind enough to encourage a brief indulgence. Every now and again, I find myself overwhelmed by the generosity of friends. In the past few weeks, my client Don Ramon Emilio Jimenez hosted the launch of my new book, Ex Arte. The backdrop put at my disposal for this event was the breathtakingly glamorous digs of antique dealer extraordinaire Carlton Hobbs. Four hundred of my nearest and dearest rallied around.

One hopes the sentiments of these “true blue” in attendance will be echoed by a wider audience. As caustic Coward was quoted as saying, “I love criticism just so long as it’s unqualified praise.”

Enjoy what remains of our summer season…