Arrogant Elegance: From A to E and back again

“Elsa Maxwell and her elderly crowd were there dripping charm and dripping phoniness in their dripping cool dresses. Everyone was eating dinner, but there were these three empty tables. Then the elevator opened and the Eberstadts and their friends came in. They were so marvelously chic and above it all. They came in as if they were the only ones and their clothes the only clothes.”
—William J. Cunningham, Women’s Wear Daily columnist, circa 1962

We all know Bill Cunningham, the distinguished gent who rides around Manhattan on a bike, snapping photos of society babes. But I recently read that Cunningham invented the term arrogant elegance back in the day. And we’ve been seeing that AE ’tude displayed increasingly of late. Read on.

Hate to sound like Debbie Downer, but now with the price of gas soaring and the dollar down the loo, flying commercial to keep up with the jet set officially bites. Delta Air Lines really screwed up my plans to attend a fun fete at the River Bend Golf and Country Club in Great Falls, Virginia. On Friday, August 1, the so-called airline canceled my flight to Dulles because of “weather in Washington,” while the region enjoyed sunny skies. And on Sunday, Delta kept me waiting 12 hours, many spent aboard a plane before canceling my leg back to JFK, also blaming weather. The gal behind the counter, A, not E, screamed, “Do you want to fly the plane?” Hmm, do you have to pass a rudeness test?

Ring, ring. Highflier Mike Heller, my lawyer-buddy who books appearances for Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, phoned me from Costa Smeralda at 3 a.m. Sardinian time. He was with an AE Brit social with a hilarious last name, who kept growling in the background that I was not to mention her name. Deal. At the Billionaire Club, Heller and buddies had attended the Indian-themed birthday bash of Fawaz Gruosi, founder of de Grisogono jewelry (extreme E). Flavio Briatore, who heads the Renault Formula One team, very A, owns Billionaire Club. He’s the thong-lovin’ baby daddy of Heidi Klum’s firstborn; see megayacht in harbor. Roberto Cavalli was also in the house at the Fawaz fete, as were hotties Margherita Missoni and Tamara Mellon, designer Ozwald Boateng, and Boris Becker and his gal pal, Sandy. Thwack, thwack. The next night at Billionaire, Becker and Sandy got engaged. Not one to miss an opportunity, Ozwald quickly offered to make Boris a smart jacket for the big day.

The “in” joke at Billionaire was to go up to the hot girls who wore watches by Tommaso Buti, of the eponymous boutique, and say, “I like your Buti.”

Tick, tick . . . silence.

Heller had also traveled to Mykonos with Stavros Niarchos and his sister Eugenie (aristocratic AE) for art dealer Andy Valmorbida’s 30th birthday. A Buti-free cutie, Eugenie designs great rings that the Sardinia–to–Saint-Tropez set wears now. But Stavros, Paris Hilton’s ex, skipped Sardinia this
season, as he has been “working” for financier Arki Busson, who is engaged to Uma Thurman (archly AE). David Letterman should perform the wedding vows: Arki, Uma, Uma, Arki.

Heller’s attractive sis, Rachel, an actress, had joined him in Saint-Tropez, where he caught Timbaland live at the V.I.P Room. Thanks to the strong euro, the south of France was peopled mainly by Russians or hookers or both. Denise Rich, neither of the above (though she has the cleavage) threw her annual potlatch on a superyacht, and the party took over half of the dock. (AE). And, no, it wasn’t the Veuve . . . the dance floor at Rich’s rich fete was actually spinning like the floor at the Rainbow Room. Guests included surfing god Laird Hamilton; Rossano Rubicondi, Ivana’s erstwhile hub; and Steve-O, who featured his tats on the beach during daylight hours. Prince Andrew, formerly a.k.a. “Randy Andy,” was the big guest catch landed by vintner Claude Ott, of Domaines Ott, for his 500-person White Party. The Prince was swarmed big-time by bejeweled babes in head-to-toe white. The stately garden featured manicured hedges and vintage rose beds (deliciously AE), while the luxe pool boasted an AE island with a bar in the center. The plum pie was a challenge, considering all the white silk.

Back in starry Malibu, snap, snap, amazon Gabrielle Reece attended Charlize Theron’s screening of beau Stuart Townsend’s film Battle in Seattle in the tony Malibu Country Mart, a mall that looks like a Mediterranean villa. The film covers the World Trade Organization riots in Seattle, in 1999. During a Q&A afterward, Theron yelled out that she had to F Townsend to get the role.
Volleyball star Reece had her gorgeous baby in tow. And Matthew McConaughey and his then-preggers gal pal Camila Alves passed notes during a dinner at the Greek-chic Taverna Tony.

More recently, on the Malibu cliffs and next to Brad Pitt’s spaceshiplike aerie (the neighbor’s bane), a $30 million party pad called Project Beach House was the setting as McDonald’s feted the Big Mac turning 40. The non-AE Big Mac pack included a wee Lauren Conrad, a medium Serena Williams, and a supersize Khloe Kardashian, who was just out of the slammer and chauffered in a Cadillac Escalade. She dropped by to tipple Ciroc. The A ex-con claimed that she would never drink and drive again—apropos Shia LaBeouf’s nasty crashup the previous night. John Turturro later mentioned that Shia would be okay, but the hand
required pins. Ouch!

Far less fast-foody was a clambake hosted by Lia Sophia, where Juliette Lewis celebrated her birthday in the Boost Mobile Cabana with her BFFL Pink. All was cool until Winona Ryder lost her cell phone and called the party to a screeching halt as she accused guests of de-mobilizing her. Projecting?

Back east, way east, at the Kingswood Estate in East Hampton, Interview and Hugo Boss orchestrated an even cooler cabana hang. Baskets over beds around the pool conveniently contained condoms for safe-sexy revelers (E, not A). Fueled by Patrón XO Café shots on ice, various vixens stripped down to bikinis. The Pierces rocked an acoustic set, attended by Paul Sevigny and Liv Tyler’s ex’s brother, Christian Langdon. Afterward, Rag & Bone hottie founder Nathan Bogle approached Catherine Pierce, and they did a sweet, attentive all-evening hang. Get a cabana, kids.

Slightly to the west out east, in Water Mill, New York, Katharina Otto-Bernstein, one of Bob Wilson’s great German patronesses, invited me to sit at her table during the annual gala for Wilson’s Watermill Center, where I had a Warhol Diaries flashback:

“I was watching a rerun of Carol Burnett and those people were just so good, so talented, so funny. I mean, Bob Wilson has an austistic kid and does a few imaginative things, but that’s all. I mean it’s like when you see Carol Burnett, you think how nothing a thing like Bob Wilson’s is.” —The Andy Warhol Diaries, Wednesday, June 25, 1980

Well, a “nothing” thing is better than nothing. And sometimes it gets lively at Wilson’s party. In recent memory, in the name of art, a hot male and female artist had milk pulsing down their naked bodies at this nutty soiree. And who needs a show when the vestibule at the entrance of Wilson’s art commune has rounded stones covering the floor, so that a woman in heels practically needs to be carried across. AE. Call it a craving, but preggers PR guru Vanessa von Bismarck nabbed an exotic auction item at the gala: a pedigreed mare and two foals produced by the studs of her choice. The larger-than-life Dallas social who donated the item wore enormous black wings on her back—and she was no Victoria’s Secret model.

My new favorite AE German heiress is Gabrielle Henkel, who wore a black veil and ended up looking like an aging drag version of Petra von Kant. When Arnold Scaasi got up to hug her, he accidentally had a large red napkin hanging from his crotch. At least I think it was a red napkin.

That same night, Robert Kennedy Sr. was posthumously honored in a Camelot-style tent at Toni Ross’s house on West End Road in East Hampton. Mary Richardson Kennedy kindly approached me and recalled that we had hung out with Carole Radziwill after seeing Factory Girl (2006). She worked at Interview out of school, and Mary recalled that Fred Hughes, Warhol’s minister of AE, always told Carolina Herrera she had to become a designer. Mary mentioned that Bobby Jr., her husband, was up in Hyannis Port babysitting like 30 kids, and they were all going to jump off the dock and go for a midnight sail. Those Kennedys sure are fearless. AE poster kids.

The next night, across the street, E but non-A social Frances Hayward hosted a meat-free dinner for Russell Simmons and Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society, at her historic rental, Grey Gardens. And even though it was pouring outside, Ann Dexter-Jones, Sam Ronson’s mom, lit up the place with a sundress by Giambattista Valli.

Meanwhile, lobster was served at Grey Goose Manor, a shingled manse in East Hampton, for Sam Ronson and Lindsay Lohan. Cynthia Sestito, Jay-Z’s former private chef and a former Top Chef contestant, poured butter on the lobster from an AE pitcher. Before Sam and Lindsay spotted me, they held hands. Sam was gazing into Lindsay’s eyes all night.

Two weekends later, Paris Hilton partied at Lily Pond, a nightclub in East Hampton. She made it through the velvet ropes out front, but at the door she was turned back by seven A, not E, East
Hampton town police, state troopers, fire marshals, and local code-enforcement officials. Hilton quickly rushed the back door of the club, where she announced that she had a potty emergency (AE all the way). The ploy worked. Inside the earsplitting VIP area, Hilton, as usual, melted my butter by smooching me on the cheek.

The Cinema Society and Glamour screened Elegy at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, in New York City on August 5. The film drags in spots, but Penélope Cruz appears sans wardrobe a lot, and Ben Kingsley smooches one of her spectacular breasts. Director Isabel Coixet told me that while they were filming, Javier Bardem was ringing constantly.

Very AE, Penélope and Javier aren’t into PDA. During an E dinner at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée for Woody Allen’s film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Javier sat with Ann Dexter-Jones at first but later had his arm around Penélope, and I spotted him discreetly bussing her cheek.

Back to the left coast, on the roof of the Thompson Beverly Hills, Allure’s Linda Wells toasted cover gal Victoria Beckham, her husband, her parents, and her sis, who looks like Posh might without all the stylists and the work. Other guests included Jamie Foxx, Eva Longoria Parker with husband Tony Parker, and Kate Beckinsale. Sam was spinning and later joined the Beckhams’ table with La Lohan, who huddled around a pot of tea to keep warm.

On the way out, the caterer caught a certain star attempting to take one of Philippe Starck’s Lucite chairs as an unauthorized gift bag. Very A, but not E. No cops were called. But a black-and-white did show up after Lipstick Jungle star Brooke Shields invited me and my wife for a swim with her and her husband that Saturday night in Southampton.

After a steamy Hamptons magazine dinner, Brooke invited us back to publisher Jason Binn’s house for a dip. When we peeked into Jason’s backyard, we expected to see a scene from The Blue Lagoon (1980) but it was pitch-dark. We ran back to the car, perhaps tripping an alarm. Within minutes, a police car buzzed my vintage Wagoneer.

Two days later, at J. Mendel on Madison Ave., an annoyed Brooke mentioned that she had waited 45 minutes for us in the drink . . . in the dark.

“What, do you think we’re going to turn on the lights?” Jason sniffed.