The Beautiful People

Published December 1, 2008

“Beauties know that most people will wait for them, so they’re not panicked when they’re late, so they get even later. But by the time they arrive, they’ve usually gotten to feel guilty, so then to make up for being late, they get really sweet, and being really sweet makes them more beautiful. That’s a classic syndrome.” —POPism, Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett

There have always been beautiful people, but the term beautiful people was a love child of the 1960s. And Interview’s boss, Andy Warhol, basically worshipped BPs.

On June 4, designer Allegra Hicks, a towering Italian BP, invited me to lunch at Michael’s. I arrived early and made the mistake of immediately heading for a table. When the maître d’ brought me to a ho-hum spot near the back, I knew I should have waited for Allegra, who is tall and fabulous-looking, has a delicious Anglo-Italian accent, and would have commanded a prime banquette. Her husband is Ashley Hicks, whose dad, David Hicks—the 1960s, mod Brit interior designer—married Lord Mountbatten’s daughter.

Allegra told me about traveling to Capri with McDermott & McGough—BPs in their own turn-of-the-20th-century fashion. They showed up at the beach in black-and-white horizontally striped bodysuits, and the local fishermen’s quips were apparently choice. And when she was painter Donald Baechler’s assistant, Allegra once walked Jean-Michel Basquiat to her cash machine, where she barely squeezed out $1,000 to buy three of his drawings, one a sketch of the late, great curator and worldly BP Henry Geldzahler.

On Saturday, June 7, I woke up at an ungodly hour to catch a train to East Hampton. In the next seat was Maximiliano Palacio, an Argentine ex–polo star with a mane like Jesus’s. This sensational-looking beanpole BP was telling his life story to a friend: Max had been nearly killed after a polo mallet almost punctured his kidney. When business called his father away to Europe, young Max begged Dad to stay. He didn’t, and they didn’t speak for years. But Max later ended up snowed in at his dad’s endless ski-resort villa in the Argentine Andes. The scene had Bergman written all over it, and as Max spoke, an unaccompanied-cello soundtrack played in my head. I kept my cool, though I wanted to shake him for not seeing how much he owed his pop for his designer genes. End of train ride, midlife story.

Thursday of the following week, Nicholas Edmiston, an old-school British gent and chairman of one of the world’s largest yacht brokerages, invited me to dinner at the Waverly Inn. He deals in yachts that cost up to 700 million euros, or well over a billion dollars. I was seated next to the adorable Italian actress Jennifer Missoni. Across the table and next to Kelly Killoren Bensimon sat Max. What were the chances? With some prodding from Jennifer (when Kelly wasn’t listening), I admitted to Max that I had overheard his story, and he graciously told us the rest: In July of that year, he and his dad went skiing. In the chairlift, his dad really opened up and spoke with complete honesty about Max’s five brothers. During their ski run, Dad fell and appeared groggy but insisted on continuing. At the bottom of the slope, no Dad. Injured badly in the ski accident, his father had been taken to the hospital, where he died. So sad. I just hope Max didn’t borrow the tale from Isabel Allende or Gabriel García Márquez.

Six nights later, on June 18, I ran into Max and Kelly yet again. They study acting together, and they had attended a Cinema Society screening of Finding Amanda, a hilariously depressing film with Matthew Broderick about addictive behavior. In the film, Broderick’s peppy niece, played by Brittany Snow, becomes a Vegas hooker. Over Chinese food in red cartons, Max gave me permission to tell his life story. Weird karma.

Backstage at the Tony Awards, Laura Linney took, like, 20 minutes to get her makeup done. Then she sat facing a monitor and watched Whoopi Goldberg cavort in a crab outfit during the Lion King performance; Linney tried not to crack up and ruin the pancake. When a ramp descended from the ceiling, a hushed Noah’s Ark of animal-costumed BPs scampered up it and onto the stage.Also backstage, the mini BP Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame, was chatting up young Tony escorts, who were asking him to say “bra” and “bludgeon.” But he bonded instead with the lone male dork. One escort-ette screamed at the interloper, “You’re not even gay! Give us a chance!”

The following week, Whitney Museum -trustee Beth Rudin DeWoody left a message that her driver had nearly hit me in front of the Chelsea Hotel—“My bad”—and could I come to dinner at her apartment for the Whitney’s Buckminster Fuller show. As a kid, I knew about Fuller through my uncle. The great thinker turned me onto futurism and the ideas we now consider green: lighter buildings, houses, and cars. With our oil troubles, we should all probably be living in his geodesic domes.

Beth is a collector’s collector. Her apartment looks as though Peggy Guggenheim had become a serious shopaholic. There is art everywhere. Plexiglas boxes by Terence Koh crowd a center hall. A Jeff Koons train set gleams from a mantel. Midget dolls of Charles Manson and Michael Jackson by John Waters sit on opposite ends of a banquette in a back room—the figures are titled Play Date. I coveted the cameras cast in bronze by Michael Stipe, which he showed June 26 at the Rogan boutique on the Bowery. NFS, even for BPs. The store, an old theater, was burning hot, but that didn’t stop Koh, Koons, Chris Martin of Coldplay, and Jake Paltrow from chilling there.

Interview shutterbug Todd Eberle invited me to chill, physically, that same night at the opening bash for Olafur Eliasson’s New York City Waterfalls. We caught t-he last boat, at 10:30 P.M. Despite the renewable-energy credits purchased, Fuller wouldn’t have loved all the electricity wasted on the multistory waterfalls along the East River. But up close they felt like air conditioners and looked as dreamy as Eberle’s photographs. BP: beautiful project.

Jackie O was the original BP, and that weekend Reed Krakoff, president of Coach, invited me to his wife Delphine’s birthday party at their new house, Lasata, the Bouvier’s former flagship mansion in East Hampton, where Jackie lived until she was about 12. (Oddly enough, Kelly Killoren Bensimon summers next door, but I avoided peeping in on her and BP M.P.) By the Krakoffs’ pool, I spotted Simon Doonan and his soon-to-be husband Jonathan Adler, minimalist landscape guru Perry Guillot, Allure’s Linda Wells, Fern Mallis, and Paul Kasmin, of his eponymous gallery.

We dined in a Coach-style tent outside, and then, back in the house, a mentalist bent loads of the Krakoffs’ silver- and glassware without touching them, while designer Catherine Malandrino, in a striped skirt, and Elle Decor’s Margaret Russell perched on fluffy sheep by the Lalannes.

Ring, ring. A week later, ageless BP Denise Hale phoned to invite me to her 10,000-acre ranch outside Cloverdale, California. Bob Colacello warned me that if I took one wrong turn, I’d be eaten by coyotes. “He tells that to everyone,” Denise said. I pumped her about the Royal Box at Wimbledon; Princess Michael of Kent had invited her there. “When I went,” Denise said, “I finally understood what everyone was talking about. So gorgeous. There were these elegant wicker chairs and blankets and little hats for everyone. The Royal Box faces Centre Court. The lunchroom has menus. And they serve tea courtside between matches. People really dress. The finals were the most incredible game one will ever see in a lifetime. Two incredible egos.”

“Without exaggeration, the most gut-wrenching, agonizing four hours and 48 minutes of my life,” added Texan BP Becca Cason Thrash about the same match, not the film we’d just seen, when I ran into her after a Cinema Society screening of Josh Hartnett’s August, on July 9. In regard to the Federer-Nadal match, Becca continued: “So tense you were saying, ‘Where’s the vodka?’ basically. And at the end, Nadal jumps into the stands to kiss his parents, then climbs over to King Juan Carlos and shakes his hand.”

Speaking of regal, Becca’s June 10 benefit in Paris for the Louvre was a Texas-scaled blowout. “I was totally nervous,” she confessed with a Houston lilt. “There were more billionaires than millionaires.” BBPs. “And young ones . . . Dasha Zhukova, the 28-year-old Russian, wore Balmain. And there were more HRHs: HRH BP Princess -Caroline of Hanover in navy-blue Chanel haute couture, the Prince Pierre d’Arenberg, every conceivable -Baroness de Rothschild—Arianne, Beatrice, -Philippine, five or six Hermèses—Bianca Jagger, Luzia Hennessey in Lacroix haute -couture.” After dinner they traipsed through the galleries and into the Pyramid, where Duran Duran opened with “Hungry Like the Wolf.”

Even more fun, after the haute couture shows a few weeks later, Becca hooked up with DDBPs Simon and Yasmin Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, and John Taylor and Gela Nash-Taylor at the bar of the -Hôtel Ritz Paris. Owen Wilson asked if he could bring a friend . . . Rachel Weisz. And then John Kerry and his two bodyguards sidled up to the piano. They sang and threw back shots of Patrón until 4 a.m.

No wonder beauties are always late for lunch.