Friday, July 12, 2013

London Social Diary

Queen Elizabeth and Princess Beatrice at Ascot.
Back to London
by Sharon Sondes

After the long, long trudge through Heathrow airport to Passports and Immigration and the even longer wait in the queue at Border Patrol my mind began to wander back to the good old days. The days when the trip, the voyage, the getting there was all part of the fun. Especially the 3 1/2 hr. Concorde or the incomparable ocean liners of yesteryear before everything in life became so speedy and no one had the time to cross the pond for the 5 days it took.

The view from Kooki's terrace.
Bute enough of this daydreaming and back to London. One of our dearest friends, international hostess Kokoly "Kooki" Fallah, sent her driver Adil to fetch us and it was a relief to see his beaming face.

We hit the morning rush hour and I was definitely beginning to feel very weary. I couldn't wait to have a bath and nap in Kooki's beautiful guest suite. It's always a joy to visit Kooki who makes one really feel welcome, loved and spoiled.

Arriving at Kooki's magnificent flat, I still marvel at the gorgeous views from every room overlooking the lush green Queen's Gate Gardens full of summer blooms. Her talented decorator daughter Christina of Christina Fallah Designs deserves all the credit for Kooki's beautiful, antique-filled rooms.

Kooki was getting ready to go to the Queen's Club, a private tennis club in West Kensington with grass courts. It's considered a warm-up for Wimbledon and that day Andy Murray (the eventual champion) was scheduled to play.

The story behind Queen's Club's history is particularly interesting and worthwhile Googling. Geoffrey usually accompanies Kooki to anything "sporty," which both are crazy about. But on this day Kooki was going alone because she has organized a meeting for Geoffrey at noon with some of London's top money managers to present his new business venture, CompuMED, a unique scheduling system for the radiology industry. So that left me some private time to unpack, bathe, and jump into a big pile of the morning newspapers to catch up with the latest local news and goings on.
Kooki Fallah and Jacqueline Bisset entering Colbert on Sloane Square.
That night Sir Ian and Lady Lowson were taking us to one of the "in" chic restaurants called Colbert on Sloane Square. Reportedly named after the late movie star, Claudette Colbert, it was created by the brilliant British restaurateurs Chris Corben and Jeremy King. Colbert is their third major restaurant opening in the past year. The other two are The Delaunay in Covent Garden and Brasserie Zeidel in Picadilly.

The duo still have The Wolseley, near the Ritz Hotel, but London's new super restaurant mogul, Richard Caring, has taken over their iconic and much loved Caprice and The Ivy. Caring has gobbled up almost all of our old restaurant haunts in London including everything that Mark Birley owned including such landmarks as Annabel's, Harry's Bar, Mark's Club and George.
Colbert's wall of '30s and '40s movie stars.
Colbert's interior.
The Lowsons brought their old friend of many years, Jacqueline Bisset. Jackie just wrapped her latest movie, also starring Gerard Depardieu, which is very loosely based on Anne Sinclair and her husband Dominique Strauss Kahn.

You may remember he was alleged to have accosted a maid in a hotel in New York City, shattering his dream of becoming President of France. Colbert has an easy bistro atmosphere so the six of us had a relaxed, fun dinner.
Sharon and Sir Ian Lowson.
Lady Lowson and Kooki Fallah.
Sir Ian Lowson, Jacqueline Bisset, and Geoffrey Thomas.
The next day was Geoffrey's birthday and he was brimming over with excitement. Kooki took us for a birthday lunch to 5 Hertford Street, the only place to see and be seen in London. 

After lunch Kooki, who's a bridge champion and a teacher, went to play cards at the Andrew Robson Bridge Club while I went to meet up with another great friend, Jennifer Loxton-Peacock. Neither one of us likes to make specific plans. We just enjoy "wandering." That day, however, we were on a mission: looking for the finest New Zealand Manuka honey, the newest rage in London. Manuka is supposed to be anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and healing. We found  it, settling on a jar of Manuka that is raw, unpasteurized, and quite potent with an active 16+.

Our last stop before we went for coffee and catch up was John Sandoe, the best independent bookshop in London. The best bookshop anywhere! It's in the most charming little house in Chelsea, books everywhere. I have spent hours there and have to be dragged out. It defies description. Just go, or order their 2013 summer catalogue with their recommendations of what to read.
John Sandoe Books in Chelsea.
Jennifer's nephew is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who you may remember that Obama mixed up with R&B star Jeffrey Osborne. Her cousin, Rufus Wright, played the Prime Minister David Cameron to Helen Mirren's Queen Elizabeth II in the smash hit play "The Audience." It was getting late and Jennifer and I parted reluctantly with plans to meet up the next day.

The next day was Royal Ascot. Unless you own a helicopter or have wings you have to leave London around 10 a.m. to get there on time. The traffic is a nightmare and what should only take fifty minutes can take much, much longer. Kooki, Geoffrey and I had been invited to a lunch hosted by Russian magnate George Piskov, his wife Tatiana, and Liz Brewer. George is the Chairman of the Board of Uniastrum bank and Liz is a madly successful PR honcho, London's answer to Peggy Siegal. The lunch was being held in Parking Lot One which is one of the poshest places to have a picnic type lunch at Ascot.
The tables at Parking Lot One, hosted by George Piskov, his wife Tatiana, and Liz Brewer.
The buffet spread.
Aside from the Piskovs, who are charming, the person I was most interested to chat with was Lady Colin Campbell, known as "Georgie." She is one of the most flamboyant and controversial aristocrats in England. She's also a talented author. She was sued by Lily Safra for writing the novel “Empress Bianca.” Lily felt the book's central character was based on her and had the book banned but bootlegged copies were passed around for ages. I digress, but Lady Colin is an exotic and fascinating woman.

After lunch we went into the Royal Enclosure and were very excited to watch Palm Beacher and New Yorker Joseph Allen's horse, Declaration of War, win the Queen Anne Stakes (10 to 1 shot). And Joe's second horse, War Command, won the 4th race. Unheard of to win twice on the same day! The most touching event was the moment of silence observed for Sir Henry Cecil, the celebrated racehorse trainer, who just died of cancer. We left on the early side to beat the traffic, but I don't remember a more exciting day at Ascot.
Lady Colin Campbell. Lady Henrietta Rous.
Martha Milliken. Sir Benjamin Slade and friend.
Sharon Sondes and Liz Brewer.
Geoffrey in full regalia and hatless with Kooki and Michele Herbert.
More Mad Hatters at Ascot (clockwise from top left): Darius Daubaras and Aiste Anusaite Daubaras; Hamish Scott and Lyn Schlessinger; H.E. The Ukrainian Ambassador Mr. Volodymyr Khandogiy and Natalia Shevchenko; Svetlana Thomaides and Niki Cole; Sally Farmiloe and Baron Mark Burca; Nataliya Tutus.
Liz brewer and co-hosts Tatiana and George Piskov.
Clockwise from top left: Victoria Watson and Sir Timothy Cassel; Kamel Alzarka and friend; Victoria and Ian Watson; Liza Kurkova and Tatiana Piskova; Angela Scott Carnachan and Liz Brewer; Tatiana Piskova and Nancy Dell'Olio.
Svetlana Thomaides, Tatiana Piskova, Isabell Kristensen, and Liza Kurkova.
Animal Kingdom was favored to win the Queen Anne Stakes ... but didn't!
A moment of silence for Lord Cecil.
That evening, we went to 5 Hertford St where Kooki, Geoffrey and I had a fabulous dinner. Some of us remember when it was originally called Loulou's, which is now the downstairs nightclub. Decorated by noted designer, Rifat Ozbek, it is absolutely amazing!

We organized to have a drink with my cousin Johnny Loeb and his wife Sharon, who were attending a reception for the Prince of Wales Foundation. While we were having our drinks, we ran into Julia and David Koch, Earle Mack, and Sunny Marlborough. I could definitely go there A Lot! It's so cool. We could certainly use a place like this in New York. There's almost nowhere to go anymore, especially uptown. Robin Birley, who created it, should come to America, and spread his magic there. Very Soon.

An intimate nook at 5 Hertford St. Photo: Jonathan Becker for Vanity Fair.
You can, however, in spite of the ban on photographs at private clubs, see it for yourself by Googling last August's Vanity Fair spread on the club. Google “5 Hertford St,” and look for the link captioned Photos: Loulou’s of London interiors and party guests, August, 2012.

The Brits always claim they never have a summer. But whenever I'm there in June, I seem to bring on summer even if only for a few days. And the air conditioning in London is not always terrific. It was humid at Ascot, but still coolish. This day is humid too, but also  very warm.

Kathrine Palmer
and her constant companion, the noted historian and author of thirteen books, Peter Watson, were giving us a drinks party that night in their beautiful home in Cranley Gardens. Until this winter my sister Maureen and I hadn't seen Kathrine (she only uses one "e") since we were young girls in Monte Carlo. Our mothers were friends, and very strong women. You had to hold your own or they could roll right over you like tanks. So that's the way we met and became friendly and conspiratorial for several summers in Monte Carlo. Then as we grew older, we lost touch.

As luck would have it I ran into Kathrine last June at Earle and Carole Mack's super fun reunion bash at The Ritz Hotel in London. Lady Anson, a cousin to the Queen, helped organize five big reception rooms at the Ritz to hold everyone Earle had known and invited from the 1960s up until June 2012. 
In the drawing room of Kathrine Palmer and Peter Watson's beautiful home in Cranley Gardens.
It was spectacular and you could just feel everyone comparing themselves to everyone else.  That's just human, but you could also feel a lot of love and good energy flowing through the rooms. It was a once in a lifetime event, and everyone appreciated Earle for doing this for us. I recognized Kathrine at once and soon it was as if no time had passed.

I was happy to learn they were coming to Palm Beach last January, and would enjoy having a dinner party. In return they insisted on giving us a lovely drinks party when we arrived in London this June.
Overlooking the garden.
The luscious garden.
And lovely it was. Everyone came. Earle Mack, straight from Ascot, still in his waistcoat with his gorgeous daughter Skylar looked extremely handsome, Carol arrived a little bit later looking very young and could have been Skylar's sister, Kate Ford, Kimberly DuRoss, Jonathan Moffat, Nadine and Lars Bolander, lovely Diana Quasha, Annette Tapert and Joseph Allen still ecstatic over his triumph at Ascot, The Honorable Edward Elson, Suzy Elson, Lady Tana Alexander Focke and her husband, Barbara Takla, Kooki,  Sally Metcalfe, The Honorable John Loeb, Sharon Loeb, Georgie Bronfman Havers, Ann and Martin Summers, Jane Ylvisaker, Diana and Philip Harari, Billy and Nina Lerner Judson, Serena Balfour, Kari Tiedemann, record producer Mark Ronson and his actress wife, the beautiful Josephine de la Baume.
Hostess Kathrine Palmer with Sharon Sondes.
Mark is my godson and when he was about 8 I took him to the late Gino restaurant in New York. Mark loved Gino so much they have just decorated their guest powder room with the Scalamandre Zebra wallpaper that covered Gino's walls for about 50 years! Carole Phillips came with her incomparable, jubilant Confrey. If you're ever lucky enough to sit next to Confrey at dinner ask him how a big fan of his musical talent Ava Gardner was in 1952, and who got the band fired from Les Ambassadeurs and Confrey hired, propelling him into a 60-year career as high society's favorite bandleader and the "Deb's Delight" in England.

It was a wonderful party with so many interesting people. No one wanted to leave,  they were having such a good time, especially those who had claimed the garden for the evening. If Kathrine and Peter hadn't been leaving for their home in the South of France early the next day we'd probably still BE there. 
Ambassador Earle Mack and his daughter Skylar.
Earle and Skylar.
Ambassador and Mrs. Edward Elson with author and historian Peter F. Watson.
Sharon Sondes, Billy Judson, and Carol Mack. Sir Ian Lowson and Lady Tana Alexander.
Janie Dejong and Hilly Pilkington.
Jane Ylvisaker and Carole Phillips.
Mark Ronson, Josephine de la Baume, and Kooki. Anne (Mrs. Martin) Summers.
Josephine de la Baume, Mark Ronson, and Geoffrey Thomas.
Joe and Annette Allen.
Earle Mack and Serena Balfour. Kate Ford and Sharon.
Finally a word  about our last dinner before we waddled, five pounds heavier — and I don't mean our carry ons — onto the plane to return to the US. Johnny and Sharon Loeb gave a small amusing dinner at Memories of China, a very popular place for parties. They have a private room with a huge lazy Susan in the middle of a table that can seat twenty and yummy food.

So the next day it was Cheerio, Pip Pip and Toodle Loo to London for us. Kooki's off to her home in Marrakech, Sir Ian and Lady Lowson to Scotland where they have a grouse shoot in August, and everyone else to various ports of call around the globe.