Yesterday was a beautiful almost-Spring day in New York with snow predicted in the forecast

On patrol at the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge on Bowery and Canal. 2:45 PM. Photo: JH.

I went to lunch at Michael’s where Liz Smith, Barbara Walters, Lisa Caputo, Cynthia McFadden, Peggy Siegal, Nora Ephron and several other high-powered New York women were having their “Harpies” lunch. They hold it in the big table in the bay of the restaurant. You can just imagine the conversation. They probably know everything that’s going on with just about every famous person in New York, Washington and Hollywood and then some.

India Hicks
Last night I went over to Ralph Lauren on 72nd and Madison where they were having a book party for India Hicks and her husband David Flint Wood for their newly published Island Life; Inspirational Interiors (Stewart, Tabori and Chang).

History lesson: Hicks is the daughter of the late international interior designer David Hicks and Lady Pamela Mountbatten Hicks, a daughter of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Admiral of the British Fleet, the last Viceroy of India, first Governor-General of India and First Sea Lord. His wife, Lady Edwina Ashley Mountbatten was the grand-daughter of the very rich Sir Ernest Cassel, a banker and financial advisor to King Edward VII. When the couple married in the late 1920s, they honeymooned in Beverly Hills as guests of the then King and Queen of the Silent Screen, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.

Lady Edwina was famous in her day for living large and adventurously. She was one of those English aristos who couldn’t resist a flaming heart and was said to have had affairs with Nehru and Paul Robeson, among others. The stuff of great literature — biographies, novels, and just plain out good juicy gossip. The Mountbattens, who were also handsome and beautiful, supplied it all in their day.

The earl, whose princely German family was called Battenburg until the First World War when anti-German feeling became rampant in Britain, was a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, also paternal uncle of Prince Philip and therefore great-uncle of Prince Charles who held him in great esteem and affection. Earl Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA a bomb planted in his boat while on holiday at his summer home in Sligo, Ireland on August 27, 1979.

I lay that out to give you an idea of the family connections that made the foundation for today’s generation. India Hicks, who grew up in England, came to New York out of school about twelve or fourteen years ago. I interviewed her for Quest about ten years ago. She was working here as a model. She was very pretty in that cool English way but there wasn’t so much of a hint of that subtle English talent for business tied into promotion.

The English do it so well on these shores. Last night the place was packed with friends and press people and lots of English accents. It’s a different feel when there’s a large contingent of Brits and other Europeans in the room. I think they have a better time than we Americans do. There’s a touch of the jolly – perfect word for the attitude that prevails. They liven things up for those of us who can get very stand-around-off-ish at these cocktail soirees. They make it seem like they don’t give a damn and just want to have a good time. I don’t believe that for a minute, but it seems that way, which is the ticket.

Click image to order Island Life
It was also a good idea having it at the Ralph Lauren flagship which is dripping with the American version of that Englishness (so good that it’s now turning on the Brits whence it came). Good for Ralph Lauren the business, because people were buying. Peggy Siegal told me she went for the black and white pumps in the window; couldn’t resist. The sweater colors were like looking at candy; you wanted them all if only because they looked so good folded there on the dark wood shelves.

The Lauren sons, Andrew and David, and daughter Dylan were there. The children of Ralph and Ricky Lauren are exemplary in their set – scions of a fabulously successful and famous father, the Laurens are all hard working, earnest and gracious. They grew up in a world where there is a lot of absentee parenting yet you can see this was not their experience.

The book, the reason for the party. I didn’t know what to expect.
A book of photographs of interiors, I’d assumed. I didn’t know if India Hicks had become a decorator like her famous father or maybe her husband David Flint Wood was. It has a shelter magazine’s dream cover.

Then you open it. It’s the couple’s properties on an island in the Bahamas. It is beautiful to look at. It looks like paradise. They live there. Fulltime. They show you around the house, tell you something about the island, the climate, and soon you’re in the head of these English people who have a knack for living what looks like the ideal tropical lives. They have great taste with just the right slice of the simple elegant luxe to touch up the cool and coziness of their spaces. You want it too. You think: I could live there. Or even just visit. Or at least dream about it.

It’s a very clever book, and I was surprised to find myself intrigued to the point where I wanted to look at everything in detail, and read every description. It had got me thinking: I was thinking it must be like paradise; something we could all use a little bit of at this point in the game.

A percentage of the evening's sales, including those of Island Life, will benefit the Dunmore School, a small, nonprofit school on Harbour Island dedicated to creating a difference in the lives of the youngest members of this special island.
Sally Albemarle and India Hicks
Melanie Seymour and Mark Gilbertson
James Reginato
Patricia Field
Margild Fiddian-Green and Alexander Ercklentz
David and Andrew Lauren
Angela and Sasha Newley with Stacey Tisdale
The Princes of Yugoslavia, Michel and Dimitri with Isabelle Ratazzi
Heather Cohane
Felicia Taylor and Peggy Siegal
Rufus, the Earl of Albemarle and Maria de Madariaga
Helen Schifter and novelist Plum Sykes
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Serena Bass
Euan Rellie (on his birthday), wife Lucy Sykes, and Tracy Taylor
Amy Sacco and Kathy Schenker
PR brains behind it all, Sally Fischer
Maer Roshan
Jeff Podolsky and Milly de Cabrol
The crowd
RL staffers David Bach, Marisa Laks, and Justin Christensen
Willy Lima
A fiery head of hair ...
... and a fiery tray of drinks



March 16, 2004, Volume IV, Number 42
Photographs by DPC/NYSD.com

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