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BOLD FACE NAMES

We See a Diva Never Talking to Us Again

By JOYCE WADLER

Published: October 24, 2003

We See a Diva

Never Talking to Us Again

There are times in a woman's life when it would be lovely to say, "Hello there, I'm CATHERINE ZETA-JONES."

Since that option is rarely available, there are four little words that are almost as good. We saw them delivered at the Whitney Museum bash on Tuesday night.

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HILARY SWANK was working the paparazzi in a long red gown that had fallen desperately in love with the curves of her body. ("You have to see the back," she told the paparazzi, which is like telling the lions of the Serengeti they have to try the filet mignon.)

LEONARD LAUDER, the Whitney chairman who had the media smarts to invite Ms. Swank to the party, stepped in and posed with Ms. Swank.

Then EVELYN LAUDER, looking none too shabby in her full-length red dress, stepped up to Ms. Swank and uttered the four magic words. "Hi," she said warmly, "I'm the wife."

The angle for the annual Whitney party: ELLSWORTH KELLY's 80th birthday, though it was actually in May.

Requested dress: "ravishing red and black tie."

Boldface names at the party, which we like to throw in here for the sake of graphics: STEPHANIE SEYMORE, DAN AYKROYD and DONNA DIXON, VERA WANG, CLAUDIA COHEN, CAROLINA HERRERA, JONATHAN TISCH, SUSAN and JOHN HESS. Also MICHAEL NOURI, who told us he is going to play RODIN in the musical "CAMILLE CLAUDEL."

DIONNE WARWICK, who for a time was a spokeswoman for the Psychic Friends Network, was the featured entertainer. We found her three flights up in a Whitney Museum boardroom, waiting to go on. A petite woman, with dramatically high cheekbones, Ms. Warwick was wearing a cream suit and a red lace-up bustier — a daring choice for a woman of 62. But since she was arrested a year and a half ago at Miami International Airport and accused of carrying 11 marijuana cigarettes in a lipstick container, you can't fault her for style. (Charges were later dropped under a plea deal that included drug treatment.)

Anyway, Ms. Warwick told us she was on a world tour celebrating 40 years in show business, but said security checks made it very unpleasant to travel.

"Like my friend told me once, `I think I should take a shower, put a towel around me, then go to the airport. Then what will they tell me to take off?' " Ms. Warwick recounted.

Hmmmm.

She said that while she has a home in New Jersey, her main residence now is in Brazil.

So is your Brazilian home like a second home to your family?

"No, it is my home."

From this we leapt nimbly to WHITNEY HOUSTON, to whom Ms. Warwick is related. Ms. Houston has had some bad press, we said. When Ms. Houston talks to her, what does she tell her?

"I'm not going to talk about Whitney," she said. Well, then, let's talk about music. Did they tell you what to sing tonight, Ms. Warwick?

"Do I look like a woman they can tell what to do?" Ms. Warwick said.

Maybe we should go back downstairs and look at the tables. They're dressed with red and gray. The flowers are carnations, packed tightly in square boxes.

"I was inspired by Ellsworth Kelly, but nothing literal," explained COLIN COWIE, who designed the party. "The current exhibit" — this would be at the Whitney — "is red, blue and green, which aren't people-friendly colors. So I chose red. And DIOR said the best color to showcase another color is gray."

How many flowers did you use?

"I lost count over the first hundred thousand. Since it is a charity, you notice I use carnations. Which is not a chic flower, but used like this is awfully chic."

Another Reason

They Give Them Scripts

GQ Magazine had its annual Men of the Year awards ceremony this week. Our favorite moment, at The Regent Wall Street on Tuesday night, came when ADRIEN BRODY received an actor of the year award.

"I told my manager I needed to come to New York for the GQ Men of the Year awards," Mr. Brody told the audience, "And he said, `How many of those things are you going to accept?' "

   with Kari Haskell

   and Faiza Akhtar


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