When the life-loving media tycoon Malcolm Forbes was still with us, he led a party of corporate giants and assorted swells to his far-flung Chateau Balleroy in Normandy every year, there to go a-ballooning o'er field and stream. Since...

So now we all know that Mercedes is one of the world's best-dressed women, her drop-dead style often likened to that of the Duchess of Windsor when that fashion plate was in flower. So now this is what Mercedes wore to all the lunches and dinners and concerts and sprees at Elio's and the Basses' big party at the onstage celebration at the Metropolitan: To Kenneth Jay Lane's buffet for her and Sid in his ravishing duplex apartment, she wore a spare little black silk Audrey Hepburn-type dress from Oscar de la Renta's Balmain collection, as short as short can be. To Gil Shiva's lunch in their honor at his ravishing apartment in the Dakota, she wore her pal Givenchy's forest green wool suit with a green satin blouse. To the fabulous "Save The Rain Forests" concert at Carnegie Hall (Elton John, I love you), where the Basses invited 50 guests there and to a dinner afterward at Elio's, she wore another Balmain by Oscar, black silk, short and cut out at the shoulders. And for the Basses' dinner for 94 at the Metropolitan Opera, she wore a beautiful wedding dress she ordered from Vera Wang in black -- with lots of Mercedes showing through the chiffon! Now, don't you wish you'd thought of that? It's the only way, really.

It would be almost impossible to find a more beautiful setting for Mercedes's birthday than the magnificent "On Stage at the Met" party, the extraordinary party Cecile Zilkha, the Met's chairman of special events, has masterminded at the opera house every year for the past nine years. This year's mise-en-scene was taken from the Met's gorgeous new production of "Otello," a gift from the ardent Texas music lover Sybil Harrington. Guests, stepping onto the vast stage to find their tables, walked toward a fantasy terrace under a distant starlit sky. One might have been in a lavish orangerie with tables centered with six-foot tall topiary trees bearing oranges and others adorned with spring flowers, all created by Philip Baloun. On each side of the stage hung huge Venetian paintings framed by majestic marble columns. Venetian balconies were bedecked with red banners representing the Lion of Venice and there were enormous lion statues everywhere. The guest artist of the evening was Renee Fleming, the Met's new soprano, who had just made her debut singing Desdemona to Placido Domingo's Otello and was still feeling the thrill.
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