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The Mai and Paul Hallingby divorce settlement, said to involve about $25 million, went something like this: Investment banker Paul keeps the houses in Southampton and Nassau. Mai will stay in the plush city apartment...

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The Mai and Paul Hallingby divorce settlement, said to involve about $25 million, went something like this: Investment banker Paul keeps the houses in Southampton and Nassau. Mai will stay in the plush city apartment on Sutton Place for a year, and then that will be sold and the proceeds split down the middle. And really and truly and once and for all, Mai did not find out the marriage was over by reading about it in this column. When I wrote about the split, she already knew the end was nigh and had discussed it with a few friends. That's how I found out -- and that's what friends are for, no?.

Time magazine has said of Aline, the Countess of Romanones, that she "has lived a life of glamour and danger that Ingrid Bergman only played at in 'Notorious."' Recruited as a spy by the Office of Strategic Services, the American beauty who married the late Luis Romanones, a Spanish grandee, while she worked as a secret agent in Madrid, has written three best-selling memoirs about her intriguing and perilous adventures then. Now comes her first novel, "The Well-Mannered Assassin," the story of her meeting a charming new friend in Madrid who turns out to be the most infamous and feared of international terrorists, Carlos the Jackal. When she discovers his true identity, a game of cat-and-mouse begins from which she is lucky to escape alive. The story is laid in such spots where the rich, titled, famous and dangerous mingle as Munich, Paris and Marbella, and Aline's friends in real life, Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn, figure in the exciting half fact/half fiction tale. The book is dedicated "To Bud," Bud being Bud Palmer, Aline's love interest for the past several years and the reason she braves the snows of Aspen, where he lives, when sunny Spain is more her style.

As far as Nancy Reagan is concerned, the highlight of the gala benefit for the Washington National Botanic Garden honoring America's First Ladies was when President Clinton got up from his table, walked over to her and asked that she please thank her husband for all his time and effort on behalf of the assault gun legislation recently passed in the House of Representatives. "I never could have done it without him," said Clinton -- or words to that effect. "Now you can do something for me," said Nancy, taking advantage of the old quid pro quo. I'll tell you what she asked for later, but I'll tell you now that he promised he'd look into it. Nancy knows it's not at the top of his things-to-do-tomorrow list, but a phone call one of these days would be nice. Among those at the gala were Alyne Massey and Chan Mashek of Palm Beach, who are on the board of the Botanic Garden. Alyne was with Texas megamillionaire Ed Cox, and Chan, who is Ed Cox's daughter, was with John Damgard of Washington, who could be her new boyfriend. Her fling with Jamie Kabler has flung.
The night before the gala, Buffy and Bill Cafritz, Carol and Paul Laxalt and Robert Higdon gave a dinner for Nancy at the Ritz-Carlton. Everyone was there -- cliff-dwellers William McCormick Blair, Evangeline Bruce, Kay Graham and Oatsie and Robert Charles, plus such Nancy fans as Phyllis George, Bob Gray, Ann and Lloyd Hand, Georgette and Bob Mosbacher, Lew Wasserman and Peggy Noonan of Reagan and Bush speechwriting fame. And lately that's what they've been up to in dear old D.C.

Which brings to mind: Disenchantment over Bill Clinton and his handling of the Presidency is nothing new. But what is new is that he is losing the grace and favor of a powerful media figure who was once one of his biggest boosters and now finds him a disaster. Doesn't really bother hiding it either.

Kirk Douglas will be in New York over Memorial Day to attend his grandson Cameron's graduation from Choate, Cameron being the offspring of Michael Douglas and his wife Diandra. While Kirk's here, he'll hit the talk show circuit to plug his new book.

The most depressed man in the Hamptons these days -- if you believe the chatter -- is rock superstar Billy Joel, who still cannot get over the fact that Christie Brinkley dumped him. It's all sort of pitiful until you remember that in the past, he was the big dumpster.

The American Academy in Rome's benefit at the Puck Building was a great success for any number of reasons: The young royals, Lord and Lady Linley, lent their glamour. Donna Hanover Giuliani smiled all evening. Mercedes Bass, there with husband Sid, looked sportive and rich wearing Roy Lichtenstein's baseball cap and her very own pop beads. The dessert was a replica of the Roman Forum, and many thought Francesco Rutelli, the handsome mayor of Rome, was a bit of a work of art himself. The stylish Adele Chatfield Taylor, also known as Mrs. John Guare, ran the show celebrating the Year of Architecture and honoring Michael Eisner of the Disney Eisners, Phyllis Lambert, Vincent Scully and Robert Venturi.
The only place to be tomorrow night is at the New York State Theater in Lincoln Center where the New York City Ballet's Spring Gala will be in full swing. Anne Bass and Robert Pittman are the chairmen of the evening and Hillary Rodham Clinton is the honorary chairman. After the performance by NYCB's marvelous dancers, at least 900 guests will head for the Theater's Promenade for a Glorious Food feast of avocado soup with lime-marinated baby shrimp, pan-fried cornbreaded chicken breast, couscous with three peppers and, for dessert, individual almond tuiles filled with ginger and vanilla ice cream.

Robert Isabell will make the setting beautiful and contemporary with steel tables covered with sheer gray organza and centered with custom-designed four-foot tall aluminum candlesticks towering over an assortment of glass vases filled with spring flowers and clusters of pillar candles. The dinner chairmen are Remi and Olivier Krug, who will provide the champagne, and the entire evening is a celebration of NYCB's Diamond Project showcasing some of the talented choreographers who are shaping classical dance today.

Fresh from her sold-out appearances at the Bouffes du Nord theater in Paris and at the Sadler's Wells theater in London, Regine, queen of the night and nightclubs, will bring her concert/show, "La Boule au Plafond," to the Supper Club in New York on May 31. Opening night, a charity event for CARE, will be under the patronage of the Mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, and France's Ambassador to the U.S. Jacques Andreani. Comme il faut et comme ìa.

It won't happen until Oct. 28, but Barbara Davis, the incomparable Beverly Hills hostess and fund-raiser, is telling the world that her Carousel of Hope ball benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation has already raised $2.3 million. The major sponsors of the evening are Guess Inc. and Revlon, and Barbara has enlisted dozens and dozens of corporate giants and donors. The marvelous items to be sold at the silent auction just before the gala at the Beverly Hilton include luxury cars and dream cruises. Any real woman would be mad not to bid on the hockey lesson and a practice session with Wayne Gretzky. Now that's a dream cruise.