In the late Seventies, it was the vogue for ‘ladies who lunch’ to throw lavish hen parties for each other. Jackie Collins told me that Jerry Hall gave a lunch party for fifty girls, and Jackie taped the lot of them. Enough juicy dialogue to fill several of her Hollywood books, I should imagine.
I think one of the most glamorous hen parties I went to, was a birthday bash given by the exotic model Marie Helvin for her best girlfriends. At the time, I wrote a gossip column called ‘bitch’ for her then husband, David Bailey, publisher of the defunct “Ritz Newspaper’, so I think Marie invited me along purely for me to cover her party. Marie hired the whole of Eleven Park Walk, off Fulham Road, which was one of London’s most fashionable restaurants at the time, and discreetly paid for the lunch after the bash was all over. The guest list included Angelica Houston who was then Jack Nicholson’s girlfriend, Nona Summers, an infamous society hostess and Elsa Schiaparelli’s granddaughter Marisa Berenson, the beautiful actress and socialite.
At the time, she looked exactly the same as she did in “Cabaret”, which was pretty miraculous considering she had recently undergone extensive plastic surgery on her face after a car accident. In those days, I hadn’t yet been given a freebie tape recorder and was still using my shorthand, so it’s a shame I didn’t surreptitiously tape the lunch, because I can’t remember in minute detail, what we all talked about. Nothing about earth-shattering world events, I suspect. All I do vividly recall is that one woman, a wealthy theatre impresario’s mistress chain-smoked in between courses that, due today’s phobia of anti-smoking is completely out of date. The late Tina Chow, who tragically later died of AIDS, announced she had just returned from holidaying in Sardinia, where she said that Fanta and frozen pizzas were dished out, and all at ‘exorbitant’ prices. Considering the continental currency was then pre-euro, by today’s standards, the beach fast fodder would be now considered cheap.
‘The beaches were filled with people covered in perfume and lipstick who all looked like they had been recruited from a Rogers & Cowan guest list,’ Tina said. (Rogers & Cowan is an ‘A’ list showbiz public relations company). ‘Next time, I shall holiday on a yacht,’ she added. She announced she had also been to the Vatican, but just after Pope John Paul I had died. His thirty-three day reign was the shortest in papal history. Zandra Rhodes popped in for ten minutes, declaring it was the first time she had lunched in three months, and topped Tina by saying she had also just recently visited the Vatican but before the Pope had died. Other girls including Lady Victoria Waymouth, before she married (the late) Patrick Lichfield, the royal photographer. Model agency owner Laraine Ashton, an ex-model laughed about Omar Sharif (a movie star in those days), trying to lick champagne from her toes the previous evening. Everyone must have been feeling happy after the lunch, as all the women offered to give me a lift home. I was so touched, that I didn’t bitch about any of them when I wrote up the lunch.