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Jody Jacobs

From Stately Home to Stately Hotel

October 20, 1985|JODY JACOBS

That was an aristocratic and may we say handsome group of well-tailored Englishmen enjoying some of the house specialties at a big round table at the Bistro Garden on Wednesday night. The host was the second Baron Crathorne, an expert on Impressionist and modern paintings who also lectures on English country houses and Britain's royal castles and homes. With him were his business associates, Viscount Astor, grandson of the fabled Nancy Astor, the American-born first woman member of England's House of Commons, and John Tham, a whiz at real estate. With them were Paige Rense, who as editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest has a passing interest in stately homes, and Paige's ex-husband, Arthur Rense.

What brought them all together was a mutual interest in Cliveden, among England's great country houses. Set on 400 acres on the River Thames, Cliveden was commissioned by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham in 1666. In 1893, it was purchased by a very rich American expatriate, William Waldorf Astor. In 1906 Astor gave Cliveden as a wedding present to his son, Waldorf, and his bride, the American Nancy Langhorne (if you've been watching the Astors on PBS you know all about them.) In 1942 the 3rd Viscount Astor gave Cliveden to the National Trust, but the family continued living there until Astor's death in 1966.

A Major Project

And that's where our chums come in. After a stint when Stanford University occupied the house, it was leased in 1984 to the Blakeney Hotels group. Now pay close attention. Lord Crathorne is director of Blakeney, Tham is its general director (the group also owns the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath). Blakeney has embarked on a major project, turning Cliveden into a grand and stately hotel that is expected to open to the public in February. The preservation of Cliveden and the Edwardian style created by Nancy and Waldorf Astor has been done in close association with the British National Trust. The Cliveden Hotel will have 27 bedrooms and suites and for recreation its guests will have plenty to chose from--tennis, golf, riding, fishing, boating on the Thames. Racing at Ascot, polo at Windsor Great Park and rowing at Henley are within a short drive.

William Astor, who grew up at Cliveden, is a director of Cliveden Hotel Ltd. and he'll see to it that the new hotel keeps to its traditions.

The conversation veered off to Lady Annabel Astor's jewelry designs, which are sold at Annabel Jones on London's Beauchamp Place, to Lord Crathorne's three children and to their plans for the rest of their stay in California. Lord Astor was off to San Francisco to visit his sister's family and to go fishing. Lord Crathorne was staying over to attend the J. C. Penney County Museum of Art's dinner at the museum for the Duke and Duchess of Kent. And then he was off to Washington to attend the opening parties for the "Treasure Houses of Britain" exhibition at the National Gallery.

California is a great drawing card for Gen. Alexander M. Haig Jr., who serves on a number of boards here. One of those commitments drew him here last week and this time he was accompanied by his tall and attractive wife, Pat (they were married in Japan where her father was on Gen. Douglas MacArthur's staff), and his business associate Woody Goldberg and his wife.

While Haig and Goldberg tended to business, their wives went shopping. "I didn't buy a thing," Mrs. Haig commented after their trek through Saks, Neiman-Marcus and I. Magnin. "We say too much." The general also managed to play tennis one day with his agent, William Morris' Norman Brokaw, and former Atty. Gen. William French Smith, a formidable opponent. And on another night he dined with Kirk Kerkorian, who put the general on his MGM board. "They sold the company out from under me," Haig laughed, admitting that he probably would switch to the United Artists board, the film company Kerkorian is buying back.

And then there were the parties where the general entertained everyone with his unusual (for a statesman) candor. One night Dale and Charles Snodgrass and Larry and Sachi Irwin gave a dinner for the Haigs at the Regency Club. After dinner the general stood up and discussed present and future political problems and then answered questions from the guests. Among them were physicist Leonard and Ruth Gross, attorney Maurice Harwick (his wife, Sue, was home nursing bruises from an automobile accident ), Coca-Cola's Lucille and Herbert Boswell, Father Maurice Chase, Sid and Jenny Craig of those weight-loss clinics, Suzy and Frank Cross, the Goldbergs, Mr. and Mrs. Brokaw, Dr. Albert and Jane Lai, Claudia Mirkin. (One of her horses had won his race earlier in the day.)

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