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The Rich and Famous and Art of Giving

November 28, 1986|From United Press

WASHINGTON — Ali MacGraw threw the first bunch of daisies Steve McQueen gave her into the trash can. So McQueen sent her an even larger bunch in a galvanized trash can.

Richard Burton once sent Elizabeth Taylor a diamond bracelet--not in any old velvet case but draped in a display of 10 dozen Sterling roses, which matched her lavender eyes.

Such inspired gift giving can be found in "Only the Best," by Stuart E. Jacobson (Abrams, 208 pp.: $35), text by Jill Sopalding, photography by Jesse Gerstein. Jacobson has collected some examples of the presents the rich and famous have bestowed on each other.

Publisher Malcolm Forbes bought his wife, Roberta, a Faberge Imperial Presentation cigarette case for Christmas in 1960.

A Touching Offering

A very touching offering was that of Nelson Rockefeller to his wife, Happy, after the birth of one of their sons. It was a Henry Moore sculpture, Rocking Chair No. 1, which shows a mother holding her child.

One of the most lavish gifts of all time has to be the residence William K. Vanderbilt had built for his wife, Alva. The $10-million mansion, Marble House in Newport, R. I., was completed in 1892. Unfortunately, Alva divorced her husband two years later.

Not quite as extravagant was the chapel that Marylou Whitney had built for her husband, Cornelius. The Whitneys had a chapel on their Kentucky home and Marylou wanted a chapel for her husband on their Saratoga Springs home too. She found and had copied an 1810 Dutch house that would serve, furnished it and gave it to him Christmas Day 1982.

Not Always Expensive

Not all treasured and meaningful gifts are expensive, of course. Composer and songwriter Stephen Sondheim was a boy when he met Oscar Hammerstein II. He taught Hammerstein how to play chess and Dorothy Hammerstein gave him Oscar's chess set.

A young Roddy McDowall was a fan of comedians Laurel and Hardy. "One of the biggest thrills of my young life was when Stan took off his hat one day and inscribed the sweatband to me and put it on my head."

And then there is the gift from Katharine Hepburn to Henry Fonda. The pair met for the first time when filming "On Golden Pond," which turned out to be Fonda's last film. Hepburn gave her co-star Spencer Tracy's favorite hat, one that director John Ford had worn and considered his good luck hat.

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