The ladies who lunch were missing Monday from their usual banquettes at the Bistro Garden and at Jimmy's. Instead, they filled tables in Merv Griffin's backyard, glittering in the pastoral setting with more diamonds and designer clothes than a Rodeo Drive boutique.
Dozens of famous names and faces turned out--many of them managing to look good even in direct sunlight, away from the softly lit environs they usually glide through. The large turnout was "because we all love Eva. She is simply wonderful," explained Edie Wasserman, herself usually too busy with charities to lunch. Eva Gabor planned the glamour get-together to show off the glitzy designs of her buddy, Stephen Yearich. And it also gave the oh-so-curious gals a chance to preview Griffin's home in the Beverly Hills above Sunset, just being finished by designer Waldo Fernandez.
Under the white cloth umbrellas, munching on salmon from Trumps, were Reagan familiars Bunny Wrather with Marion Jorgensen; Shirlee Fonda (her Krizia complete with a shoulder-perched giant white butterfly) sat with Juli Hutner; Lee Minnelli lunched with Janet de Cordova (in a pink Caroline Herrera) who sympathized with Katherine Domyan over the two-week absence of their usual hair stylist, Yuki, off to Japan. Rosemarie Stack and Anne Jeffreys Sterling played hooky from the SHARE rehearsals, but Kathy Hilton insisted to Catherine Oxenberg that she'd been rehearsing all morning; Abigail Van Buren was in close conversation with Barbara Grant; Marje Everett made it up from Hollywood Park for the pre-lunch reception; best friends Candy Spelling and Barbara Davis were inseparable (Candy in diamonds and Barbara in a gold necklace with little diamond hearts) and a glamorous Jayne Meadows Allen told the best story on herself.
Seems like when she's all dolled up, looking Hollywood, and people ask for her autograph, she smilingly gives it. But, in the supermarket or when she feels she's not up to par, and a person approaches, asking, "Aren't you Jayne Meadows and can I get an autograph?," she obliges, but only after she explains that she's "Audrey Meadows" and signs her sister's name. "I've been doing it for years," she laughingly explained.
One learns much at lunch. Like the fact that Johnny Carson's stunning fiancee Alex Maas once worked for now presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis (in the Massachusetts governor's first term). Dressed in tailored black-and-white, Tina Sinatra insisted that she wears red whenever possible--and proved it by holding up her red pump. The gracious Wallis Annenberg leaned across the table to thank Aida Thibiant for the bags of her creams that were party favors, declaring, "I love getting presents."
The clothes on the runway models were glamorous and glittery. "You can wear them forever," Gabor insisted. But each dress was so individual that Edie Wasserman said it could be worn the second time "in about five years." And Suzanne Pleshette added, "Or in another city."
Eva welcomed the crowd to the "House of Merv," saying that "being a chicken, he ran away." The genial, chunky Griffin did arrive with dessert, along with his son, Tony. He pointed to the runway crowded with models and announced, "These appear here every day." Appearing were a gaggle of Gabors--mother Jolie in a white mink wrap that ignored the summery weather, and Magda in a large hat and flowered dress. Hostess Eva Gabor insisted that she had met the designer years before, "When I was in Greenville, Ill., wherever that is, doing my brilliant lectures." And, as Gabor explained, "I thought, 'With this crowd, if he makes it, he makes it.' "