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Hollywood's Hip Answer to Homey Martha Stewart? Fabulous

Entertaining: In a place where parties equal power, Colin Cowie is king of the sumptuous bash. Just ask the stars.


Colin Cowie is ready for his close-up.

He's home alone in his Hancock Park lair, ripe with white damask and orchids, attended by a baby grand. As if that weren't lush enough, Cowie has just flown about, seeing to finishing touches. The scented candles. The soft strains of synthesized baroque music.

But Cowie isn't waiting for the arrival of a significant someone or even party guests. He's about to do the interview for this story. And he's tending to the details that will make it, in Cowie-speak, fabulous.

Because in a town whose most high-profile business is deceptively social, and where the ability to throw a fabulous party can signal something more fun than fun--that is, power--Cowie is known for his sumptuous bashes, not the least of which was PolyGram's post-Grammys do at Chasen's.

"He's extremely creative, but instead of putting it into painting or photography or writing, he puts it into an extremely ephemeral art form, which is entertaining," says Martha Nelson, managing editor of that handbook of celebrity style, InStyle magazine, where Cowie is a contributing editor. "And you know how difficult that art can be, but he's quite a master of it."

Of course, recruiting Cowie to throw your posh party doesn't come cheap. Last spring, Buzz magazine included his services in its list of "The Most Outrageously Expensive Stuff in L.A." Cowie says his fee starts at $15,000, and a Cowie-fied wedding tends more toward $25,000.

Working with a staff of 10 (including a personal cook), he'll hold the bride's hand from her engagement on, designing the invitations, the dress, the wedding, the thank-you notes. Oh yes, and there's still that other matter of paying for the venue, the dinner and other assorted details.

Could this Colin Cowie be the same carefully dressed man who's perched on a damask couch insisting that people have the wrong idea about entertaining these days, that they avoid it because they think it's too costly and time-consuming? That entertaining at home can be cheap? That they don't need to be perfect like You Know Who, who happens to have her own magazine, books, TV show and gracious living galaxy?

"I don't think there's any better way to invest quality time with anyone than to break bread with them and bring them into your home," says Cowie, who gives his age as 34. "So my whole idea is to get people to bring their homes to life again. And it doesn't mean picking cherries in the garden and tying yourself to the kitchen stove for 15 hours to make the perfect cherry tart because you get no medals at the end of the day.

"How many times have you been to a dinner party where the host spent the whole day cooking and the whole night running backward and forward to the kitchen? So she doesn't [entertain] until Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's because the approach is completely wrong."

Cowie says he doesn't mind being tagged the male Martha Stewart, which is fortunate, because he's embarking on what he calls his "five-year plan," which could turn him into the Martha Stewart for the millennium. He opened a New York office a month ago. And in his fondest dreams, he is the sultan of an empire embracing books, china, linens, software, frozen foods, magazines and TV.

"I always thought he was big hype, yet when I actually sat down with him, all the things he was always carrying on about came to be," says Joan Quinn, society columnist for the West Hollywood Weekly. "He said he was doing something for somebody, and he was, whatever celebrity it was."

Indeed, Cowie, who comes from old African mining money, has a big job ahead of him. Having done his bit to clean up Hollywood and its new-money assaults on sophisticated living, he is moving up to the big screen--America.

"Effortless Elegance," Cowie's first coffee-table cookbook was released in October by HarperStyle, a new imprint of HarperCollins. HarperStyle will publish another book next year on weddings, his trademark fete.

"I have an agenda," Cowie says simply, when asked whether he has designs on global style domination a la Martha. He's also planning a cornucopia of products to fill one's nuptial needs. There will be a Colin Cowie groom's guide, a Colin Cowie wedding planner, a software package, china, crystal and linens.

"I've done some of the most extraordinary weddings of the decade," Cowie says. "From the $20,000 wedding, the ethnic wedding on the beach to the $3.5-million affair."

And what exactly is a $3.5 million wedding?

"It's a fabulous wedding."

Cowie hoots.

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