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Once upon a time in Manhattan there lived a woman named Diana Vreeland who had been the editor of Vogue and when that curtain came down she existed on a slim pension in a very good apartment that featured a sitting room done entirely in red paint so shiny I suspect it may have been enamel.

Madame Vreeland herself was colorful, too, with an aquiline face and lacquered black hair that I thought gave her a Last Empress of China-look. Capote insisted she resembled a parrot, Cecil Beaton, a "crane." Before moving to Vogue she was fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar for 25 years at a salary (that never increased) of $18,000 a year.

Her friends called her Dee-ANN and Coco Chanel once told me Dee-ANN was "the most pretentious woman I have ever seen."

Madame Vreeland is remembered mostly these days for her mots. Pink, she once said, "is the navy blue of India." Hollywood did a musical about her. And if she did not invent "the beautiful people," she popularized the phrase. A wonderful business news reporter, Marilyn Bender, at The New York Times turned "the beautiful people" into a best-selling non-fiction book. For me, the phrase has always been freighted with irony. As in, "the so-called beautiful people."

Ironic or not, during this first week of fall, the beautiful people have been very much in the news.

John Kennedy's wedding got it all started. And what a marvelous story that is. I hope they are always as happy as they looked in those glorious front-page photos in all the papers. Happy not only in their obvious affection but in having put one over so grandly on the nosey parkers of the press. Even an unregenerate professional gossip such as myself has got to acknowledge stupefaction that so many people could keep their mouths shut for so long.

Even the Jesuit priest who married them, smuggled south under cover of night, from Saint Ignatius Loyola on Park Ave. to that Georgia island. When the Jesuits start keeping secrets, wondrous things have indeed occurred.

Then Princess Di emerged from seclusion not only to appear but to make a speech at (and dance with Colin Powell during) that breast cancer fund-raiser put on in Washington by Ralph Lauren and the Washington Post's owner Kay Graham (whom the New York Post unaccountably called "Martha" Graham!). Breast cancer has been Mr. Lauren's pet charity since it carried off that terrific dame and fine fashion editor, Nina Hyde, who worked for Ben Bradlee and Shelby Coffey and Ms. Graham in Washington at the Post. In a single day, thanks to ticket sales and a sale of clothes donated by leading fashion designers, they raised a million bucks for research being done at Georgetown University hospital.

And Diana of Wales still had time to visit with Hillary at the White House and hang out with Vogue's current editor, Anna Wintour, Liddy Dole, Bill Blass, Paula Zahn, Oscar de la Renta, Nicole Miller and others too fashionable to mention.

Then The New York Times, which has been celebrating all year long the hundred years since the Ochs family took over, borrowed New York's Museum of Modern Art for a smashing evening at which the newspaper's new president, Janet Robinson, helped to play host. A woman as president of the Times? What a delicious moment and how Madame Vreeland would have thrilled.

And then there was Scott Fitzgerald's centenary on September 24. A soft rain was falling in the lowering dusk of Manhattan when I strolled over (as promised) to the Plaza to lift a glass to Scott. The Oak Bar was about half filled and after the barman had brought me a martini (with olive, $9.43), I sat there thinking and looking up at a large oil painting of the fountain outside, in which Scott and Zelda (in evening clothes and quaffing champers, I dearly hope) once frolicked.

But no one else seemed to notice. Where was Donald Trump who owns the place and why had no little ceremony (or loud celebration) been laid on? Why hadn't someone, Scribner's perhaps, rented out the small movie house across the street for continual showings of the various versions of "Gatsby"? Why no Scott & Zelda display windows at Bergdorf's?

Saddened by disinterest, I wandered out, only to be accosted at the bar's door by a man about my age. "You're Mr. Brady, aren't you? And have you just had a drink to Fitzgerald?" Yes, I said delightedly, pumping his hand and telling him what a fine fellow he was.

"That's what I'm going to do now, too," he said. "To have a drink to Fitzgerald."

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