While Tina Brown deconstructs the last remaining bits of minutiae on Princess Diana in her new book, The Diana Chronicles, stripping away the last remnants of gloss that cling to the mythology of her ill-fated life and death, there is one area of Diana’s life where she still is – and will always remain — an iconic figure. She is the last style icon. Ten years ago, long before we cared if Paris was going to jail, if Nicole ever ate or if Katie Holmes is systemically transforming herself into a Victoria Beckham clone, the publications I work for regularly were consumed with women like Diana and Caroline Bessette Kennedy – style icons, in my opinion, far more worthy of the attention. I am already sickened at the thought of how much coverage Hilton will receive after she gets out of jail next week. Did she find God in a Los Angeles jail cell? Who will dress her for her first post jailbird appearance? I’m not going out on a limb here by saying there are a number of designers and brands jockeying for that dubious distinction. The mind reels.

A decade ago, Diana, having divorced Prince Charles and lost her HRH title, cast off the trappings of her old life by famously auctioning off her dresses with the proceeds going to several charities. Can you imagine any of the celebutards doing anything like that today. Britney could auction off her lingerie … oh, wait a minute. Never mind. Paris could pack up her hair extensions and send them to Locks of Love.

Why do people want to emulate these sad stick figures? Why do people care about them? I’m begging you, stop the madness.

If Diana were still alive, I’d like to think women around the world would look to her for cues on how to age gracefully – and just by being herself, she would have provided them. Instead of vying for the honor of dressing one of the Olsens, designers wouldn’t have to shrink their samples to fit. “Every designer was inspired by Diana,” says Valentino, who often dressed her. “To me, she will always remain one of the most beautiful women in the world.” Sigh.


Robert Verdi is making big bucks as Eva Longoria’s stylist – and he wants everyone to know it. Despite a report in The New York Post that the ubiquitous style maven is working on Longoria’s wedding to NBA hoopster Tony Parker gratis, the man responsible for putting the diminutive Desperate Housewives’ star in a bathing suit for her hosting stint at VMA’s a while back is simply beside himself at the thought that people think he’s working on her Paris nuptials. “It’s totally not true,” Verdi told me at the Gracie Awards held at the Marriott Marquis on Monday night where he was a presenter. “I’m not giving her a free ride.” The Post item reported that Longoria’s hair stylist Ken Paves, who famously tends to the tresses of Jessica Simpson, is also donating his services. “Doing hair is a lot different than what I do,” says Verdi. “I’m responsible for dressing 29 people for that wedding. It’s a huge job!” Besides, he snipes, “I’m at a point in my career where I don’t have to do anything for free!”

There’s reason he should hang on to those paying customers. Verdi’s imitation of Mr. Blackwell fell flat with the Gracie crowd that included such A-listers as Ann Curry, Tina Fey and Joy Behar when he took to the stage after Jill Hennessy had just presented Curry with her award. The statuesque and popular star, who wore a flowing multi-colored DKNY dress for the occasion, served as target practice for Verdi who compared the actress’ dress to a Moroccan teepee saying, “Omigod, I love a girl that takes a risk. That was a risk.” The remark bombed. Hennessy got the last word when she returned to the stage to get an award for her work on Crossing Jordan and left the crowd cheering when she said, “I’ve come a long way from the Moroccan brothel where I got this dress.” Somehow, I don’t think anyone in the room will be calling Verdi for fashion advice when Emmy time comes around.


In all the years that I’ve been covering the red carpet in New York and Los Angeles, I’ve seen it all (and it’s going to make great fodder for my next book). But at Monday night’s Gracie Awards the complete cluelessness I encountered was stunning. Extra correspondent AJ Calloway, who sauntered up to his crew doing his best P.Diddy imitation just minutes before the arrivals, gets my vote for the dim-wit of the week. Calloway, who once toiled for BET, could have used a cheat sheet to identify such hard to place faces as Jill Hennessy, Soledad O’Brien and country music phenom Taylor Swift, Myspace’s number one artist whose self titled album recently went platinum. He was constantly overheard asking his crew and the journos near him, “Who’s that?” every time one of the attendees sashayed up to the step and repeat. The only celeb he seemed to be able to identify without prompting was “The View’s” Joy Behar, who, when told of the dubious distinction cracked, “That’s our industry for you. Quality all the way!”

A few spaces down on the red carpet, Michael Lewittes, former Daily News gossip columnist and one time minion under Bonnie Fuller’s Star, was hard at work for Access Hollywood. Lewittes, who acted as if he wanted to be anywhere but at the awards show, wasn’t interested in speaking to most of the carpet crawlers but perked up when Jill Hennessy walked up. He then proceeded to upset the actress by asking if she was in the family way because of her tent-like dress. (It clearly wasn’t her night) “I went in for the kill,” he says. But didn’t get an answer. The Access crew further infuriated the actress by tilting down shooting her dress while she spoke to another reporter. “Do you believe these guys?” she asked me afterwards. Yep, I do.

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Diane Clehane

Diane Clehane is a leading authority on celebrity and royalty who has written for Vanity Fair, People, and many other national outlets. She is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, including Diana: The Secrets of Her Style and Imagining Diana. She appears regularly on CNN.

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