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During a recent trip to Los Angeles, I did lunch with some studio honchos -- Cobb salads and Chiah iced tea -- on the terrace by the swimming pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Around the pool: lots of men with hair product spiky looks, new growth on bald spots, and Jackie O huge dark glasses. On the women: hair in side ponytails, JAR intertwined circles on two or three fingers or the thumb and, on the more elegant feet, the big toe.

Here's a little dish from the lunch: Ben Affleck unjustifiably suffers from body image issues, claims he has such a huge head he resembles "the statues on Easter Island." Since the split with J. Lo, he's been depressed, even though, as with Gwyneth Paltrow, he brought it on by his failure to commit. He's one of these men who can't deal with love but then become depressed when it's gone. This is a different type from your dance-away lover, who's relieved when he chases away a girl. Recent Ben quotes do sound dispirited. For example, he said he received so many calls from concerned friends after his split from Jennifer Lopez he's too irritated to return to the booze. He admits the concerned calls have worked -- because he's so sick of them he'll never pick up another drink. He says, "They say, 'Hey, are you OK? You need to talk?' That's kind of a constant reminder. Then I'm too irritated to have a drink."

More Ben: He's so nervous about his quotes in Peter Biskind's book about director Harvey Weinstein, "The Weinstein Way," that he wrote Vanity Fair "Having read the book in its sour entirety (I concluded) Mr. Biskind's just another gossip columnist masquerading as an "entertainment journalist."

What about JLo? She's back to smoking cigarillos (her assistants light them for her), attracting suitors, most of them exes, and whirling around putting together a deal a minute in the business world. Careful, Jenn. Remember Martha.

Don't call him Mr. Paltrow: Chris Martin, who sings and composes for Coldplay, made $12 million last year; Gwyneth less than half of that. . . . Catherine Zeta-Jones is a truly nice daughter. She bought and completely remodeled a three-story for her parents their favorite part of South Wales, and it sits high up on a cliff of the sea. The house is nicely appointed -- we're talking about details like full gym, library, etc. My dear friend Ann Getty did the same thing for her mother: built her a house in Wheatland and designed the interior, filling it with her mother's favorite blue-and-white Dutch village Delft porcelain. . . . Musical chairs dominate studio exec gossip these days. Put it this way: as soon as a big player whiffs an ill wind, he (she) lines up alternatives. The talented ones have a wait list. After the poolside lunch, did dinner -- veal roti with seemingly endless miniature vegetables arranged in fans and flourishes -- at the spectacular home of old friends who belong to the Jonothan Club. The husband said he'd give me a guest membership so I could do a beach picnic for my studio honchos there next visit. I accepted cheerfully, but mentioned that when my great-aunt and uncle were members, they didn't allow movie people inside the front door. He replied, "Well, now that Hollywood supports the entire area and is one of the biggest industries in the country, we see things differently." Hey, way to go, Angelinos. So 21C.

Speaking of what Hollywood's done for that town, be sure to visit the Disney Music Center designed by Frank Gehry, architect of Bilbao's famed Guggenheim Museum. The center's sublime. Guess who else thinks so? Brad Pitt. He told Frank Gehry so, they did lunch several times, talked architecture -- Brad's long established avocation -- and Frank asked him to join the team for the proposed renovation of downtown LA.

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Some San Francisco friends, Sally Jordan and Karen and Frank Caufield, have homes in Montecito and were among those who celebrated Oprah's fiftieth birthday. Karen's husband, a charmer, is a principal in Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the VC firm that brought us Genentech, among other major companies. She's a blonde beauty who, during the three years of their marriage, has made quite a name for herself as a hostess in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles. She gathered a few san Francisco friends for a post Oprah party wrap -- bubbles and eggs (champagne and caviar), lobster, and stem berries -- served at a little table blanketed with spring blooms. Quotes du jour:: "Oprah's down to earth, unaffected, brilliant, warm, and a decent human being. She's so comfortable in her own skin and genuinely fond of other people that she puts her TV guests at ease more than any other interviewer. Off camera, she's a real girl friend." Her secret for dealing with shy, inarticulate interview subjects: just keep asking them questions, and if that doesn't work, answer them yourself.

Other outtakes: "Brad Pitt's very photogenic, but Jennifer Aniston is not; she's far more beautiful in person -- really gorgeous and so lighthearted and fun. At the party she had French toenails with the palest transparent blush and very white tops, a brick-color on her nails, and frosted rose lipstick -- looked great. A preggers glow, if you ask me." (ed note: Brad bought Jenn a recording studio for her birthday, as she wants to record children's songs.) "An unimaginably fun night; we all literally danced and laughed until dawn. Denise Hale once described the Vanity Fair Oscar party as 'working the room. In Hollywood, all you do is work the room.' Oprah's party was about having fun, even though about 80 percent of the guests were stars. No one did the room-working bit."

Details: Karen wore a slinky black satin 30s satin gown, Sally (big oil and Jordan wine) chose a bronze silk and lace Badgley Mischka; you've all read about Oprah, so I won't repeat. My favorite detail: at the dinner, each guest had an oval-shaped individual birthday cake for dessert, and every single one was decorated with a different flower. I mean, is that style or what?

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My daughter and son-in-law, Jennifer and Doug Biederbeck, just returned from a friend's birthday in London followed by a visit to Paris, where they saw Ambassador Howard Leach and his wife, Gretchen, Dodie Rosekrans, and dozens of chic Parisians. Jennifer described the American Embassy as "a seventy-thousand square foot palace decorated with the finest French period furniture. Truly impressive." Despite Franco-American tensions, the Leaches have made firm friends among the French for reasons of personal attractiveness and the fact that Gretchen speaks fluent French, often giving hour-long addresses without using a word of English. The Leaches did dinner with Jennifer and Doug, brought them to a couple of parties, and Dodie Rosekrans did, as well, plus took Jenn to a private Galiano showing. Jenn met members of leading French families who, despite marrying the aristo next door, managed to hang onto or reinvent their wealth. "The women had a sleek elegance, rigorously edited. "They're hard wired chic; even dinner napkins look better on their laps than the next person's. It's that ce je ne sais quoi. " Unlike the Chirac clique, these people love American culture, especially movies, books, modern art. In the grand maisons de ville, Jennifer saw grand siecle furniture sprinkled with important paintings and photographs.

A fave bon mot: quand un diplomate dit, "oui," cela signifie, "peut-etre; quand il dit, "peut-etre," cela veut dire, "non," et s'il dit "non," ce n'est pas un diplomate. When a diplomat says "yes," it means "perhaps," when he says, "perhaps," it means "no," and if he says, "no," he's not a diplomat.

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Went to a small high-level donors party at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor to kick off the a show, Art Deco: 1910-1939. San Francisco's one of two American venues for the spectacular exhibition organized by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, whose curators combed the world for loans of exceptional pieces. The party I attended honored visitors from New York including du Ponts, Gettys. and a Rockefeller, and several Parisians and Londoners. Dede Wilsey greeted everyone including John Traina, an ex-husband she shares with Danielle Steele. John's daughters, Vanessa and Victoria, are looking good in a lot of magazines lately, including ELLE. As so many movie people collect art deco, Hollywood was well represented. I've never seen such a glamorous room full of people, largely because so many wore thirties clothes or copies with the period hair dos and make-up. Some of the vintage fashions: Erte, Mainbocher, Dior, Edith head. Many guests arrived in incredible cars like a 1928 Bugatti Torpedo, a 1931 Auburn Speedster, a 1932 Packard Roadster, and a 1936 Ford Phaeton.

You all know Art Deco produced everything from your neighborhood theatre to the Chrysler, and perhaps your sofa besides. The highlight of this show is the main portion of the 1930s foyer of London's Strand Palace Hotel-one of the world's most celebrated Art Deco interiors-to be seen for the first time in 30 years. Designed by Oliver P. Bernard, the architectural complex was rescued by the V&A from destruction in 1969 and subsequently restored, a project which took, well, thirty years. The show's installation includes the mirrored revolving door and internally lit glass surround, stair case, and columns. That aside, the show includes three hundred items including painting, furniture, sculpture, textiles, glass, ceramics, graphic art, photography, and fashion by notable artists such as René Lalique, Eileen Gray, Josef Hoffmann, Tamara de Lempicka, Gio Ponti, Henry Deyfus, Cecil Beaton, and Coco Chanel, as well as jewelry and other luxury objects from the houses of Cartier and Boucheron. Truth is, the San Francisco show's sold out, but those who hurry can still buy the fab catalogues.

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Kitty Mellon -- Manhattan, Stonington, Ligonier -- Just spent a week in San Francisco seeing old friends at twenty-four/seven parties. Various other A-player New Yorkers popped into town, so I asked what was in style. The exercise craze -- yoga's on the wane, as too many people are getting spinal injuries from it -- is Curves, where you get a complete body workout in thirty minutes. The system utilizes hydraulic resistance machines -- ten or so -- arranged in a circle. The trainer stands in the center, and cheers the clients as they go through the drill. The nature of circles being what it is, everyone faces one another, laugh and chat and share moral support. . . British TV cook Jamie Oliver and his wife Jools fly over to Manhattan every so often, and you can have him, too, if you want to add your name to his three-year wait list.

I mentioned to one New Yorker that I'll be visiting later in the spring for an important interview, and before I could finish my sentence, she said "wear Ralph Rucci He's taken over the town."

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Actor Don Johnson has been ordered to put his Colorado home up for sale to pay off a debt of close to $1 million. Officials at California's City National Bank of Los Angeles have asked a court to seize the property and have suggested a public auction as an option for collecting $930,000 from the former "Miami Vice" star. The bank claims Johnson has refused to make payments on a loan he took out in October 2002.

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I see the hottest searches on AOL and Google include Nelly pics, David lee Murphy, Mariah Carey, Bad Company, Sade lyrics, and Sizzla.

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"Twisted" is a marvelous film that drew fire from critics due to one mistake: casting Samuel Jackson in a role that demanded a Christopher Walken, John Malkovich, Al Pacino, or even Colin Farrel if the makeup people aged him. Morgan Freeman would not have been right either, though he's one of my fave big faves. Am afraid SLJ will never develop Morgan's gifts. Bad casting plus the character was underdeveloped, esp. in terms of back story. Underdeveloped, period. The rest = fabulous. Ashley Judd and Andy Garcia had perfect pitch and exciting chem, the cinematography was brilliant -- showing the underside of the city by exploring the pilings of the pier where all the adorable sea lions play to the tourists, showing the murky areas beneath where corpses and drug stashes hide. Foghorns and other sights, sounds = perfection -- poetic, beautiful, and going beyond the usual eye candy SF image. Interior shots sexy noir, as in "In the Cut," whose cinematography I also adored.

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Angelina Jolie has described a string of casual affairs with close male friends after keeping tightlipped about her love life since splitting from last husband Billy Bob Thornton last year. She meets her suitors for quickie hotel rendezvous, before returning home to her baby son, Maddox. She says, "I went for two years with absolutely no man around me. Then I decided to get closer to men who were already close, very close friends of mine. As crazy as that sounds, meeting a man in a hotel room for a few hours and not seeing that man again for a few months is about what I can handle."


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