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Designing Ladies

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""I TIPPED the steward five dollars to seat you here if you came in."
"Is that a proposition?"
"I never discuss love on an empty stomach."
"You've already eaten.
"But you haven't."

That was just a bit of the double-entendre-loaded exchanges between Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 hit, North by Northwest. The role of a cool Hitchcock femme fatale was a tremendous change of pace for Miss Saint, who was lovely but not seen as sexy, despite pairing with Marlon Brandon in On The Waterfront. (For which she won an Oscar.) Hitch obviously saw something else -- the fire beneath the delicate face -- and North by Northwest established, albeit briefly, an alluring image for the actress.

Last April, Miss Saint sat with movie maven supreme Robert Osborne for an interview about her long and varied career, to precede showings of three of her most famous films -- the aforementioned North by Northwest...On The Waterfront...and Raintree County. (In the latter she loses Montgomery Clift to Elizabeth Taylor. She would have the unhappy task of again playing the pale slim blonde to Miss Taylor's robust brunette in The Sandpiper as well.)

Turner Classic Movies' celebration of Eva Marie Saint happens on March 31. Along with her Oscar, she has been nominated five times for an Emmy, winning for the miniseries People Like Us. She appeared most recently in the romantic drama, Winter's Tale.

•DESIGNING LADIES: I do mean moguls Kathy Ireland and Jane Seymour, both of whom have fingers in many pies, including jewelry lines. Recently, Jane supported an eBay auction that benefited one of Miss Ireland's charity interests, The Providence Educational Foundation, which undertakes projects in countries where education is desperately needed. Jane personally selected and signed some of her own fabulous baubles, and Kathy enthusiastically sold them off.

It was a kind of high-end, good-deed-in-a-naughty-world "Macys sells Gimbles" thing, straight out of Miracle on 34th Street.

•WAS AMUSED to read via longtime friend Jimmy Mitchell, the story about how Palm Beach recently fashioned its Preservation Foundation's annual dinner after the old El Morocco nightclub. Elmo's (as patrons affectionately referred to it) added so much glamour to New York back in the 40's, 50's, 60's and even trailing into the 70's.

Page Six, in writing of this, recalled adding Marilyn Monroe and Truman Capote to the list of famous who went through the door to the striped inner circle. They could have added Lyndon Johnson, Aristotle Onassis, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Porfirio Rubirosa, Baby Pignatari, Jack Dempsey, Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy, Oleg Cassini -- and thousands of others who loved nightlife and dancing.

The movies gave truth to the glamour of El Morocco, using it in films occasionally. Remember the opening scene of The Way We Were, starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford? (Katie comes upon a drunken Hubbell, and takes him home.) This scene gives a tantalizing glimpse of what El Morocco was really like.

•The handsome actor Tony Cointreau, whom many remember as an heir to the French liqueur family, will be signing his book with the incredible title Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa...and Me at The Drama Book Shop on April 17th from 6 to 7:30 250 West 40th Street. This is quite a read ranging from show biz glamour to sublime good works. And a "must" for Merman and Mother Teresa fans.

I confess I didn't really recognize Tony's docile and loving Merman as being much like the one I knew and was friendly with after the advent of Gypsy on Broadway. I wrote all my impressions of this great but ungentle star in my memoir Natural Blonde -- about how Merman and I were out plugging books at the same time.

Hers was titled Merman: An Autobiography and she always thought that because my book was named The Mother Book -- it contained sentimental looks at mothers. So, Ethel admired me for all the wrong reasons -- no matter what I tried to tell her. She could be venomous to others. But she had quite an unhappy end, unable to speak and bedridden toward the finish of an eventful career! Her finale was a pity.

I never met Mother Teresa but when she visited Mayor Ed Koch on the porch of Gracie Mansion, I never got over the story he told privately ever after. He offered M.T. lemonade and cookies. But Mother Teresa declined saying, "My people in India can't have this so I can't either."

After that I was unable to forget recalling the late Christopher Hitchen's list of public idols whose charms or charities never moved him: Princess Diana, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger and Pope Benedict.

But Tony Cointreau has another view and another view is welcomed.

•CONGRATS to the adorable Mila Kunis, expecting her first child with fiancé Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher, whom I have met only once, back when he and Demi Moore were rapturous, is a far more impressive businessman and humanitarian than he is an actor -- at least so far. But he is very pretty. And extremely wealthy. (I can't go on blaming him for popularizing Twitter, so often mis-used. If he hadn't, somebody else would have.) Miss Kunis is quite talented. She's pretty as well. Their child should be gorgeous.

As for the ex Mrs. Kutcher, Demi Moore seems to be coping just fine. She is only 51 and in fine fettle. I recently found out that Moore is much opposed to the use of elephants in circuses. I've always liked her. Now I like her...Moore!