Park Avenue Princess: Party jaunts on a billionaire's private seaplane. Dates with square-jawed hunks galore. Will Her Royal Hotness find her Prince in the Big Apple
23:08 GMT, 7 September 2012
Now it’s Pippa and the City! The younger Miss Middleton is in Manhattan — officially to visit the publishers of her forthcoming opus, Celebrate, billed as a guide to ‘creative entertaining’, and unofficially to celebrate her 29th birthday.
New York has felt the force. In under a week, she has been spotted with an impressive tally of American men, all single, square-jawed and rich, with an age span of 30 years and a roster of famous exes between them.
She should by now have been awarded a Green Card for services to gossip, stepping into the breach just when the ‘Prince Harry in Vegas’ stories were running out of steam.
Preppy pair: Kate sparked rumours of a new boyfriend after she was pictured with Spencer Vergosen
To add to her celebrity dates, perky clothing and blissfully public activities — she’s been an excited spectator at the U.S. Open tennis championship, an energetic roller-blader in Central Park, a laid-back ping-pong player on Long Island — she has even been spotted (if you believe the rumours) ‘apartment-hunting’ on Madison Avenue and shot to the top of New York Fashion Week’s list of most-wanted on the catwalk front row.
Her pigeon-hole at the reception of the Upper East Side’s grandest hotel, the Carlyle — the so-called ‘palace of secrets’, where Marilyn Monroe was smuggled in to see JFK, and where Princess Diana sometimes stayed — must be bulging with invitations from optimistic public relations executives and messages from hopeful, aspirational billionaires. Not that the very discreet staff there would be letting on.
Talk of Pippa moving to the States has circled since she was photographed in Paris with a French friend waving a ‘fake’ gun at the paparazzi (not to mention dressed as a disco Marie Antoinette at a louche party while her pal Vicomte Arthur de Soultrait wore a dog collar and chain).
Plans to move to the French capital were apparently scuppered by her instant notoriety, and friends told her to go West instead.
Middleton in Manhattan: Pippa Middleton grabs a taxi while out in Manhattan – could she be set for a move to the US
She certainly looks like she’s having more fun over there than she ever does in London’s Chelsea.
On her birthday, on Thursday, she hopped out of a cab outside Soho House — one of New York’s swankiest private clubs — wearing a flirty red mini-dress that could only be worn by a girl on a roll.
Like Harry in Vegas — though much more demurely — she has a transatlantic air of freedom. Over there, Her Royal Hotness looks like she is relishing, not resenting, her celebrity status. Pippa, you see, has been in an awkward spot in London. She is uncertain of how to deal with her new-found fame in the UK, and conscious that the Sloane battle-axe mothers of the Little Lord Fauntleroy-type of Englishman she usually favours don’t look kindly on her high profile.
The men aren’t too keen either: ex-boyfriend Alex Loudon was said to hate the ‘circus’ that accompanied a relationship with the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister.
Mortified by the hugely embarrassing gun incident, she has been careful not to draw attention to herself for a few months. The result: a gloomy love life and a social life compromised.
Added to which, she now has a tricky dilemma on her hands.
Her book, for which she reportedly got a staggering 400,000 advance from Penguin’s Michael Joseph imprint, (her ‘first book’ said a recent press release, causing tremors at the Palace that there might be another, or worse, even a series, in the offing) must have seemed like an innocuous way to cash in on her fame when she signed the contract.
Some jolly ‘British-themed’ party tips accompanied by soft focus pictures of Pippa being nice to children taken by Jamie Oliver’s favourite photographer, David Loftus, and she’d be able to keep herself in Temperley dresses, King’s Road blow dries and international mini-breaks for a good couple of years. (As with many people now in Pippa’s social orbit, even Loftus has royal links: he was best man to Mountbatten’s grandson Tim Knatchbull after they befriended each other having both lost a twin).
The trouble is, Penguin paid Pippa such a large sum because they, quite reasonably, were expecting her to help achieve maximum publicity for the book.
Friend or more: Kate was spotted playing ping-pong with hotelier Andre Balazs in the Hamptons
The Palace, of course, would prefer no such self-promotion, in fact no book at all, because they think it compromises Kate if it looks like the Middletons are cashing in on the Royal connection. Also, it will make it harder for Pippa herself to maintain a degree of privacy.
Since no other 29-year-old junior party planner would ever have got such a deal, this presents something of a problem.
Every author bar JK Rowling is expected — particularly when a large advance is at stake — to undergo countless interviews and photo-shoots to boost sales of any new publication.
Most authors are handled by their agent or publisher, but the Royals’ favourite lawyers, Harbottle and Lewis, have been drafted in to handle Pippa’s book.
They have the unenviable task of reconciling Penguin’s interests with Pippa’s, and those of the Palace.
Handsome: Could the well-off Andre Balazs be Kate's new flame
If she struggles to square royal sister-in-law status with the demands of the commercial world — despite having done so while working for the Middleton family firm Party Planners — perhaps it will be easier in America where the market for her book (retailing at a hefty $50 a piece; it’s 25 here) is so much bigger.
It’s rumoured that she’s been in talks with glossy magazines and chat shows and that she may even go on a tour after it comes out.
Luckily for Penguin, even if she is not actively courting publicity for the book, she does like to do photogenic things in photogenic outfits, and talk to the sort of men who make perfect gossip column fodder.
There she was in coral trousers and a sweet shirt, playing ping-pong with hotelier Andre Balazs (he owns the Mercer hotel, the Chateau Marmont in LA, and the Standard Hotels in New York, Miami and LA) in that designer sandpit beloved by Manhattanites, the Hamptons.
He flew her and her friends on his private, red eight-seater seaplane — presumably at his own expense — to celebrate Labor Day weekend on Shelter Island where his Sunset Beach hotel ($565 a night) has a bare feet and cocktails vibe.
The famously charming Balazs is 55, but could pass for early 40s. He’s been married to Katie Ford of Ford Models, dated Uma Thurman and most recently blonde comedienne Chelsea Handler (think the humour of Miranda Hart crossed with the endless legs of a model). Fellow guests insisted that ‘there was definite chemistry’ there.
The hotelier’s such a smoothie he even has his own signature ros for goodness sake, the ‘Andre Balazs Reserve Sunset Beach Rose’ described as a ‘St Tropez inspired blend made by the Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack for Balazs.’
Balazs is an astute businessman, according to a friend, who ‘always looks out for the next big thing’. He certainly has an eye for the hottest girls — so it makes perfect sense for him to be interested in Pippa.
Some blithely say the pair just share an ‘interest in hospitality’, but given how chirpy they looked playing ping pong, that would be a mundane explanation.
But Andre hasn’t been alone in entertaining her. Pippa met Chace Crawford, 27-year-old ‘Golden Boy’ of TV series Gossip Girl — always fought over by the female leads — in the Electric Room bar downtown. This sent U.S. gossip magazines into orbit.
Soho House: Pippa Middleton out on her 29th Birthday in the Meat Packing District in New York City
She’s also had a drink with (married) Mazdack Rassi, creative director of Milk Studios, well-known party-boy and friend of the fashion set, prompting speculation she’s done a shoot there, and the more available Sean Avery, 32, a Canadian former ice hockey player.
Avery is a sharp-suited, sharp-tongued sporting hulk who oddly once worked as an intern at Vogue magazine. He went out with Elisha Cuthbert, best known for playing Kim Bauer in TV thriller 24. Though undeniably good-looking, he would be most unsuitable as a long-term friend of Pippa since he tends to make provocative comments.
Pippa’s most promising beau has been preppy Spencer Vergosen, a 24-year-old former top rank tennis player, multi-lingual Harvard graduate and Goldman Sachs alumnus with swept-back hair and a smart blazer.
Vergosen, whose father is President of the U.S. Tennis Association (and a respectable, still-married top Chicago lawyer), appears to have been given the arduous task of squiring Pippa — twice — to the U.S. Open, where she wore a colour block dress one day and a sunny yellow lace number the next.
He also took her to dinner at Le Bernardin, a swanky Midtown seafood restaurant. On her birthday, he was by her side again at Soho House. He’s a bit on the youthful side, but he looks like a good New York princeling next to Pippa.
So who’s picking up the tab
Pippa and friends are believed to have been guests of Balazs, who paid for their lunch at Sunset Beach, as well as the flights to Shelter Island (usually $500 each way). A rather good deal for him, given the publicity.
It is not clear who footed her bill at The Carlyle — her parents or possibly Penguin. It’s likely that the hotel charged their lowest rate to cash in on the glamour of such a guest, but quickly upgraded Pippa to a suite.
The top fashion houses, meanwhile, are clamouring to have her in their front row and to dress her. A Brit-loving designer such as Ralph Lauren, or a younger, cooler one such as New York brand Kate Spade would surely love to have her as their ambassador.
She wouldn’t be the first person with royal connections to hear the kerching! of a fashion house: Lady Helen Taylor once earned a rumoured 500,000 a year as an ambassador for Armani; Diana’s bridesmaid and Mountbatten grand-daughter India Hicks was the face of Ralph Lauren; Prince Michael of Kent’s son Freddie Windsor modelled for Burberry, and with his wife later worked for Hardy Amies. But strangely being a Royal in-law puts her in a more precarious position than those minor royals. Although not royal herself, whatever she does has an effect on the image of the country’s future queen.
Certainly, Pippa could earn good money in New York. If she chose to stick to the practical side of party planning, there would be great kudos in Manhattan in getting the future Queen’s sister to arrange a bash. It would be seen as a passport to English good taste.
And as the ultimate Park Avenue Princess, her social life could go on to a new level, away from timid Sloanes and towards the confident, self-made types who find her fame magnetic rather than intimidating.
In the meantime, those publishers can relax. With her rainbow wardrobe and an armful of colourful men, Pippa’s kicked off the publicity (and the sales) already.