This Just In!
By Lake Stevens, Man About Town
August 8, 2004
Murder as Black as an Opal
This past weekend I had the good fortune to attend an exclusive charity engagement
hosted by Ms. Erika Kane and the Wing and a Prayer Foundation. Well,
perhaps it can't really be called good fortune, per se, since a gala event isn't
really "gala" if I, Lake Stevens, am not on-hand. Either way, it was my turn to
"get involved" for the less fortunate. The "wife," incidentally, loves charity
events. "She" says they make "her" feel spiritual. I merely consider them an
opportunity to show off my vast wealth and status...while gaining some positive PR
if you know what I mean. Anything for the little people, I always say. One thing
is for certain, the little people can never appreciate the delicate craftsmanship
of my imported Salvatore Ferragamo Italian calfskin slip-ons and hand-dyed
silk ascot from the Orient. Just because a little person in Singapore or some other
dreadful place made it, doesn't make her a bon vivant of high art.
The dinner convened at The Chateau Restaurant in the exclusive community of
Pine Valley. It had literally been years since I last made it to this enclave
of wealth and power. What a breath of fresh air to have nary a beggar or anyone
wearing Gap in sight! Pine Valley, the stoic New England town
that has roots to our earliest forefathers, is famous for the summer "cottages"
and estates of the United States' most well connected and long-established
families. Perusing the local white pages is like reading the passenger list of
the Mayflower itself.
Upon my arrival in Pine Valley, I immediately hired a driver for the "wife" and
myself and instructed the good man to take us to the Pine Valley Inn on the
double. We were only staying one night because the "wife" had a mani-pedi scheduled
at Elizabeth Arden the next day. For whatever reason, "she's" convinced
"herself" that "she" will meet Oprah there one day! I desperately hope
not, for I would never hear the end of it.
After a refreshing nap and dip in the pool at the adjoining health club, we dressed
for dinner and headed down the oak-lined street to The Château. Our driver
would not stop complaining during the entire two block ride. I was trying to adjust
my ascot, but his ramblings about wasting petrol or Iraq or some bloody thing kept
distracting me. Iraq? Didn't we take care of them in the 80's? The poor man must
have a screw loose. Not playing with a full deck, I imagine. I smoothed my lapels
as the "wife" fussed over "her" lipstick.
The Wing and Prayer Foundation dinner was to honor donors who had given in
excess of $100,000. The Foundation tirelessly helps the less fortunate of some kind.
It has something to do with cleft palate babies or collecting fabric for burqas for
poor Afghani women. I really just can't say for certain. All I know is that it
was definitely the place to be seen. The Foundation is spearheaded by venerable
doctor and plastic surgeon, Philip N. Thrope. Surprisingly, Philip was nowhere in
sight when I made my entrance...which I found decidedly rude.
Once inside the respected restaurant, I was amazed to find Erica Kane chatting up
Jeremy, the internationally renowned French artiste and gallery entrepreneur
extraordinaire! Jeremy was dressed smartly in black Prada with mink and Erica, draped
in head-to-toe Dolce & Gabbana, sported tresses worthy of the brunette
lioness that she is. They were flawless.
I helped myself to a glass of Viognier and the circulating platter of crostini
and antipasti (I just adore a good crostini). I made my rounds and met all the
A-list guests: wealthy industrialists, celebrity lawyers and a fellow reporter
colleague of mine, whom, if you're wondering, I can tolerate because the rag she
writes for is, and always will be, sub-par to anything that appears in my column.
By far the most colorful attendee was Opal Cortland, wife of wealthy industrialist,
Palmer Cortland. Her dress was the most hideous shade of aquamarine and I distinctly
spied perspiration stains under her arms. (She later told me that Gaultier
had made it expressly for her. As my "wife" has several such gowns, I was not duly
impressed.) Opal's story is widely known: she came from the wrong side of tracks,
worked her way up the social ladder and then, somehow, managed to snag Palmer Cortland.
As far as I'm concerned, even when you remove the trash from the trailer, it's still
We took our seats, ready to enjoy our $1000-a-plate meal. Everyone was still waiting
for our host, Philip, to make his welcoming remarks. He never showed up! Instead,
Detective Dasher, from Pine Valley's Boys in Blue, paid an unexpected visit. (I do
love a man in a uniform. I feel so...protected. Especially when I can see his big gun.)
The Detective delivered the most distressing news. Philip was found dead in the
Pine Valley Health Club. The very place I had enjoyed a relaxing swim and
sauna earlier that afternoon! I suddenly felt dirty all over. After hearing this
pronouncement, I frantically tried to change hotels but was dismayed to find that
the Pine Valley Inn is the only four-star auberge in town. I wouldn't be
caught dead staying at anything less. What a dilemma!
We were all declared suspects. Bad business dealings, illicit affairs and embittered
artists were all possible motives for murder. I failed to see how this differed
from the tensions at any given Hollywood party.
But murder schmurder, let me digress for a moment in order to delight you with the
details of the exquisite meal! We started with a lovely salad studded with prosciutto-wrapped
pears. Salty-sweet, just the way I like it. A cleverly stuffed tomato soon followed.
(I must confess that I purposely dropped my fork several times in order that Trent,
the serving boy for my table, would be forced to bring me another. His little white
jacket and black bow tie were just too precious.) Despite Trent, the real star of
the evening was an impeccable fettuccine bathed a delicate cream sauce. Heavenly!
Wine pairings of the highest order accompanied each course. Just when I swore I couldn't
eat another bite, the dessert arrived. The luscious berries, draped over a lemon-essence
scone, bespoke of the hot summer nights I spent exploring the Hamptons as a boy. I
finished off the last dab of hand-whipped cream (firm, but not too stiff) as I sipped
an imported Brazilian coffee.
As everyone finished the last nibbles of dessert, the Detective returned. We were
free to go, he announced, the killer had been fingered! An anxious murmur rose
up amongst the Pine Valley elite -- especially when we found out that murderess was
sitting among us. It was Opal Cortland! It seems little Miss Wrong Side of the
Tracks was a bit upset that her husband might lose his wealth to Philip through a
miscalculated stock market venture. That Opal would resort to murder surprised no
one. It is common knowledge that she would be loath to return to the world of gold
lamé, brassy high-lights and faux leopard. If you look at it that way, who
can blame her? She'd been tolerated to date only because of her husband's tremendous
assets. In the end, her heart proved to be as black as her namesake. Pine Valley
was again free of such social blemishes. Like I said: trash is trash is trash.
By this point, I'd had enough of this Old Money tomfoolery and wanted nothing more
than to retire to my chambers with my nightly snifter of Rémy Martin Cognac.
Despite "her" heated objections, I pulled the "wife" away from Jeremy and made haste
to my waiting car. I couldn't wait to be home in West Hollywood. At least people
there know how to be discreet.
-Lake Stevens, Man About Town