1 JUNE 1991, Page 41

High life

The party's over


t was an explosive week for parties in the Big Bagel, though I managed to miss the one blast I had been looking forward to for over a year. But first a little about the mayhem that took place on the party cir- cuit here in Manhattan.

The Albert Schweitzer Leadership Awards are a yearly event held at the Wal- dorf Astoria hotel. This year's recipients were General Norman Schwarzkopf and Nancy Reagan. Alas, on the same night 330 friends of Nancy's were also invited to a dinner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to honour Walter Annenberg for his tax- deductible gift of over $2,000 million worth of French Impressionist and post-Impres- sionist art to the Met.

Needless to say, Annenberg won. Such party stalwarts as Jerry Zipkin, Alexander Papamarkou and even Brooke Astor can- not be expected to remain loyal to an ex- First Lady — not when a heavy hitter like Annenberg is being honoured. Only Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera remained true to the fancy one, but as I heard it, it was a less than enchanting evening.

Of course, this does not surprise me. The fault lies with Nancy. Some people would drop God if He went out of fashion, and Nancy right now is very, very out of it.

Mind you, the party I missed had nothing to do with walkers and old bags. On the contrary, it was to honour the brave men who fought and fell in the Battle of Crete, 50 years ago last Saturday. The Greek prime minister, Constantine Mitsotakis, invited me to fly down with him and attend the dinner, and I accepted with alacrity. Although it is inappropriate to mention the names of Lord Jellicoe and Patrick Leigh- Fermor on the same page as Zipkin, I was looking forward to meeting them, as they too were guests, having taken part in that glorious campaign.

And for once we Greeks got it right. Unlike seven years ago, when the 40th anniversary of the Normandy landing was spoiled by the Frogs not having invited the Germans, this time not only was Chancel- lor Kohl among the guests, so were some of the courageous German airborne troops who survived the battle. This is how it should be. How in hell can one commem- morate, say, the Battle of Marathon and not invite the Persians?

The chief reason for the Battle of Crete's place in the annals of war is that it was the first major victory won by airborne troops alone — and the last.

Not surprisingly, the best book on the battle is Crete 1941 Eyewitnessed, by Kostas Hadjipateras and Maria Fafalios. It has been honoured twice by the Academy of Athens, as it well should have. Hadjipat- eras is a very old friend of mine, and he has served the heroes who fought the battle from both sides well.

Alas, it was not to be. Like the fool I often am, I went in for knee surgery on Thursday, believing t could fly on Friday to Greece. My doctor, a man who would rather cut than eat, found more things wrong with me than Zipkin has character defects, so after one hour under the knife, I was in no condition to go anywhere except to bed.

But at least I managed that, checking out of hospital, where nurses treated me as if I was an enemy paratrooper, and staggering home. By the time I woke up the celebra- tions were over, but at least I bled for three days from the knee wound, and it seemed an appropriate thing to do in remembering the Battle of Crete.