It's not enough to get an invitation to Buckingham Palace and St. Paul's. Not enough to have the Claridge's footman bow to you because you've gotten the silver-bordered command to "The Reception" (read: "ball") given for HRH, the Prince of Wales and his bride by HM, the queen.
So Rita Lachman worries. She sits at Claridge's amidst the cabbage-rose silk wall hangings and her seven Vuitton cases and her decade-old Diors. How can she get invited to the dinner for Nancy Reagan at the American Embassy residence? How can she give those Art Deco glasses to Prince Charles and Lady Dee, as she calls her, and then put them in the catalogue of her new mail-order business without it looking to her dear friend Raine as if she's cashing in? How can she allow the BBC to film her on the wedding day without the Spencers' feeling that this doesn't reflect so well onthem?
Problems. Anyone who reads the columns knows more than he wants to about Rita Lachman's problems. About the $30-million lawsuit—she'll tell you it's "really my daughter's lawsuit"—against her ex-husband's widow, Jaquine. (Rita and Jaquine were both married to Charles Lachman, the man who, years ago, was the l in Revlon.) But never mind all that. For the moment, that crisis is not on Rita's mind. Now that Rita "has proven to all those social climbers like Joanne Herring that I stand for something in New York because of my invitation," you would think her anxieties would end.
They haven't. Take this Nancy Reagan thing. "Dahling," Rita says one morning on the telephone, "I don't know what to do to get into the American Embassy party. I mean, it would be an embarrassment for the American people if I, Rita Lachman, as the only unofficial invited guest—and a dear friend of the Spencers'—wasn't there at the dinner for Mrs. Reagan. Dahling, that would be terrible. So ven Raine dropped over to Claridge's yesterday to see the ball gowns—you von't believe how elegant they are; a vintage dress is always right, you know—I asked her what to do."
A pause. "So Raine suggested that I should just write a note to the embassy saying that I am 'passing through' London for the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Dee, and just let it drop at that."
Raine and Rita understand each other. "You know," she says, "Raine is so incredible. She saved Johnny's life. She's such a lady. So good with servants. The other day she called me, and she said that 600 people had visited Althorp and she had spent the whole day picking up cigarette butts. I never thought I would get invited to Lady Dee's wedding. When the invitation came, I was opening my mail in front of my building, and I saw that in the bottom corner it said, 'Lord Chamberlain.' To tell you the truth, I thought that it was the invitation to the opening of a new nightclub. When I looked at it and realized what it was, I just started screaming on the street. I fell apart.
"I am so nervous. I don't want to do anything wrong." And so much could go wrong. "Do you know that I just learned from Raine the other day that you never say 'Queen Elizabeth' when you mean the queen. Raine told me that if you say 'Queen Elizabeth' that means the Queen Mother. Can you imagine what would have happened if I had made such a mistake?"
Rita's worries occupy her day. There's the worry with the new present—she has to cancel the Art Deco glasses—and her new mail-order catalogue, Rita L. ("a collection of vunderful things, my taste"). There's the worry about Betsy Bloomingdale and Lee Annenberg —"Can you imagine those two?"—and the awful realization that, while they will certainly get to John Louis's party, she may not. With all of this, it's hard to stay calm. Somehow she does. "You know," Rita Lachman says, sighing, "since I've been invited to the wedding, nothing can be bad anymore." She stares at her Diors lined up in the Claridge closet, their ruffles grazing the closet floor. "What more could I ever want? Now . . . life is beautiful."