Happy Birthday, New York Style

At 75, Montecito opera legend Marilyn Horne is busier than ever.

Marilyn, who has been a member of the Music Academy of the West faculty for 14 years, has dominated her field for more than four decades and her landmark birthday, not to mention the 15th anniversary of the Marilyn Horne Foundation – which helps fund recitals – was celebrated in suitably grand style at New York's Carnegie Hall with a star-studded gala concert co-hosted by Frederica von Stade and Samuel Ramey.

The glittering program presented songs and arias from her half-century-plus career sung by a heavenly host of opera greats, culminating with a boffo bash in the Grand Ballroom at the equally legendary Plaza Hotel, chaired by Sir Howard Stringer, the Welsh head of Japanese electronics giant, Sony, and co-chaired by a plethora of platinum name tags, including Sid and Mercedes Bass, Van Cliburn and Dame Jillian Sackler.

"It was quiet incredible," Marilyn tells me from her Manhattan aerie, just a tiara's toss from Central Park and the ABC Network news studios, where I toiled for many years as a commentator on "World News Now."

"I was kept totally in the dark. They did everything they could to make sure it was a total surprise. I didn't even get a program!"

Gathering such a stellar cast, performers, as well as guests, took three years of advance planning.

"We only have three permanent staff at the foundation, plus an intern, so everybody clearly did an extraordinary job," says Marilyn, who has performed in more than 1,300 recitals and made more than 100 recordings. "Putting it all together was a huge task. Quite daunting. But they did it!"

Marilyn, who next visits our Eden by the Beach in April and starts her 12th year of master classes at the academy June 21, made sure she got a DVD of the various events. "Then I can watch it at leisure and take it all in," she says. "It is a very, very warm feeling and my grandchildren say I'll remember it forever.”

"There were a lot of tears that day. It was a little difficult for me. I thought 'Do I deserve this?'"

Any opera fan who knows the history of the woman dubbed "The Star-Spangled Singer", whose schedule over the next few months includes teaching master classes in Florida, Maryland, Oklahoma and Texas, would reply with a resounding "Yes!"...

Party of Five

Bui Simon, wife of billionaire entrepreneur Herb Simon, got the perfect 40th birthday present.

"I'm about to have another baby!" she announced joyously to 80 friends gathered for her opulent birthday party at Trattoria Mollie on Saturday.

Bui, who already has two children - Sean, 5, and Jacklyn, 8 - tells me: "I have a very definite feeling this will be a girl!"

The Italian eatery, which had been totally re-decorated for the occasion, looked like a version of a mini-Versailles, with a Baccarat chandelier swinging overhead and lavish floral displays, including towering gold-colored rose centerpieces, swamping the tables, as the guests, including Bob and Marlene Veloz, Ivan and Genevieve Reitman, Dennis and Carolyn Miller, Peter and Mireille Noone, Layla Khashoggi and David Foster, tucked into the baby lamb with black risotto and Mollie’s signature turkey meatballs (a favorite of Oprah’s).

For those with a sweeter tooth, the two-tiered butterfly decorated birthday cake - featuring layers of chocolate and vanilla - filled the void before the tony throng hit the dance floor to music from local DJ Michael Smith.

Bui positively shimmered in a figure-hugging cocktail dress specially commissioned from another guest, L.A. designer, Monique Lhuillier, 37, who made the wedding gown for Catherine Reitman's celebrity-jammed wedding in September, and dresses the likes of Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone and Reese Witherspoon.

Instead of gifts, guests were asked to donate to Bui's Angels Wings Foundation International, which is currently fundraising to establish schools in rural areas of Thailand.

All in all, a most swellegant evening...

Cupcakes Galore

Miley Cyrus has become a fast fan of Whodidily, the cupcake emporium on Coast Village Road.

The actress popped by the store while visiting our rarefied enclave the other day and was clearly impressed by the colorful products on display, ordering two Happy Birthdays - chocolate with vanilla butter cream and rainbow sprinkles - and two Scrumdidilys - vanilla with a cookie dough center and pink vanilla butter cream, topped off with a gum ball.

She then ordered two more Happy Birthdays to go.

Now, says Wendy Jones, the bakery casbah's owner, Cyrus's L.A. office has made a tentative order for 200 more cupcakes.

"Apparently, she has been raving about them to everybody and telling everybody to check out our website" (www.whodidily.com), says Wendy.

A celebrity endorsement, indeed...

A Royal Reunion?

Prince Harry's five-year relationship with his girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, 23, may not be quite as over as everyone is reporting.

The couple separated last month shortly after returning from a romantic break in Mauritius, supposedly because Harry, 24, who now holds the rank of lieutenant, has signed on for an arduous 18-month training course with the British Army Air Corps.

The bust-up was said to be amicable.

But now, says my palace mole, Harry would seem to be having second thoughts and has been constantly text messaging Chelsy, who is studying a postgraduate law course at Leeds University in the north of England.

"He is really quite gutted and wants to get together again," my mole avers.

The same scenario occurred between Harry's older brother, Prince William, and his longtime squeeze, Kate Middleton, some time ago. But the tony twosome are now back together and, I have predicted, in due course will finally tie the knot.

As the future King William V, Kate will then become queen...

Missing Gold

With the Oscars looming large, I was interested to hear that Angelina Jolie, who lives just up the road with her husband, Brad Pitt, has "mislaid" the golden statuette she won for best supporting actress in "Girl, Interrupted."

With a certain insouciance, the 33-year-old actress says she gave it to her mother for safekeeping. But her mother has since died and no one seems to know where it is.

Maybe Angie should display it in the lavatory like many Hollywood stars.

"It's one room where it will undoubtedly be seen," a major actor told me some years back.

Flushed with success, no doubt...

Hometown Santa Barbara

Starshine Roshell was doing double duty at Tecolote Book Shop on Saturday, promoting her co-authorship of the 264-page tome "Hometown Santa Barbara" and her sole writing credit of "Keep Your Skirt On," a highly amusing compilation of her columns over the years.

Starshine, who lectures in journalism at Santa Barbara City College, joined her fellow Santa Barbara authors, Nancy Ransohoff, Cheryl Crabtree, Leslie Dinaberg and Zak Klobucher to launch the latest tony town guide, following successful books on Pasadena and Santa Monica.

"It's really a non-guidebook guide," explains Dinaberg. "It's not specifically geared to tourists, more newcomers learning more about their town. The nooks and crannies, and culture. It does much more than scratch the surface."

The book, which has a foreword by Montecito-based novelist Fannie Flagg – who wrote the Oscar nominated screenplay for the charming film "Fried Green Tomatoes" – also features of a host of local well known names, including film festival director Roger Durling, architect Barry Berkus, and Hillary Hauser, director of Heal The Ocean...

Los Primeros Event

Longtime equestrian Lynn Kirst, a board member of the SB Trust for Historic Preservation, pulled out all the stops for a fundraising screening of "Los Primeros: The First Vaqueros," a 90-minute documentary on early horsemanship by local filmmakers Susan Jensen and Paul Singer at the Lobero Theatre on Friday.

El Paseo restaurant was the setting for the VIP reception, where guests got to see the rarely viewed Ranchero Room, which features recently restored wall murals painted by a number of famous Western artists, including Edward Borein, Joe de Yong and Frank Tenney Johnson.

"Originally only 150 guests were expected, with the movie viewing planned for the Presidio Chapel, but the event became so over-subscribed we had to move it to the Lobero, which, thankfully, was available on the same date," says Lynn, who also writes the "Trail Talk" column in this illustrious organ.

John Misenhimer, a classical guitarist studying at Westmont, entertained, and, following the screening, guests headed to another bash, complete with a mariachi band, at the El Presidio museum complex.

Jared Brach, the trust's publicist, says the event raised more than $15,000...

Blind Tastings

The oenophiles were out in force at the Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro after a special screening of "Bottle Shock," which stars Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman, and chronicles the now-famous blind tasting of French and California wines in 1976 that changed the world's view of American product.

Director Randy Miller and his wife, Jody Sadin, the co-screenwriter, were also celebrating the release of the $10 million movie on DVD. The more than 100 guests did a blind tasting, much like the film, of California and French Chardonnays, with one of the wines being from the Gustavo Thrace Winery, which is featured in the film.

Chef Nathan Heil paired the wine with suitably impressive canapés...


Robert Zemeckis, Ron Perlman and Christopher Lloyd at Olio é Limoné.....Rob Lowe at Lucky’s.....Gary Oldman at NorthStar Coffee Company.....Leslie Ridley-Tree and Arlyn Goldsby at Tre Lune

Pip! Pip! for now