Liz Smith: P.R. Maven Peggy Siegal Gives Us Christmas in Ghent

A word of explanation here by Liz Smith – Peggy Siegal keeps New York, L.A., Cannes, the Hamptons  and places elsewhere au courant with what’s what at the movies. She arranges screenings for everybody and brings out the VIPs in abundance. She knows everyone who is anyone and a few who aren’t. She is a most delightful and adorable person, always on her BlackBerry, arranging parties that will do somebody some good, and on top of this she is an authority on matters of beauty, health and staying young. Let me add, she is also one of the best-dressed young career women I have ever met. Here’s her holiday missive from Europe!

Published in:, 29-12-2008

"My friends:

"First – about me; a medical update. I finally got on a plane by myself December 14 for a hip resurfacing operation in Belgium by the world-famous hip god, Dr. Koen DeSmet, a 43-year-old Hugh Grant lookalike. The doctor does six operations a day, 18 a week and has done 3,500 to date with the latest equipment and materials. His genius includes his own rehab villa run by his luscious Italian wife, Gatana, and her brother Hugo.

"The doctor said my condition wasn’t “old age” but a bone formation that is hereditary. He thought he would have to do both hips at once. When we met in Ghent, I was downsized to a single. Of course, I called my 85-year-old mother in Palm Beach to blame her. She told me as a member of the High Ridge Country Club (second only to the Palm Beach Country Club) she was asked to invest with Bernie Madoff years ago. By saying no, we are lucky to still have my dead father’s money and I should forget about the hips.

"Being in Ghent is a wonderful experience. This medieval university town was not touched by either World War I or II. So here’s my report from having survived surgery and a daily swim class. December 24 I went to midnight mass in The Cathedral of St. Baaf, sounds like St. Bart’s without the yachts. The original chapel was built in 942 and is dedicated to St. John the Baptist. This huge magnificent Gothic monument houses Ghent’s most famous painting, “The Adoration of the Lamb of God,” by the brothers Jan and Hubert Van Eyck. I tell you this because I want you to picture me at the altar on crutches where I lit candles for all of you. Also, nothing like a good Van Eyck on Hanukah!

"The Bishop, working that night in Latin, first greeted me at the entrance to the nave with my new American friends. We were three overdressed gals on crutches from villa rehab. We looked as if we had escaped from a fancy leper colony or just the hip-resurfacing home down the street. The holy man spoke to us in English, asking where we were from.

"We secured seats inches from the altar and sang “Silent Night” in Flemish. On the way out, the Bishop found us again (not difficult) and insisted on blessing my cripple-goyum friends by cupping his huge hands around their faces as if to will the spirit of God into their cheekbones. I, of course, not mobile enough on crutches, could not escape his largess and got blessed as well – a first for this off-Park Avenue
Jew. I was so moved that, for a moment, I felt guilty about promoting the movie “Doubt.” At 1:30 AM as we stepped outside, all the church bells in Ghent rang out. It was a moment in a medieval town that was so magical, so unreal, that we could have been in Disneyland.

"I had taken all the Academy Award DVDs with me to Belgium in order to insure my popularity with the doctors, nurses and other inmates. I also brought a complete new wardrobe of loungewear and chic sweat suits in case Mr. Right was in the next whirlpool. I took five of the villa rehab inmates into Ghent again for a last-supper-before-release at the Opera House restaurant. Six crippled women, 12 crutches. This gives new meaning to the phrase “a grand entrance!” I leave for Paris any minute with Felicia Taylor of CNN coming to keep me company.

"I can’t believe I was in Ghent and missed the biggest scandal in New York-Palm Beach history. What kind of worm steals from Elie Wiesel? He should be put in an oven and Steven Spielberg should film it. January 4th, Felicia and I will fly home to New York. At takeoff, I have to inject myself with heparin to avoid throwing a blood clot, a minor inconvenience to a pain-free hipper life!

"Have a healthy happy New Year!  Love, Peggy."

Liz again: And now you know why her New York friends want Peggy to start writing for a living. She is the natural next Suzy type columnist.