Its high noon in Hicksville for the goddess of the Glitterati
Daily Express 4th December 1992
I’T'S high country where all the roads are like gun-barrels to the horizon and at the junction of two of them sits this Rocky Mountain town where they raise cattle and a little hell every other Saturday night.
They drink Budweiser from the bottle, wine comes in two-gallon screwtop jars and at the only place to eat, the aptly named Food Factory, the favourite evening is Thursday because the special is all-you-can-eat spaghetti.
"They sure fills your plate on Thursdays," said George Mave, pushing his favourite red San Francisco 49ers cap up from his eyes.
He set down his bottle of "Bud" and leaned on cases of Canadian Mist whiskey.
He smiled. It was 11 on a Thursday morning. Dinner was looming. So was a wall-mounted moose head with the Stars and Stripes in its antlers.
We were quickly corrected. "Not a moose, sonny. That's an elk and that's what we hunt around here."
Goodness only knows what "The Goddess of the Essence of Jewels", aka the fragrant Pearl of the Orient, will make of George. Or Meeker, the capital of Rio Blanco County.
The lady otherwise known as Ratna Sari Dewi Sukarno, "53" (our quotation marks), the former Japanese bar girl and one of the seven wives — now widows — of Indonesia's first President, goes on trial here on December 15 charged with gashing the face of another Asian beauty who is also her neighbour on New York's Park Avenue and in Paris.
MARIA Victoria Osmena, "43", received 37 stitches to cuts on her forehead, eyelid and left cheek after an incident at the Primavera Restaurant at the Aspen Club Lodge on January 2 this year.
It was an extremely public happening. Ivana Trump was at the door when the ambulance from Aspen Valley Hospital screeched to a stop.
Supermodel Elfe Macpherson, Cornelia Guest, billionaire oilman David Koch, George Hamilton and Barbra Streisand were among the guests of the Austrian host of the private party, Prince Heinrich Han-au-Schaumburg.
These particular members of the jet-set are likely to be spending Christmas in Meeker rather than the Caribbean or Gstaad or where the whole sorry saga began — Aspen.
All are potential witnesses. George Mave, 66, is a potential juror.
Two hours of driving on icy, snow-banked roads separates Aspen and Meeker at this time of year. And a couple of million light years of attitude.
Around this town they mostly carry hunting rifles as weapons. Prosecutors allege the woman who became the fifth Madame Sukarno on November 3, 1959, who hosted Chinese premier Chou En-Lai and charmed General Charles de Gaulle, committed her second-degree assault with a champagne flute.
She's certainly had a champagne life. Her social swathe sweeped through Paris-London-Rome after her husband died in the summer of 1970.
The Japanese girl, Naoko Nemoto, who was renamed Ratna Sari Dewi — "The Goddess of the Essence of Jewels" — exiled herself to Paris and a big apartment on Avenue Montaigne in the same building in which Marlene Dietrich lived.
And she became one of the Beautiful People. President Georges Pompidou hosted her.
And the Aga Khan and Baron Guy and Baroness Marie-Helene de Rothschild and the Princess de Polignac and the Viscount de Ribes, while Mrs Sukarno, champagne glass in hand, showed her style in fashions created for her by Pierre Cardin, Marc Bohan of Dior and Liz Taylor's favourite, Valentino in Rome.
Locations changed: Capri, Saint Tropez, Baden-Baden, London. And she was always seen with an eligible man, usually a Lord (Patrick Lich-field) or a Prince (Vittorio Massimo), as her escort. She fitted the gossip columns snugly like a pair of "Seventies" Gucci loafers.
If it was Thursday, it might be a bellini at the Cipriani in Venice. Spaghetti at the Food Factory, Meeker, next month? She might spend Christmas Eve there if the trial runs more than its expected eight days. And she might be in Colorado even longer.
She faces 16 years in Colorado State Prison and a half-million dollar fine if convicted. She is also the subject of a 10-million dollar civil lawsuit brought by "Minnie" Osmena, who is the granddaughter of onetime Philippine President Sergio Osmena and the former wife of Carnation heir Dwight Stuart.
Madame Sukarno has counter-sued for 10 million dollars alleging "slander, assault and outrageous conduct". "Sure sounds like some catfight," said Meeker Sheriff Ron Hilkey as we walked over to his four-wheel-drive parked behind the town's courtroom and law enforcement offices.
"The biggest thing we've had here recently was the sad death of Randy LeBlanc who was our local doctor."
HE was killed when his car collided with a deer on Highway 13. "He left a wife and five kids. That's the sort of thing that's important around here," said the sheriff.
"My worry is the security for all of this. There's really just me and a couple of other fellas and mostly we deal with cattle problems or maybe in the season hunters acting up a little," he says.
"And where are they gonna stay? This ain't Aspen with those fancy hoo-tels." The Gentry Motor Lode on 4th Street has phones in the rooms. Or showers. You don't always get both. The Valley Motel hasn't got the phones and they're even closer to Bill and Donna Wille's Antler Taxidermy operation on Market Street.
Bill and Donna have won world taxidermy competitions. Madame Sukarno wore a full-length sable coat and her diamonds twinkled like a Christmas tree when she was taken from the Aspen Club Lodge after being questioned by police.
She couldn't understand the fuss. She wanted to go back to the party. Instead, she was arrested and given her Miranda rights — the right to silence.
In the back of a police car she was driven to Pitkin County Jail along the road from the luxury Hotel Jerome. She was breath-tested ("negative") and fingerprinted ("cute").
"I did not understand. They kept talking about a Spanish person. A Mr Miranda. I did not understand for a long time about the Miranda," she said at her home in Aspen.
The two women had apparently known each other for more than 15 years. There are hazy clouds and a 200-million dollar lawsuit against an American magazine making it difficult to speculate on what sparked the "incident" as it is now called.
But Madame Sukarno offered this: "I feel terrible for what has happened to this lady. I do not know her. She has been trying to get into my group for many years, crashing my parties. I have not the heart to say no to her.
"In other countries this would not be a big problem. We would simply talk to the policemen and it would be taken care of."
Madame Sukarno is legally represented by New York heavy-hitter lawyer Barry Slotnick whose clients have included Panama's General Manuel Noriega, "Godfather" John Gotti and vigilante Manhattan subway gunman Bernhard Goetz.
In Denver, her lawyer is Robert "Mac" McAllister. Both lawyers argued successfully last August that their client could not get a fair trial in Aspen, saying "the publicity has been so pervasive and prejudicial". District Judge J E DeVilbiss ("No first name — just like J R on TV") will now hear the case here in Meeker.
And that puts Madame Sukarno's future in the hands of a panel drawn from the 2,050 people who live in Rio Blanco County. "I sure as hell haven't heard of many of them," said George Mave shouting at the other half-dozen people propping up the bar.
"Seems to me that nobody around here will have an opinion about the case," said Dolores Komosa of the Gentry Motor Lodge. "Any of us can be on the jury — I think they're going to choose from 150 folks."
Solveig Belland is the clerk of Meeker County Court who shares a lot of the responsibility with District Attorney Joe Fennessy.
She has already got the jury pool badges to hand. "I'm talking to the judge about how we're going to handle all the attention. Getting a jury should be the least of our problems.
"People here are only interested in when huntin' season starts and ends. Aspen might be London to them."
AT a health store in Aspen, a saleslady — this was not a salesperson foiushe was blonde, buxom and the epitome of all who seek employment in the ski resort — was asked if the lip pomade which is sold under George Hamilton's name was effective. She had no idea.
The price? She shook her head. Then: "But George is a really good guy. We've partied with him." Jane Chauvin, who is working the season on the ski slopes of Aspen, thought about the trial going to Meeker. She thought about Sean Connery and Sylvester Stallone and Cher and Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas and all the rest of the bunch turning up for Christmas and New Year. And the tourists and the paparazzi — especially the ones that can't ski — trying to get to "Bonnie's", a mountain restaurant that's a celebrity favourite but accessible only by skis.
Christmas is bad enough in Aspen without the trial. But I'm told they are going to miss a whopper of a court case first hand. Especially the defence.
It's been widely reported that Madame Sukarno insists that "Minnie" Osmena called her "a whore". And that Madame Sukarno shouted back: "You are a geisha girl from a Japanese brothel."
The bad feeling between the two apparently began in the summer of 1991 when the two beauties were off Ibiza on the yacht of the Marquis de Campo-florido.
It had to do with a comment about Imelda Marcos. But in wine-by-the-gallon Meeker, the trial which could result in serious consequences for Madame Sukarno, rests in an accessory so important to those involved — a champagne glass.
Lawyers for the "Goddess of the Essence of Jewels" are going to argue that in Asia, if you are called a "whore", you are entitled to throw the contents of your glass in the face of the insulter.
But the champagne flute should not have broken. Madame Sukarno's team are going to sue the makers of the champagne glass.
That's food for thought for the potential jurors at the Food Factory. Especially on Saturday when they sit around a little. Saturdays are all-you-can-eat-prime-rib night.
They raise a glass or eight of "Bud" but, they insist, none of that jet-set kind of hell.
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