PRIVATE SYDNEY

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Private Sydney: Cavalli loves Sydney's girls

Italian designer Roberto Cavalli takes in all Sydney's nightlife has to offer, and other goings-on in this week's Private Sydney with columnist Andrew Hornery.

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IT'S THE feud that has Sydney's power lesbians in a lather, and it is threatening to spill over into the courtroom.

Celebrity medico Kerryn Phelps has called in the lawyers to take on heiress and former friend of 16 years Sophie Landa, firing off a legal letter accusing Landa of spreading damaging gossip about her and issuing an ultimatum to apologise or face a defamation lawsuit.

Landa, the daughter of the late NSW attorney-general Paul Landa and his arts patron wife Anne, who inherited a reported $25 million from her parents, has so far declined to comply with their demands within the deadline set by her lawyers.

Jackie Stricker and Kerryn Phelps

Jackie Stricker and Kerryn Phelps ... taking action. Photo: Supplied

Phelps's long-term partner, Jackie Stricker, told PS this week the couple had been left with no choice but to pursue legal action against Landa and would now lodge a defamation action against her in the Supreme Court.

Landa did not return PS's calls.

Stricker, who is a director in Phelps's Sydney practice, told PS: ''Doctors only have their reputations; if they don't have their reputations, they don't have anything. The sort of accusations being made by Sophie Landa are so unacceptable and out of line, we have no option but to sue.''

Stricker - who with Phelps, was once so close to Landa that they would regularly babysit her two children - declined to divulge the specific nature of the accusations. However, she claimed it had ''been going on for years''.

Neither party is a stranger to courtroom ordeals. Phelps and Stricker have not been shy in taking similar legal action against others over the years. Phelps famously sued John Howard's health minister Michael Wooldridge for refusing to apologise after suggesting she had no medical qualifications. She dropped the action following a long lunch and an apology.

Meanwhile Landa, who for many years was a high-profile publicist in Sydney, was embroiled in a bitter and very public legal dispute with her uncle, Tom Sendro, over her grandmother's multimillion-dollar estate.

'Italian Stallion' kicks up his heels

BELLA, bella bella! Mwah, mwah mwahhhh.

From the moment he touched down in Sydney this week, you could hear the Italian fashion legend Roberto Cavalli coming a mile away.

Surrounded by beautiful women young enough to be his granddaughters, Cavalli tore up the town, living up to his reputation as being the original ''Italian Stallion'', who at the age of 71 refuses to be put out to pasture.

Wearing his dark sunglasses well into the night, along with perma-tan, button-down shirts and tight jeans, Cavalli hit Sydney's clubs and partied up a storm, gyrating about the dance floor and peppering young women with kisses everywhere he went.

But he did it in true Italian style. In fact, PS doubts a 71-year-old local would be able to get away with it (eat your heart out John Laws). Women a third of his age were swooning.

''The women are great in Sydney, so beautiful, like at the club last night,'' Cavalli enthused.

Even in his broken English, he was clearly enthusiastic about being called a ''lothario'', and he loved the term ''gigolo'' so much he used it to name one of his collections.

Cavalli has been married to his second wife, Eva, for more than three decades. However, in 2009 it was revealed he had commissioned a one-bedroom home on his 13-hectare estate in the Florentine countryside, fanning rumours they had split. Eva lives in his previous home, along with his collection of pet parrots.

Cavalli reportedly sleeps in a custom-made bed with stuffed animals atop, keeps a miniature monkey in a cage, and has Pussy, a fluffy Persian cat, for company, too.

Branson not the $20m buyer

IT WASN'T British billionaire Sir Richard Branson who shelled out $20 million on the iconic Byron Bay destination Rae's last week.

Spokesman Peter Metzner declined to reveal the identity of the ''high net worth'' British buyer when PS called, but ruled out local reports claiming it was Branson.

''The new owner has not decided if he will use it as a private retreat or keep it going as a hotel and restaurant. But for now it is business as usual for Rae's,'' Metzner said.

The property was sold by Vincent Rae, who had operated the guesthouse for more than two decades.

Rae, who has become something of a local identity thanks to his celebrity clientele which over the years has included the likes of Branson, Harvey Keitel, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Tom Cruise, Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, Keith Richards, Pink, Elle Macpherson and Nicole Kidman, will now focus his attention on developing a property and restaurant in Bali.

However, he intends to maintain a home in Byron Bay.

A huge crowd assembled on the driveway to witness the auction last week, but 20 minutes after it was scheduled to start, an announcement declared contracts had just been exchanged and the property was sold.

The sale has delivered Rae a tidy profit; he bought the place in 1994 for $1.375 million.

Jewels make wedding a gem

IT WAS a suitably sparkly day for Dominique Cerrone, daughter of Sydney's diamond ''don'' Nic Cerrone, who married in Hunters Hill last Saturday.

Cerrone tied the knot with architect Rob Parisi at St Peters Chanel church in Hunters Hill.

Wearing a J 'Aton gown, the bride had the added advantage of an Aladdin's cave's worth of jewels to select for the big day.

The guests included Rianna Ponting, Sara Leonardi-McGrath, Anthony Minichiello and Terry Biviano, along with Alan Jones.

David Campbell did a surprise performance at the reception at the Sydney Opera House concert hall northern foyer, overlooking the harbour.

JUNGLE JIVING

Even at the grand age of 90, Lady Mary Fairfax still knows how to throw a party. Last Sunday she opened the doors to her Double Bay estate Fairwater for her favourite charity, The Australian Ireland Fund, hosting a garden party for 500 people themed ''Untamed Ireland''. The dress code was : ''Wildly tribal'', though Lady Mary opted for her usual elegant attire rather than donning one of the late Sir Warwick's pith hats. Guests were welcomed by ''Jungle Janes'' and sipped on ''snake venom'' cocktails. Channel Seven game show host Andrew O'Keefe was master of ceremonies and The Voice'sEmma Birdsall sang.

 

DREAM TIME

Louise Olsen and Stephen Ormandy of Dinosaur Designs, pictured above, delved into the subconscious for their latest collection of jewellery, which they have called Dream and launched over a decadent private dinner in Redfern on Thursday night. Their studio was transformed into a flower-filled dining room, courtesy of Grandiflora's Saskia Havekes.

 

SAY CHEESE

Never let it be said Mel B would ever miss a photo opportunity. Just hours after turning up to Waverley Local Court where an interim AVO was placed on paparazzo Jamie Fawcett, the former Spice Girl and her partner Stephen Belafonte were at Bronte restaurant Three Blue Ducks on Thursday night with newlyweds Brian and Vogue McFadden. And what a coincidence that visiting Hollywood A-listers Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis were at the same restaurant. The joint was surrounded by photographers within minutes.

 

NEWTOWN PARTY

Having poured millions of dollars into its renovation, the Keystone group threw a wild party to celebrate the reopening of the latest addition to its portfolio - the renowned Newtown Hotel. With its array of bars, including a private room with its own pole dancing stage, along with DJs Kate Monroe and Paul Schulte, pictured below, restaurants and a contender for Sydney's best new verandah bar, The Newtown was pumping. US band Arrested Development gave the evening a 1990s retro feel, along with the dazzling drag queens. Keystone directors John Duncan, Paul Schulte and Anthony Prior kept the festivities going well into the night.