High on the totem pole of the Rhode Island School of Design are photographer Richard Avedon and fashion designer Mary McFadden. Amid Indian carvings and canoes at New York's Museum of Natural History, the pair (along with architect I. M. Pei and sculptor Reuben Nakian) received medals for promoting good design. The evening left the duo all but speechless. Avedon, refusing to beat his own drum, mumbled a thank you; McFadden was struck with laryngitis.
Some years back, shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos, 69, had the audacity to report an annual income of only $300. The Greek parliament protested, noting he had paid $16,000 that year for skiing lessons alone. "And," observed a source, "he still does not know how to ski." This season he seems to have given up trying, though he spends most of his time in Switzerland. Instead, Niarchos takes strolls near his St.-Moritz estate, using a spiked cane to prevent a sitzmark on the icy roads. Women? After five wives (including Charlotte Ford briefly), Stavros is now said to be snowed by Jordan's Princess Ferial, 34.
Liza Minnelli, 32, has been doing a guest cameo in the off-Broadway play Are You Now or Have You Ever Been...? The title harks back to the Communist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era, but the grilling of Liza has only begun. According to one report—vigorously denied—she will wed Mark Gero, 26, the swarthy sculptor who has been her constant escort since serving as the stage manager of her show The Act. Minnelli's aides point out that, if nothing else, Liza's divorce from Jack Haley Jr. is not yet final. Still, the two will have an extended engagement of sorts. When Liza begins a South American concert tour next week, Gero will be along to manage her, onstage and, most likely, off.
Sammy vs. Somers
When Suzanne Somers took on Sammy Davis Jr. in eight-ball for CBS' Celebrity Challenge of the Sexes (to be aired in late February), she had an advantage: She had beaten Jack Klugman on the show two years ago. But that was on a technicality, when Klugman forgot to call the pocket. So Davis bellied up to the baize with determination. "Those cats in the corner would never forgive me if I lost to a white woman," he jollied. That proved Suzanne's cue to try some tabletop interference. But her hustle was for naught. Davis whupped her by five balls.
Cat-astrophe for Benji
The truth is out: Benji is a bitch. But the mutt—the spit of her dad and his stand-in for three years—earns her biscuits. Benji flicks have made $65 million, and she receives $7,500 for a personal appearance. So when owner Frank Inn learned his superstar would be quarantined for six months if, as planned, Inn tried to shoot his next film in England, he growled about the financial consequences. So, while British authorities chew on that bone, Benji remains in Sun Valley, Idaho, where she finds housemate Bomber the cat's meow.
Mahan lassos Tanya
Country-rock songstress Tanya Tucker, 20, got roped into something different after arriving sleepless in Denver at 6:30 a.m. at the end of a two-month tour. Her bronc-riding boyfriend, Bobby Brown, and some of his rodeo buddies were participating in the fifth annual cowboy downhill at Steamboat Springs, whipping through a slalom course while trying to lasso a ski instructor. Though retired rodeo champ Larry Mahan playfully crept up to encircle Tanya with his lariat, he failed to tie her down: Tanya schussed in just 19 seconds behind Brown for a finish of 18th in a field of 50.