When 'The Queen of New York' Was Rude to Catherine; American Court Hears of Wealthy Socialite's Biting Comments

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Byline: Robin Turner

ACTRESS Catherine Zeta-Jones has found herself at the centre of an extraordinary trial which has gripped the mink coat and mansion set who make up New York's high society.

In the dock at Manhattan Criminal Court is 84-year-old Anthony Marshall who is accused of plundering the considerable fortune of his late mother Brooke Astor, the glamorous philanthropist socialite dubbed The Queen of New York.

Marshall, now 84, stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima as a World War Two marine, then worked as a CIA agent, US ambassador, Tony award-winning theatre producer and money manager.

The prosecution case against him is that he took advantage of his mother's Alzheimer's to take possession of her pounds 135m estate.

This week the jury heard evidence aimed at proving Brooke Astor was losing her social graces along with her mental health.

An account of a lunch in 1999 thrown by Astor and veteran TV personality Barbara Walters for then Camilla Parker Bowles, related how Astor loudly criticised a dress Zeta-Jones was wearing while the Welsh actress was just a few feet away.

And the ailing socialite, then 97, also confused Catherine Zeta- Jones' partner at the lunch, Michael Douglas, with his father Kirk Douglas, even though Astor had been a close friend of "Spartacus" star Douglas senior.

The court has heard that Mrs Astor also accused Camilla Parker Bowles at the lunch of being a royal concubine.

Vartan Gregorian, a close friend of Mrs Astor, told the trial that as the then well-known Catherine Zeta-Jones walked past, Mrs Astor asked him: "Who is this woman?" Gregorian said he replied that she was a "great actress".

He added: "Then she said: 'Well, she's wearing the wrong dress for this occasion'." Mr Gregorian told the jury: "She said that right in front of her.

Catherine Zeta-Jones pretended not to hear." Mr Gregorian, a close friend of Prince Charles, had brought Camilla Parker Bowles to the 1999 function as part of her introduction to New York society. …