Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lucky Heather; Last Month Morocco Saw the Most Opulent Party of the Year Involving Trained Monkeys, 5,000 Bottles of Champagne and a Brand-New Luxury Hotel. at the Centre of Celebrations Was Heather Kerzner, Wife of the Billionaire Sun King, Sol. Lydia Slater Discovers How an Impoverished Girl from Albany, New York, Rose to Become the Queen of London's Social Whirl

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lucky Heather; Last Month Morocco Saw the Most Opulent Party of the Year Involving Trained Monkeys, 5,000 Bottles of Champagne and a Brand-New Luxury Hotel. at the Centre of Celebrations Was Heather Kerzner, Wife of the Billionaire Sun King, Sol. Lydia Slater Discovers How an Impoverished Girl from Albany, New York, Rose to Become the Queen of London's Social Whirl

Article excerpt

Byline: Lydia Slater

Along with her chum Sir Elton John, Heather Kerzner is undoubtedly one of the world's greatest experts on luxury. The wife of the billionaire hotelier and casino mogul Sol, she leads a life of extravagance that the recession has failed to dent. Just days before we meet, she's in the news having hosted an eyewateringly OTT bash to launch her husband's new Moroccan resort, Mazagan, attended by Naomis Campbell and Watts, Lindsay Lohan, Natascha McElhone and the ubiquitous Le Bons. The place was adorned with 100,000 roses (handed out by trained monkeys) and lit by 10,000 candles; 5,000 bottles of champagne were drunk; while every musician, snake charmer and costumed horse in Morocco seems to have been recruited for the entertainment.

Reading about it on a chilly grey London morning, I am filled with envy. Lucky Heather indeed. Clearly, I am about to meet a latter-day Marie Antoinette.

When I arrive at her neo-Georgian mansion in Kensington, the door is opened by a butler wearing blue plastic bags over his shoes. He asks me to take my boots offto avoid scuffing the white stone floors; I am discomfited to see there is a hole in the toe of my tights. As Madame is still conducting her levee upstairs, attended by her publicist and hair stylist, I'm left to my own devices in her kitchen, which is adorned with vast bowls of pink roses and four enormous Warhols of the Queen. Sitting on one of her Tiffanyblue suede-upholstered kitchen chairs, I gaze into the immaculate garden. On the garden wall, an enormously fat squirrel is munching a croissant.

When Heather finally descends, immaculately coiffed and manicured and looking rather like her great friend Tamara Beckwith, she sets about dispelling my bile immediately. 'Come into the other room, it's much more comfortable,' she coos, flashing me a huge smile. So we transfer to an eau-de-nil sitting room, where I clock a Chagall over the fireplace and a Dufy on one wall. So, Heather, I say, when the butler has brought us orange juice, what do you define as luxury? 'Two years ago, it was about Hermes, because they always hand-stitched their bags,' she says judiciously. 'It was about high-end goods that weren't available to everyone. Now, people are asking themselves what really matters. Luxury is quality time with family and friends, which is what we're trying to offer people at our resorts.' Below left: Below: with By Heather's definition, therefore, my life is actually a lot more luxurious than hers. Time with her husband is in distinctly short supply. Sol Kerzner is 74, but shows no sign of slowing down. Since the tragic death of his eldest son and heir apparent, Butch, 42, in a helicopter crash in 2006, he has kept himself busy, jetting all over the world while Heather keeps the home fires burning. In her children's holidays, he arranges meetings at the resort where they will be staying so that he can snatch time with his family.

'Time together is a luxury we don't always get,' says Heather. 'We do try. Like today, we're going to have lunch together because he hasn't been home this whole week. Quite honestly, for us, luxury can be spending an evening in watching The X Factor with the kids and dinner on a tray. I think luxury is what you don't get to do enough of.' But she's too intelligent not to admit that there may be other aspects to it as well. Her biggest extravagance is her garden. A gardener comes every six weeks or so to change all the flowers for fresh ones. Today, it's a rather municipal-looking arrangement of fuchsiacoloured cyclamens and box trees, but when he comes next, it's going to be much more Christmassy. Then there are her three hair appointments a week at Neville on Pont Street.

'Neville is one of my good friends,' she says. 'I sometimes go even if I'm not going out. I just love spending time there.' She has four stafffor her London home, including a live-in housekeeper, gets chauffeured everywhere (neither she nor Sol can drive), and, of course, she has a wardrobe to die for. …

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