And here, among the glistening bodices and the sleek shipping magnates and the women wearing earrings that cost more than a three- bedroom house in Manchester, are a few familiar faces: Richard Branson and his grin, Adnan Khashoggi and his pate, Britt Ekland and her exquisitely chiselled nostrils.
And there in the corner near Ivana is a pretty, slender, slightly fluttery blonde woman: this is Liz Brewer, the string puller, the social engineer of the party, and the queen of "caf society".
Caf society may bring to mind the world of under-fed intellectuals wearing black and lounging on the Rive Gauche, but the name also has another connotation. For those who care for the finer distinctions of the British class hierarchy, caf society is a distinct rank which falls some way behind the "high society" of the old aristocracy. Instead, it caters for the newcomers - for foreigners and new money - who aspire to social acceptability and a glamorous, high-spending lifestyle but may not possess the requisite public school education and old family country seat with dark oil paintings of the ancestors. So caf society fills in the gap. It provides a whirl of parties and gallery openings and other assorted binges featuring champagne and cold crustacean snacklets and the oppor-tunity to feature in Nigel Dempster's gossip column and meet other very rich people also in search of publicity.
And Liz Brewer, 48 years old, a former debutante and once married to John Rendall, the social editor of Hello! magazine, is the prime fixer of caf society. From her house off Sloane Square, with its three telephone lines and a computer full of names, she arranges the parties, the business deals, the friend- ships. Ivana Trump is probably her most important client - and for Ivana's party last October to celebrate her engagement to the Italian businessman Riccardo Mazzucchelli, Liz Brewer did everything: organised the hiring of Syon House, saw to the catering and the very fancy cake, mustered the photo calls and the press conference, arranged for Shirley Bassey, another of Liz Brewer's clients, to sing an impromptu solo after the dinner, and summoned what she calls ten "sensational" men to appear after dinner and dance with the wallflowers.
But, most importantly, Liz Brewer decided on the guestlist. And this was the hardest of tasks. For Liz has 2,500 names on her computer - 2,500 names to whom she owes a favour and who owe favours to her - and there are only 120 places at the dinner table. And some of those not invited are sure to phone up and whine.
Liz Brewer insists that Ivana's guests are not rent-a-crowd, not celebs for the sake of celebs. For each social occasion, she scrolls away on the screen, selecting a fresh combination of guests. "Each time they are invited for a different reason. When I go through the list I'm thinking, `They own a chain of hotels' or `Now he's opening a casino' or `Shirley, 'cos I want her to sing' or `I like them, they are contributors'." By contributors, she means individuals with charm or personality.
Within caf society there are, of course, the buyers: the rich clients who aspire to glamour and publicity and smart friends. And there are the sellers: the gallery owners, the restaurateurs, the interior designers, the hairdressers, the couturiers, the fancy cake-makers and countless others who in mouse- sized bites will help relieve the burden of the very rich.
Many of these sellers are also clients of Liz Brewer - she passes their names on, gets them invited to parties and slotted into the circuit, and they either pay her for her services or return the favour in kind. For example, Clifford Stafford, who has become Ivana Trump's hairdresser in London, is so devoted to Liz Brewer that he will come to her house at virtually any hour of the day and do her hair for free.
Often, the distinction between buyer and seller is blurred. Liz Brewer farms out her celebrities so that one client will prop up another by lending his or her face to an occasion. So, when Liz Brewer is organising the launch party for an exhibition of Yuri Gorbachev's paintings at the Roy Miles Gallery in Mayfair, she asks Britt Ekland to come and be photographed hanging on the arm of the painter. Similarly, Shirley Bassey sings a solo at Ivana's engagement party, while Ivana will grace Shirley Bassey's opening night at the Festival Hall. So the clients are recycled.
For some clients, exposure is all. They exist in so far as they are seen in caf society. Believing that wealth is no use unless you can display it, they must work their money, and work their social lives, applying the same concentration and competitiveness that other people do to their jobs.
It makes for an edgy, fragile world. The socialites, all so desperate about how they are perceived, must contend with so many social pitfalls - appearing in the same dress as another guest, being left off an invitation - and so many fatiguing details - the incovenience of retrieving jewellery from the bank vault, the tiresome fact that private planes sometimes have to land all the way out at Luton. And behind it all lurks the paranoia. Before Ivana's engagement party, the Daily Mirror pointed out that there was a small hole in Ivana's stocking. Riccardo Mazzucchelli, bleached blue eyes popping out of his head, features working like a glove puppet, insists she never has a hole in her stockings. Never. This must be a plot.
Most days, one of Brewer's clients will blow a gasket. In private, there will be tears, tantrums, rages, screaming denunciations. And Liz Brewer, with her pleasant, Home Counties voice, and good upper-middle-class upbringing, will soothe things over.
Another problem is the buyers who want fame and attention, but not just for being buyers. It is fine for Shirley Bassey - she sings. And Ivana Trump - she now has her own line in clothes and costume jewellery. But what do Britt Ekland or Soraya Khashoggi or the rest of this host of expensive blonde women actually do?
Take Mona Bauwens, the daughter of a rich Palestinian businessman high up in the PLO. She became famous in 1992 when David Mellor resigned from the cabinet after it was revealed that Bauwens had paid for his family's holiday with her in Marbella. Bauwens, having enjoyed the limelight, afterwards wanted more of it.
Bauwens also wanted to write, so Liz Brewer tried to negotiate a contract with the Evening Standard. The newspaper, however, was hesitant. So the very day the deal was to be agreed on, out came a new revelation on the front page of the tabloids that David Mellor had, in fact, proposed to Mona Bauwens. The papers quoted "close friend" Liz Brewer.
This publicity seemed to clinch the contract with the Standard, and Liz Brewer summoned the press to the dining club of Anton Mosimann (another client) in Belgravia, where Mona Bauwens and Britt Ekland and various other women meet regularly for lunch. Liz explained to the press that Bauwens was here to attend a private lunch with a group of women "achievers". Later, she modified the formula: "It's not exactly achievers. It's women who've got something to say."
It is hard to look at the marketing of Ivana, and of Mona, and of the others, without wondering how conscious they are of just how it works. Is Mona aware that she is letting herself be sold at the expense of any remnant of pri-vacy in her personal life? Does Ivana know that nobody in Britain, apart from members of the royal family, celebrate their enagage-ment with a press conference?
And what of Liz Brewer? Does she never feel a little queasy from the blurring of business and pleasure? Certainly, if she does, she is far too well brought up to let it show.
Just because caf society is utterly hollow and frivolous, it isn't necessarily uninteresting, or unworthy of observation, with its own rules, its own set dances, its own taboos.
And it has roots, albeit fragile ones, in most people's lives. Few of us can say that our personal lives are entirely disinterested, that no friendship is cultivated at least in part for its usefulness, that we are immune from snobbery, or unaware which of our friends has not quite enough money or which has too much. We just play the game at a far lower level. And it is for this reason that the world of Liz and Ivana and Mona and Britt is so disturbing, so grotesque, and, as these photographs demonstrate, so savagely funny. By allowing us to hold up a mirror to our own worst instincts, it is also salutory.
`Modern Times: The Fame Game' will be shown at 9pm on Wednesday 12 April on BBC2Reuse content