Me And My (Almost) Prince
A reader's story of her brush with European royalty. . .
by Sandra Miller
A few weeks ago when his Dad, Prince Rainier III, passed away, my ex-boyfriend Albert became the official Big Guy of Monaco. Though we never got too serious, it still slays me that people think I'm just a 40ish Mom who buys off the rack at the suburban mall, but really there was a time I was this close to going blue blood.
Okay, so it's more like this: For a couple of days about eighteen years ago, I hung out with Prince Albert of Monaco. He was a college friend of my roommate back then, and for the weekend he was in Los Angeles, well, a bunch of us hitched our stars to that of an unfathomably rich prince and did as he did. We played. There was an intimate cocktail party at the home of his publicist. Next up, a raucous dinner at the Mustache Cafe on Melrose in which Albert rubbed feet with a now has-been actress, then took our waitress, a wanna-be actress, back to his hotel. Some minor celebrities joined our table because people like Prince Albert actually have their haute couture clothes designed from flypaper. And the restaurant manager kept the place open for us well after closing because nobody tells a Monegasque Prince that it's time to go home.
And, after all that, if he were just Albert Average not Prince Albert Grimaldi of Monaco, he would have left no more impression on me than the evening special of ratatouille. In fact, save the blue blue eyes that made me want to fan myself, I found his bodyguard scads more charming. And a few years later I was not shocked to read that Princess Stephanie had decided to borrow that very same bodyguard from his wife.
But that's not the point. Albert is a prince. I knew him for all of 48 hours. And I've gotten at least that much cocktail party mileage out of the story.
Leading me to believe that better than being famous is meeting famous people. You see, fame is so fleeting, so ephemeral, and except for the endorsements and money and in-ground pools in Beverly Hills, is it really worth it? Think of the tabloid bad-mouthing, the eight month marriages. Or in Albert's case, the tedious speculation about his not being married--really gay or just likes to play? Plus, what about the no-privacy thing? Like a good reduction sauce, fame ends up being something flavourful and interesting but ultimately, small, whereas an interaction with a famous person is a tiny seed which, with some thoughtful cultivation, grows over a persona's lifetime into an enormous bush with great blooms of juicy banter.
My husband loves to tell the story of how he took the same African Art class at Yale as Jodie Foster, and they studied together for the final. Basically, they covered up titles of the pictures and took turns identifying them. The image he creates - not accidentally - is of him as a a 19-year-old Yalie and famous Jodie in her Taxi Driver outfit giggling from behind a library carrel as they ignore the weighty art tome opened before them. In reality, there were other people there, the encounter at the picture display was chance, and I don't think she was dressed like a child prostitute. But hey, that's the beauty of a famous person story. You can add a touch of lace here, a sequin there and freely withhold all extraneous details that don't enhance your point. And the point is always about touching someone untouchable.
Me, I didn't want to hang with Albert because I have a thing for nice balding men with exceptional international experiences and a bit of a stutter. I just wanted to hang out with fame. Superficial? Absolutely! Would I do it today? Without apology.
When we meet somebody famous, we are meeting with status. Normally people who are famous have status for a positive reason, but, even the OJ's and Monica Lewinsky's of the world have notoriety, which in some twisted way qualifies as status. By recounting an interaction with a well-known person, we get to, consciously or unconsciously, elevate our own status. And for whatever reason, maybe because it's something we don't do on a regular basis, it's really fun. I rode on an escalator with Gwyneth Paltrow! Sean Penn and I used the same vending machine! I must be somebody!
As for those people who say they don't care about celebrities, then why even mention it? As in, I always see Paul Newman jogging on the beach. What's the big deal? Or, Jennifer Aniston and I have the same aromatherapist and we, um, me and Jennifer, don't get why everyone won't just leave her alone.
While it wouldn't seem possible, there's a wrong kind of famous person story, too. My best friend Anjali, for example, tells about when she flew in a plane with Daniel Day Lewis. She was going to see a play in London and there he was on her flight from Paris. Tall, swarthy, unshorn, luminous. That's it. Nothing happens. I always want her at some point to bump her luggage trolley into Daniel's or rub arms with him at the ticket counter and sneak him off for a quickie at the airport hotel. Give me something please. But it's just a sighting that means her famous person story ranks significantly below my other best friend Liz's, who once ate Thanksgiving dinner with Pam Dawber who played opposite Robin Williams on the tv sitcom Mork and Mindy. Now Pam Dawber is hardly Daniel Day Lewis, but a really good, really lasting, famous person story inarguably must have an encounter. If it is not organically there, make up the Thanksgiving dinner. Make up anything.
Alright. I'll come clean with the truth. I totally want to be famous. If not the eight-month marriage, I definitely want the in-ground pool and tabloid speculation. I even want the flypaper clothes. But the other truth is that nobody is crowning me a star, so, alas, my long ago association with Prince Albert is the closest I can get right now to that yearned for status.
And years from now when I'm a wrinkled old lady, I'll see Albert's face on television and lean over to tell my granddaughter how I used to date that very prince. I'll mention that the deceased Grace Kelly would have been my mother-in-law and Princess Stephanie and I would have bonded over monthly shopping trips on the Champs Elysees, but of course. And so what if my granddaughter thinks Prince Who or Grandma Nut Case. It's my famous person story, and I'm entitled to believe every imagined word.
About the Author:
Sandra Miller's fiction and essays have appeared in a variety of magazines and newspapers including Modern Bride, Walking, The Hartford Courant and Literarymama. She is seeking a publisher for her psychological thriller Disappearing Jacky and plans on being famous someday soon.
Sandra can be contacted via the Contact Us page.