Close encounter of the royal kind

Prince Charles was about to visit the local art museum, and I had inadvertently stumbled into the big event.

As an avid painter, I often go to my local county art museum for inspiration.

Showing up early one morning to avoid a crowd, I was surprised to find a large gathering of police.

I was standing in the front entryway pondering this and thinking that perhaps there had been a theft during the night, when a voice startled me from behind.

"Are you here for the prince?" the voice said.

I turned and found myself face to face with none other than David Hockney, world-famous artist and a man who had been a great influence on my own work for many years.

Dumbstruck by the presence of this iconic figure, I found myself staring and did not answer his question.

"Are you here for the prince?" he said again, and then I realized what was happening.

Prince Charles of Britain was in town, and the newspapers had announced that he would tour the local museum of art. Having paid no attention to the time or date, I had inadvertently stumbled into the big event, and Mr. Hockney was assuming I was there to meet the prince.

It seems that Hockney, being a British expatriate and longtime resident of Los Angeles, had been asked by his old chum, Prince Charles, to accompany him on the museum tour, and that is how I found myself in this position, quite by accident. I was simply in the wrong place at the right time.

When I finally found my voice, I stammered something I am sure made no sense at all but had the presence of mind to say something about Hockney's work, with which I am very familiar.

This seemed to put him at ease, and I found myself making polite chitchat with one of the art world's biggest stars.

By this time, there was a phalanx of police and museum security people all around us, not to mention paparazzi and cameras.

I should have been escorted from the premises, but my proximity to Hockney had apparently convinced the powers that be that I was with him and did indeed belong there. He certainly thought I did.

Things came to a screeching halt when he asked me, "How long have you known the prince?"

Realizing that I was about to be discovered, and with visions of an unwanted visit to the interior of a jail cell, I was saved by a large black limousine flying the colors of the House of Windsor as it glided up to the curb in front of us.

In the rush of the crowd, Hockney stepped forward toward the car while I quickly scampered backward, disappearing into the general mob scene.

That night on the evening news I watched Hockney greeting Prince Charles. In the background, there was one very familiar figure walking the other way.

Since then, I have often wondered if I had the courage to stand my ground, would I have met the future king of Britain or gone to jail as a stalker?

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