In their visit to southern California this weekend, young royals Will and Kate partied with British film and TV actors, spent the night with a British diplomat, and played British-style polo on behalf of a charity devoted to the prince. That’s pretty much it, other than a quick visit to an arts school for low-income kids and to a jobs fair for veterans on Sunday before heading out of town.
In case that itinerary leaves any doubt, the maiden voyage of these young Brits to their nation’s largest former colony is focusing “on supporting British interest in California through the prism of their own interests,” according to a release from St. James’s Palace.
In their efforts to support “British interest,” they visited a Consular-General reception “on behalf of United Kingdom Trade and Investment,” a black-tie dinner for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and a polo match to benefit the American Friends of the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry.
Clearly, these newly-minted monarchs-in-waiting feel the breath of the British taxpayer on their young necks and desire to set a new standard of serious purpose for their royal existence. According to a palace spokesman quoted in the Huffington Post, "The couple view this as a working visit, not as an opportunity for them to meet celebrities."
Really? Humble, they may be, but Barbra Streisand and Tom Hanks, guests for the Saturday soiree, not celebs? But the real question is, does this British-first-and last approach really serve your best interests?
Let’s just call this the “When in Rome…” memo to Will and Kate.
No doubt, spontaneous hanging with the locals would be impossible, now, and probably forever. Security around the weekend residence is at a new high, with law enforcement champing at the bit to test three new untried anti-paparazzi laws enacted over the last few years. It’s hard to imagine how anything spontaneous could occur in this vise of protection. Nobody needs yet another faux-reality show, à la “Will and Kate plus 8 …million Angelenos.”
So how about a shift in perspective?
“They are going to see Hollywood’s glitzy parts and a polo match, which is fun, but they are not going to see the real L.A.,” says Janet Elliott, executive director of International Visitors Council of Los Angeles, a non-partisan, non-profit group which tries to increase international understanding and cooperation by arranging home visits for traveling leaders.
In her fantasy, William and Kate “leave their royal clothes in the closet and go have dinner with another young, hip couple just like them.”
Not bloody likely, given the security demands of the young couple. Nonetheless, she says, listen to what a recent couple wrote her after participating in just such an exchange. “The home visit you arranged helped me realize that the stereotypes we all have about Los Angelenos as shallow, glib people are false. They were the most kind and informative people we met.”
The royal couple might actually forward their own interests by appearing more interested in the destination than their own interests. Interestingly enough.
Certainly, YouTube is jammed with politicians at backyard barbecues trying to look fascinated with the locals – so sincerity is key. And of course, given the transient nature of the Golden State’s population, it may be hard to discern who is a true local. It may be even harder to assess who is a genuine regular guy – the aspirational sub-culture in this town is pretty pervasive. As comedian Jay Leno has noted, ask anyone at random in LA, “How’s your screenplay coming along?” and you will get a progress report. Maybe a “Regular Joe” reality show could flush out the real thing?
However, as your fishbowl lifestyle is the biggest obstacle to going local, spontaneous mingling with average folks would have to be, well, carefully planned. (Try, “Sunday, 2:00 p.m. to 2:07 p.m. – hang with the natives...”)
But if putting down the Union Jack just seems too hard, maybe some halfway ground is in order. At the 30-year-old British pub in Hollywood, Cat and Fiddle Manager Ashlee Gardner says such British “royalty” as Sir Paul McCartney have been known to come hang out, “with plenty of locals.” It’s not exactly a sleepover, but if it’s a little bit of home, it’s at least a tad more of Rome.