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Having a Merrie Time in England : For U.S. Tourists, Prince's Wedding Is a Royal Treat

July 23, 1986|TIA GINDICK

LONDON — New Yorkers Nancy and Jerry Reisman were exuberant. They'd been at Windsor Castle Monday and while queuing up for their tour they saw NBC--no, maybe it was CBS--setting up. The flag was flying above the castle, which means the queen was in residence. When they came out from their tour, there must have been a thousand people backed against the wall looking up at the balcony. Heck, they'd missed the queen.

But wait, preceded by security police, it's Princess Diana. She's walking right through this parting of the crowd, waving, smiling. Really friendly, Nancy Reisman said. Then, who'd have believed it, there are Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, the bridal couple themselves. And then, the queen--she's there too, moving through the crowd, shaking hands.

By this time, Jerry Reisman had made his way to the front and "I shook her hand too."

"Then someone turned to us," Nancy Reisman said, "and said, 'Isn't it incredible. They're really good for doubles.' "

The Reismans roared with laughter. They should have known, she said: "The queen was wearing an awful lot of makeup."

"But I've got the whole thing on film," Jerry Reisman added, and "when we get home, why, I'm going to show it and not tell anybody."

But the Reismans are missing the big event today. They had to get back to New York on Tuesday for visiting day at their children's summer camp.

"You've got to have your priorities," Nancy Reisman said. "Princess Di would do the same thing."

That's probably as close as almost any American will get to the Royal Family this week. True, Nancy Reagan is in London specifically for the wedding at Westminster Abbey today. And a native Californian, Arleen Auger, who was graduated from Cal State Long Beach, before she left the United States to pursue a musical career in Europe in 1967, will be one of two soloists in the ceremony. However, the rest of America will undoubtedly be best represented on the streets.

The fact of the matter is the royal wedding guest list is as top secret as the design of Fergie's wedding dress. All Buckingham Palace will say is that the British Royal Family and the other European royal families have been invited. The U.S. Embassy would confirm that Ambassador Charles H. Price was attending, but its press office was not so sure about his wife. Movie stars, celebrities, any other Americans at all? The Usual Sources (florist, publicist, restaurateurs) knew of no one--including themselves--going to the wedding. "I don't think they (the bridal couple) actually know any Americans, do they?" one veteran American expatriate said. "And, of course, it's not like the last time--when Charles and Diana were married. What is Andrew? Fourth in line to the throne? That doesn't have the same cachet."

Not that Americans don't care. A royal wedding is great fun and as restaurateur Bob Payton observed, "Nobody does it better than the British." Payton is a transplanted Chicagoan whose five very un-American restaurants have been so successful here that he was the Token American on the July 4 edition of Great Britain's version of "Good Morning America." His restaurants have nothing special planned. "Our next big hoopla will be for the Chicago Bears-Dallas Cowboys game. They're our royalty." But Payton nevertheless plans to be on the Mall watching the Royal Procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey--along with some expected half a million tourists.

(The real British, according to Melinda Saeed, who handles public relations for the restaurant Tony Roma's in London, watch royal events on television.)

It would appear that a royal wedding is simply an extra special tourist attraction. Great fun if you happen to be here and of course you want to be a part of the festivities, joining the throng to the procession, tippling a few beers in a pub afterward. Except, of course, if it rains. Then, said Joseph Wright of Northboro, Mass., who was standing in line for lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe with his wife, Hilary, "we'll watch it in our hotel room."

"I think the Royal Family is a big attraction to visiting London," said Wayne Wright (no relation) of Laguna Hills, Calif. "I'm of British heritage so maybe it's more meaningful to me. But probably most Americans see it as kind of a fun thing, pomp and circumstance, all that." President of a firm that packages professional merchandise and travel incentive programs, Wright had packaged a 12-day tour for the 50 top American dealers of Isuzu cars and had it culminating in London during Royal Wedding Week. He'd even pulled it off so the group could attend their own royal wedding on Monday: Jim Ray, an Isuzu dealer from Fayetteville, Ark., to Carol Kumps, a travel agent from Dallas, Tex.

The Ray-Kumps wedding was the real thing planned as a surprise event during a frantic six weeks before the tour and carried off in medieval dress during a banquet at the Great Foster's Inn, a renovated manor house in Egham, a suburb of London near Windsor.

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