Being a king or a queen is a pretty tough job--but there are also some great perks.
Being royal means you get very spiffy treatment--although people who like you keep saying just how regular and down-to-earth you are.
Los Angeles is a city that goes gaga not just over the opening of a movie but also the opening of a store, perhaps even the opening of a can. So when real royalty gets here, and the world of dynasties is opened up, egalitarianism gets edged out of sight.
A good case would be the spectacular dinner for King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain given by His Entrepreneurial Excellency Armand and Frances Hammer, along with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the trustees of the County Museum of Art in the Times Mirror Court Thursday night. It was a fit-for-a-royal-personage party--Jeff's Florists created rose trees that soared above the tables, echoed by a bank of roses at the head table, and the rose lame tableclothes.
A Kingly Toast
Guests had been warned to be on time--Wilshire Boulevard had been closed. Last-minute preparations included checking that the microphone for the king's toast was in front of his dinner plate. "The king does not have to get up to make his toast," county Chief of Protocol Sandra Ausman explained, even though he had been standing to salute his various guests during two days of being honored around the city. (Standing up is considered a regular-guy kind of thing to do.)
The guest list of 200-plus was a selection of elected officials, museum trustees and friends of the Hammers. Some people even fit into a couple of categories.
Milling around were just-turned-50 Jerry Weintraub with his wife, Jane, chatting it up with Bram and Elaine Goldsmith.
If you are not automatically a royal, perhaps a great job for meeting such famous types is that of a county supervisor, like Mike Antonovich. Back from a White House meeting the day before, Antonovich has met the Pope, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip--all proving he had indeed come a very long way from his Huntington Park birthplace.
Those lucky enough to have the experience related the one-on-one conversations they had had with the royals earlier in the visit. Caroline Ahmanson called Queen Sofia "very easy to talk with . . . very elegant in a very natural way." Alana Ladd Jackson said that the queen had recognized her, saying "You look just like your father," even though they hadn't met for 20-some years. Both the king and queen told her, "We were great fans of your father," Jackson said.
Hammer himself, as usual, had the best anecdote about chatting with the king. In the men's room before the luncheon earlier in the day, Hammer ran into the king, who had on his person the very same jade lucky piece Hammer had given him several years before. A thoughtful, regular person, that king. (That chance encounter couldn't have happened at the museum, since two rest rooms were ruled for royals only--no hoi polloi allowed, even of the rich and famous varity.)
Diane Glazer, who speaks Spanish fluently, said the king had told her about his visit earlier that day to the Sephardic Temple, calling it the most moving experience of his trip. According to Glazer, "He apologized about what they (Spain) did to the Jews in the Inquisition."
The royals arrived, making their way down the wide red carpet, past the violinists, then were whisked past the gathered guests to the inside of the museum, there to be presented to a receiving line of about 30 people and to have a quick tour of some exhibits. A few photographers were allowed in with the small groups of dignitaries, and the king once stopped the casual procession so that a photographer could snap a shot of him with City Atty. James Hahn and his wife, Monica.
A lot of royal stuff gets lost in the translation, as when former foreign correspondent Luther Whittington asked the king in Spanish how he had reacted to the morning's earthquake. Whittington got the reply, "Oh, it was so scary. I didn't want to open the curtains," at the Century Towers, where the king and queen were apparently still in bed. When the king was questioned about the earthquake in English, he shrugged it off, saying his whole visit was "wonderful."
Hammer pointed out some of his donations to the museum, including a selection of pottery that William Randolph Hearst had purchased but never uncrated. Those kinds of finds, Antonovich quipped, "would make a wonderful yard sale." The king, busy meeting supervisors, also got a quick course in American politics from Supervisor Deane Dana, who explained, "It takes three people to say 'yes,' " and then pointed to his fellow supervisor, Pete Schabarum, adding, "and we're two of them."
Another political observation came from former Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Sr., who noted that he personally liked being governor, because "we have more people in California than they have in Spain."