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Never Touch a Prince

November 05, 1994|AL MARTINEZ

For a city that has survived earthquakes, fires, floods, riots, elections and celebrity trials, the visit of a prince was small potatoes.

I'm not saying that his royal highness, the Prince of Wales, is personally a small potato, only that the visit itself did not register seismically.

To the contrary, he has become a very big potato lately in the tawdry world of royal scandal, considering his public admission of sexual scampishness with Camilla Parker-Bowles.

I don't think anyone would have minded had he just kept quiet about his romantic misbehavior, since a regal roll in the hay has never brought down a kingdom.

But doing it is one thing, and pounding one's chest in public triumph is quite another. A man should never expect applause after sex, no matter how well it seems to have been accomplished.

Good taste, however, has never been a condition of royal achievement, so ultimately Bonnie Prince Charlie will be forgiven, though he seems somehow less bonnie than he was.

Regardless of that, there is a curiosity factor that surrounds the visit of a prince, so when he stopped by Crenshaw High the other day, I stopped by too.

My invitation was issued by the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a company that does free work for Food From the 'Hood, a student enterprise created to raise money for college scholarships.

I was as intrigued by lawyers doing something for nothing as I was by the royal visit itself, though their publicist's description of the heir to the British throne as "the Prince of Whales" was compelling.


The people at Crenshaw were as nervous as mice in a cathouse before the arrival of Chuck, as we say in Los Angeles. Seak Chan was no exception. She is a student owner of Food From the 'Hood and was one of those assigned to greet the prince at the gate.

A 17-year-old junior, she described the day as the most exciting time in her life. "It would be something to have the mayor visit," she said, "but that would be no big deal. I've met the mayor. I've never met the prince."

Representatives of the British Embassy, ever on the alert for possible Yankee crudities, advised the students on how to behave in the presence of the Prince of Whales, I mean Wales. Chan says the students were told not to touch him. It wasn't a question of getting warts or anything like that, she explained, it was just protocol. She shrugged. "I hadn't planned on touching him anyhow."

"We were also not to drag him along with us," she added in the serious way of the young working on their manners. "You know, like taking his arm and leading him or anything."

But perhaps the most stringent of regulations was that of not asking the prince any questions, a condition that seemed to prevail throughout his visit. Especially questions about you-know-who and you-know-what.

Chan's job, before Charlie's arrival, was to escort the media to an area isolated by the kind of yellow tape that keeps spectators away from a murder scene and keeps bodies in.

There were no rules for her to follow on showing reporters and photographers to the area. Shove 'em along, kick 'em along, roll 'em along, whatever it takes to get 'em there. Touch 'em all you want. They love it.


Prince Charles arrived on schedule, wearing the kind of vague smile that has come to characterize British royalty, as though they are wondering slightly just where they are and why.

Chan did her job as well as she could, but about halfway down a path leading to an area where the prince was to dine, the still photographers and television camera carriers swooped in like swallows returning to Capistrano.

Before you could say, "Off with their heads!" the Prince was surrounded by about 30 of them. They moved in a solid cluster all the way to the luncheon area. One photographer, walking backward, fell and disappeared under their feet, never to be seen again.

To the best of my knowledge, however, not one of them actually touched the prince or attempted to drag him along or ask him a question. It is a new generation of journalists. In the old days, one of them surely would have shouted, "Hey, Prince, you still sleeping with Camilla?"

But I am not here to darken the memory of Charles' otherwise pleasant visit, however lackluster it might have seemed to those of us accustomed to more raucous occasions.

A balding, middle-aged man rode into town on a rather lame horse, smiled blandly, waved and was gone, and that was that. How nice. Who's next?

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