YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Duchess of York Plugs and Uncorks

May 19, 1997|ANN CONWAY

"What do I say, what do I do?" And Andrew, who was trained from birth, simply said, "You will learn."

--"My Story,"

Sarah, the

Duchess of York


There was no holding back the Duchess of York during her speech at a weekend dinner benefit.

She chided her audience for "chattering," praised them for being "unstuffy," then plugged her charities, a weight-loss program, a juice drink and her autobiography--in that order.

"I am so glad for the silence," Sarah Ferguson told the 500-strong crowd after she came on stage Friday at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel in Costa Mesa. "You know why?" Because, during the recital by 11-year-old pianist Jessika Van, "you were chattering so much," she said, rolling her blue saucer eyes. "I don't want to sound mean, but, I've got to say it. That little girl was a complete star!"

Ferguson, 37, also praised a performance by the Southern California Children's Chorus at the benefit for the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. "The only reason I joined a choir was to have a look at the boys at Wellington College," she quipped, adding, "come on, Orange County! Clap for these people! They worked so hard!"

No one seemed surprised at her outspokenness. After all, this was Fergie, the fiery redhead who married--and divorced--Prince Andrew, then bucked Buckingham Palace, "that cozy, sweet, little home with 600 rooms," as she calls it.

But some were miffed. Observed one mainstay of the charity circuit: "She was a guest; she shouldn't have been telling us how to behave."

Why had Fergie come? During a pre-dinner reception, she said, someone asked her if she had come to Orange County for the money (she was paid about $35,000 for her appearance on behalf of the philharmonic's Big Canyon/Spyglass Hill committee, said an insider).

"I'd hardly leave my two children in Great Britain on a Friday night" just for the money, said Ferguson, who was dressed in a simple black suit, her ruby engagement ring still gleaming on her left hand.

No, she was also here to help the society raise funds for its youth education programs. "We need to bring hope and inspiration to children," she said.

"I want to talk to you about teamwork and friendship," she added. "I believe, from what I've seen here tonight, you're about that. You're so unstuffy!"

Then, solemnly, the Duchess spoke about Children in Crisis, a charity she founded in 1993 to help relieve the suffering of children around the world. One of its accomplishments: the establishment of a mountain haven in Poland for children with cancer and respiratory ailments.

In 1994, she founded Chances for Children in the United States. So far, the charity has funded a $25,000 operation for a 14-year-old girl blinded by a brain tumor and built a protected outdoor space for a survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing disaster. The trauma to the boy's skin was so severe he was not permitted to play in the sunshine, she explained. "So we built him a little outdoor run."

Before inviting questions, Fergie anticipated a few.

Everybody asks, "Are you going to reconcile with your husband?" she said. "The answer to that is, Andrew and I believe in joint parenting. Why should you take your marriage problems out on your children?

"At one stage you totally loved each other and had two beautiful girls. . . . Andrew and I are so proud. . . . We do live in the same house [Sunninghill Park, the modern home they built near Windsor], and we are the best of friends.

"I know you'd all love to see us together again, but who knows? At the moment, Andrew and I couldn't get on better. We're brilliant, and we do love each other."

Other takes:

* On her being a working member of the Royal Family: "Should I be doing commercial work? Well, let me tell you here and now, I'm very proud of the fact that I'm working, because I've got to work. But I'm doing things I like to do. What better thing to do than to work hard? And I get paid very well, thank you very much."

* Commercials for Weight Watchers and Ocean Spray: "I have a weight problem. Let me tell you, on a daily basis, I have a weight problem. And, I like cranberry juice!"

* The monarchy: "I simply wouldn't dream of being so arrogant to stand up here and discuss that subject."

In closing, the Duchess read the last paragraph from her book ($24, Simon & Schuster): "But today I can weather the scrutiny, take it or leave it as I please. I have something larger and more lasting than the latest three-column spread. I am my own woman now, ready to go forward.

"I have my life back, and I will not let go of it. And I just might live rather happily ever after."


In tune: He sang. He danced. And he talked about South Coast Plaza.

"I came in from New York last night," said Tommy Tune, headliner at Saturday's gala benefit for the Pacific Symphony. Saturday, he rehearsed, he said. "And I didn't get to go to South Coast Plaza." He planned to go Sunday.

"Does anybody here know what time it opens? Somebody here, who owns it, might know," he deadpanned.

Los Angeles Times Articles