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Hollywood, welcome to the prism.
According to St. James’s Palace (the location of the British royal family’s Household Office that doubles as PR machine), the visit of Prince William and Kate Middleton to Los Angeles is to “support the interests of the United Kingdom through the prism of the royal couple’s interests.”
And on Saturday night, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were interested in show biz. They came to the inaugural black-tie “BAFTA Brits to Watch” event at downtown L.A.’s Belasco Theater. The royal support was to “spotlight the depth and range of young British talent” with 42 youthful creatives chosen to attend. (Left unsaid was that the whole tour is really about the royal brand, The Family.)
Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer said he has a warm spot for the British Royals because of “the historical continuity and the color of life that makes democracy stimulating and a little less drab.”
However, if this was unknown UK talents’ glorious moment in the limelight, they picked the wrong crowd to share it with. Who noticed a few dozen anonymous Brits on a red carpet with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Tom Hanks with Rita Wilson, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lopez?
But Peter Chernin said he thought there was “something appropriate about the next generation of royals recognizing the next generation of talent.”
The industry-ites chosen to sit at the head table included Fox’s Tom Rothman (“The only place I’m royal is in Baltimore”), Kidman, Nigel Lythgoe, Warner’s Bruce Rosenblum, Streisand and James Brolin, Disney’s Rich Ross and Anne Sweeney, and Universal’s British-born Donna Langley.
“My parents are quite proud,” said Langley. “Now if I can just not make a fool of myself and use the right knife, fork and side plate.”
They dined on Patina’s filet of beef with creamed leeks and pickled spring garlic washed down with Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon blanc and merlot. Chef Joachim Splichal said the culinary challenge was the Eton Mess dessert (a traditional treat at Wimbledon) made with strawberries and cream that “looks like a mess, but the mess has to be perfect.”
Among the 280 guests were Harvey Weinstein, who said he’s glad Prince William has chosen to be president of BAFTA and has found the couple “down to earth”; Judd Apatow, who said he just likes being at events “that are a strange collection of people”; and CBS’ Les Moonves who said the evening stands out because “it’s not an award show or a premiere – it’s something special and elegant.”
Also on hand were Starz’ Chris Albrecht, Jason Bateman, Brett Ratner, Paul Rudd, Anna Kournikova, Jennifer Garner, Jack Black, Adam Fogelson, Don Cheadle, Lionsgate’s Joe Drake and Kevin Beggs; Fox’s Jim Gianopulous, Showtime’s Matt Blank, HBO’s Richard Plepler and Michael Lombardo; Mary-Louise Parker and Dana Delany who said what the royals have got “is the whole Cinderella thing. That being a commoner you could have a shot at it.”
The last person to arrive just minutes before the royals was, appropriately enough, Captain America himself, Chris Evans.
Before the evening began, most of the Hollywood crowd milled around in the Belasco’s entryway and did what they always do – schmooze. Most had arrived an hour before the royals did at 8:02 pm.
That was the big moment when a black Range Rover disgorged the Duke and Duchess. And for something a lot of waiting had lead up to, it was surprisingly low key.
About 300 fans – if you’d call them that – cheered from across the street. There were a few dozen photogs and news crews, but the flashes going off didn’t have the exploding supernova intensity of the Oscars. It was actually quite quiet.
The couple just walked down the middle of the carpet (unlike movie stars they’re taller than you’d expect); no one in the press called out questions; they strode up to a group of about 30 carefully chosen commoners (lots of little girls); shook hands and made friendly small-talk; then turned and walked into the theater.
Photographers said the money shot for them would have been the couple interacting with one of the celebs. They ranked it Kidman, JLo and Streisand in that order of value. They didn’t get it on the carpet.
The event was part of what was, for the Belasco, a pretty good weekend. One of downtown’s historic theaters at 11th and Hill, it was built in 1926 (by oil tycoon Edward Doheny); went into decline and then hibernation; and recently reopened after a $12 million renovation. It’s the building that has the famous neon sign that says Prayer Changes Things on its side. Though the first “R” in prayer in now missing.
Friday night it was home to DJ Felli Fel from Power 106 Radio with the Sexy GoGo’s who include Nikki Young, Nikki Rockstar, Tanya Love and Sophia Gamboa. An added attraction was the $99 Grey Goose special before 10:30pm. Promoters say that for the last four Fridays they’ve had an over 1,500 strong crowd.
Unfortunately for the Belasco, neither the royals nor DJ Felli are returning anytime soon.
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