Hillary Atkin

Royal Couple Melt a Royal Awkward Moment at the Variety Venture Capital and New Media Summit

Jul 12, 2011

It was wall-to-wall coverage on Los Angeles local news stations for the 48 hours between Friday and Sunday afternoon that William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, traversed Southern California from Skid Row to Santa Barbara, leaving a trail of bedazzlement in their wake.

Just think, if it weren’t for the royal couple taking the Southland by storm, the news hole would have been filled with further hype about the dreaded Carmageddon. So thank you, Wills and Kate, for the lovely diversion that provided numerous photo opps and breathless coverage.

The royal spell took hold immediately when the couple touched down at LAX from their nine-day visit to Canada and were greeted by Gov. and Mrs. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa before a phalanx of news crews.

Next stop, Beverly Hills. They were taken directly to a business conference highlighting U.S.-U.K. opportunities and investments.

It only took a few moments in the presence of royalty to turn a room full of high-level entertainment executives, new media visionaries and venture capitalists into a giddy group falling all over themselves, taking photos and video of William and Catherine.

One observer likened the scene at the Variety Venture Capital and New Media Summit at the Beverly Hilton to an audience of young girls at a Justin Bieber concert — without the screaming.

Conference attendees and panel participants, who included heavy hitters like Shari Redstone, director Brett Ratner and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, had been warned that the bathrooms and the patio at the hotel would be locked down beginning at 3 p.m. and that anyone who left the room would not be able to re-enter.

That edict made for rapt attention to the panel discussions preceding the royal visit, “Mega-trends: Finding Opportunity in Today’s Major Societal Movements” and “Masters of Social Media,” in which actress Dana Delany confessed she didn’t know what a VC was — and how she’s come to love Twitter.

The grand entrance of William and Catherine came smack in the middle of a discussion on the benefits of London’s Tech City, an area housing a slew of technology companies and startups, which panelists talked up as the nascent British would-be competitor to Silicon Valley.

It fell to panel moderator Chad Troutwine to introduce the royal newlyweds at about 5 p.m. The crowd immediately jumped to its feet as the world’s most-watched couple — even more striking in real life — took their seats on stage with CEOs of several mainly U.K.-based tech companies.

The situation was a bit awkward as their royal highnesses were left entirely out of the conversation, which continued for the next 15 minutes, and were not miked — although hand microphones were available. At the end, Troutwine asked whether any of the panelists had closing comments. Catherine nudged William’s arm, but he looked at her and shook his head. As we said, a-w-k-w-a-r-d.

It was then announced that everyone should stay in their seats as the Duke and Duchess made the rounds to several exhibiting companies that had booths set up on the perimeter of the ballroom, including Hewlett Packard and Qualcomm, which was showcasing its augmented reality technology that overlays a video or game over a photograph viewed through a smartphone. In this case, the example used was a photo of the royal wedding party.

As the couple chatted it up with the vendors, accompanied not by Secret Service but by security from the State Department and Beverly Hills PD, the place turned into a papfest. People became giddy with excitement, being just a few feet away from the royals, close enough to see the full-length back zipper on Kate’s asymmetrical lavender dress and examine her cream-colored stilettos, and to notice the lining in the back of William’s double-vented suit was showing.

Seasoned executives — male and female — stood on chairs to get better shots in the crowd. People even asked others to take shots of them with the royals in the background, behavior most often seen at a rock concert. It was insanity, without the noise — but with all the heat and light that the heirs to the British throne brought to town.

Whisked out of the hotel, they headed to their next event, at the British consul general’s home in Hancock Park, where they also bunked for the visit. Kate changed into a green silk dress by American designer Diane von Furstenberg, knowing full well that every outfit she wore would be intensely scrutinized by the world press.

There was nary a false step — wardrobe-wise or otherwise — as the couple traversed Southern California, delivering good cheer and raising millions of dollars in several charitable endeavors, including the $4,000-a-pop Santa Barbara polo match, where, true to the storybook nature of the entire endeavor, Prince William’s team won the Tiffany trophy, led by his four goals.

The future king of England showed his sense of humor at the star-studded, black tie — although no one told J.Lo not to wear that green sequined cut-out disaster of a dress — Brits to Watch BAFTA event at downtown L.A.’s Belasco Theater. William opened his speech by thanking Colin Firth for giving him the line “I have a voice” and then went on to call for lights, camera, action as stars including Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand and Jennifer Garner jockeyed for royal attention.

The lucky few who got some one-on-one attention were raving about it the next day. In what appeared to be the only unplanned aspect of the trip, William and Catherine personally greeted a crowd of well-wishers who had waited outside the Hancock Park residence for a glimpse of them. One man in the crowd asked the prince, "Being that it’s Southern California, has anyone yet called you ‘dude’?" “Not yet,” he answered. One woman who had a personal encounter with the royals told TV crews that it was like they had sprinkled magic fairy dust and no one would ever be the same.

Certainly the children at the Skid Row area visual arts school they visited felt the same way, as did the veterans and their families whose welfare the couple championed at a job fair at Sony Pictures Studios, where Wills got more laughs by referring to brother Harry as a low-flying Apache pilot.

Their final appealing flourish to cap off the whirlwind weekend was flying home to London commercial, aboard British Airways, after charming nearly the entire North American continent in the course of their travels.#

One Comment

  1. I agree 100%. Whoever was organizing their trip was using them for the wow-value and not for any reason and valid reason. Why were they up there if you didn’t want them speaking and really it should have only been the Duke but they took advantage of the Duchess. It was in very poor taste for sure.

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