Though he is officially Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, the Viscount Althorp, Princess Di’s younger brother is known to the British public by another title—Champagne Charlie. The fun-loving blue blood is a connoisseur of parties, and he threw a corker in London to celebrate his 21st birthday. The $120,000 bash (which came out of Charlie’s inheritance) was held at the Spencer family’s in-town home, a 60-room, 18th-century mansion conservatively valued at $12 million, which was stocked for Charlie’s coming of age with crates of food and 1,000 bottles of the host’s trademark bubbly.
The London tabloids geared up to cover the festivities in gleeful anticipation. At his 20th birthday celebration some of Charlie’s high-spirited friends brawled with a well-known disc jockey in a chic London eatery. There were no such shenanigans this time. The only suspense surrounded the principal guests, Charlie’s big sister and her king-to-be. The royal couple had been touring the site of the tragic soccer stadium fire in Bradford. Bad weather had grounded their plane, so Charles and Di boarded a train to get to the party, startling the passengers who rode in the first-class car. The rest of the 320 guests were an upper-crust assemblage of minor royals, politicians and aristocrats, leavened by some raffish types from stage, fashion and pop music circles. When Charles took to the dance floor with Cleo Rocos, 28, a TV personality, gay singer Bradley Cornwallis-White saw his chance. He abandoned his two transvestite companions, Ruby and Ebony, and whisked Di away for a fast whirl. “We can’t have Di on her own,” he explained later. “It was amazing, fabulous. It was my birthday too, and to dance with the Princess was the best present I’ve ever had.” The entertainment included a risqué routine by four skimpily clad dancers, which had Di covering her eyes in mock horror and declaring, “This looks as if it were for men only.” The evening’s highlight was a high-tech version of Happy Birthday by American singer Phyllis Nelson over a live satellite hookup from Los Angeles. Party survivors breakfasted at 4 a.m., and the sun was well up when a still chirpy Champagne Charlie delivered his exit line, “It’s been a wonderful night, and it’s a wonderful morning.”