July 07, 2003 12:00 PM

The birthday boy dressed as an African tribesman. His dad came in a flowing striped caftan. Heck, even Granny took a (short) walk on the wild side, adding feathers and beads to her otherwise prim lilac gown. At Prince William‘s African-themed 21st-birthday bash at Windsor Castle June 21, everyone from royals to rowdy college pals seemed primed to party. The extravaganza, held in grand chambers decorated with animal trophies from royal safaris past, capped a flurry of prebirthday activities. There was a visit to Wales (“He is a pishin—that’s Welsh for stunner,” said 11-year-old Elen Thomas) and a frank interview with Britain’s Press Association, in which William declared himself decidedly single: “I’ve never been aware of anyone chasing me,” he said, “but if there were, could they please leave their telephone number?”

Storming the dance floor with some of the 320 invitees, the man of the hour “had a huge smile on his face throughout the evening,” says a guest. Even a gate-crasher who came dressed as Osama bin Laden in drag couldn’t dampen the mood when he interrupted William in the middle of a toast to perform a bizarre tribute of his own. “I didn’t know my brother could do an accent like that!” joked the prince after the man was hustled off by security. And though he failed to get the motorcycle he’d hoped for—Dad gave him a polo pony worth as much as $150,000 instead—the future king clearly enjoyed himself. The proof? He didn’t pack it in until 5 a.m.

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