By the time it was over, a rubber plant had been knocked into someone’s soup, a few dishes had been broken, and Tony Blackburn’s pride was bruised. Blackburn, 41, a London disc jockey, had been eating at La Paesana, a small restaurant in the Kensington section, when Princess Di’s younger brother, Viscount Althorp—”Charlie” to his friends—and some chums came to celebrate the Viscount’s birthday. One thing led to another, and before long the friends—Charlie not among them—decided they wanted to “debag” Blackburn, debag being British slang for taking his pants off. The owner and his waiters intervened, but the London tabloids labeled young Althorp a high-class hooligan. Blackburn got his revenge on the air. “Althorp did come up to me and apologize for his friends’ behavior,” he sniffed, “but honestly I thought the affair was quite disgusting. Here we had the brother-in-law of our next king and his chums acting like spoiled children. And I told them just that.” Rejoined the unrepentant Althorp: “You can say he hasn’t got a great following among my friends—he’s a bit of a fading star, isn’t he?”
The dustup was only the latest that has plagued 20-year-old Charlie. Last September he was banned from an Oxford pub after refusing to pay for a bottle of champagne which later proved not to be his. In June, Charlie and a 17-year-old female companion were pinched for speeding near the family estate in Northhampton. Althorp said that he was upset and driving “a little foolishly” because he had been attacked by some thugs on a bus after he passed them on a highway, a story the police confirmed. And just four days before the ruckus with the deejay, Charlie took Di, to whom he is close, to lunch at the same restaurant—and blew his top when a photographer tried to snap their picture. “I’m a young person entitled to enjoy myself like anyone else,” he said later.
The youngest of four children (Di is the third), and heir to the family’s 16,000-acre holdings, Charlie is the brainy one, having enrolled at Oxford this year. But he also enjoys the fast life, owning a $305,000 house in London and never hiding his fondness for the ladies. On a TV talk show, he allowed as how he might even indulge in a bit of “bodice-ripping” if the occasion arose. “Sometimes you know that if you are going to get anything, you are going to have to pounce,” he said, “and if a bodice gets in the way….” But he has also predicted he would marry young—”All my sisters did—it’s a family habit.”
At Oxford, Dr. Keith Griffin, president of Charlie’s Magdalen College, was satisfied with the Viscount’s explanation of the latest fracas. “If the stories are true, they are totally out of character,” he said. But Charlie’s next public appearance may prove just as controversial: He has a striking walk-on in the movie Another Country, a story about life in a private boys’ school. “I don’t even speak,” jokes Charlie. “I’m seen climbing out of the bath. But don’t worry, I’m wearing a towel—I think. It’s very dark.”