Rocker Rod Stewart showed up in a black business suit—a black leather business suit, that is—and a pair of gold Oxford shoes. So they wouldn’t clash, his American wife, Alana, came wearing a black lace and gold minidress. All of Hollywood desperately wanted to be among the lucky 500 to attend the 20th Century-Fox party for Queen Elizabeth at Stage 9 (until recently the set for M*A*S*H), and the Stewarts had made the list! Alana basked in the glow of it all, chatting with other Chosen People and obviously excited about meeting real honest-to-goodness royalty.
But then, an hour later when the guests were shown to their tables, Alana learned the bad news. Rod, who is a British subject, would sit at the Queen’s table while she, a common colonial, would have to settle for a more plebeian spot. Snarled Alana: “I think it stinks!”
And so it went the night Hollywood was humbled. News of Her Majesty’s visit set some of the town’s heavies to groveling like groupies. It began three weeks ago with the invitations, which immediately became a test of industry clout. “You wouldn’t believe the big names begging to get in here,” said a Fox official. “They’re going absolutely gaga.”
Those who couldn’t wangle an invite worried about their social status. Those who were chosen worried about clothes (“Nobody knew what to wear,” admitted Dinah Shore) and about protocol: Celebs bombarded British Vice-Consul John Houlton with questions about just how to act in the presence of the Queen.
At the party even Frank Sinatra, organizer of the night’s entertainment, was jittery. “Sinatra was like a go-fer, running around and worrying about a harp,” said bandleader Murray Korda. Meanwhile the guests arrived unfashionably early and behaved unusually amicably. “It’s an evening of tremendous goodwill,” said John Clark, Lynn Redgrave’s husband and manager. “We’ve run into three enemies already, and we got on wonderfully.”
After the cocktail reception, guests lined up around the red-carpeted entranceway for a front-row glimpse of the Queen’s arrival. At dinner, they virtually overlooked the opulent decor—a veritable Hanging Gardens of Babylon complete with cypress trees, cascading azaleas and a fountain from the movie Hello, Dolly!—and focused their attention on the royal dais. “It’s obvious,” observed superagent Jerry Weintraub, “that the Queen is one of the biggest stars in the world.”
So, after dining on chicken pot pie from Chasen’s, a grateful Hollywood treated Her Majesty to a display of local customs. Dionne Warwick asked the musical question, Do You Know the Way to San Jose? George Burns explained his Lolita Complex: “I liked them when I was 18, so why shouldn’t I like them now?” And Sinatra teamed up with Perry Como in what Blue Eyes termed “The Italian Hour,” a 20-minute medley that included A Foggy Day (in London town) and Strangers in the Night.
After the show Ed McMahon asked the crowd to remain seated until the royal party departed. That, however, was one bit of protocol that the natives couldn’t abide. Knowledgeable locals who hoped to avoid Hollywood’s unique traffic problem—valet jam—fled like felons. Others, some of whom whispered complaints that the show was too staid, stayed behind to continue the party and to do what they always do at Hollywood parties: gossip about each other. “Bette is pissed,” Stefanie Powers said of Bette Davis. “She didn’t get to meet the Queen and she had to stand for hours.”
Meanwhile those few celebs—most of them British—who actually met the guest of honor revealed that Her Majesty is, as the Beatles say, a pretty nice girl. Anthony Newley quoted the Queen: “She said, ‘It was a nice musical performance, it’s a shame we don’t have more time together.’ ” Newley confessed he was nonplussed. “I didn’t know what to say to her—’See you around?’ ”