July 24, 1989 12:00 PM

There was plenty for an idle visitor to do last weekend under the Matisse-blue skies of Monaco, where a celebrity tennis tournament was among the events being held to celebrate the 40th year of Prince Rainier’s reign and to benefit the late Princess Grace’s charities. One could indulge in some high-priced noshing, paying $250 for a lunch for two at the Hotel de Paris or blowing $15 on a Coke at Jimmy’z. Or one could indulge in celeb watching, eyeing such guests as Kirk Cameron, Susan Ruttan, Chuck Norris and French Open tennis champions Michael Chang and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. But for many present, the pastime of choice was gossip and speculation, and there were two hot topics up for discussion. The first: When is the 66-year-old Rainier going to abdicate in favor of Albert, 31?

For once, Rainier had a direct answer. “We’re doing it all gradually,” the Prince said in an exclusive interview. “He’s working with me. He attends all the meetings with me. We will decide when he is ready,” added the Prince, looking trimmer than at any time since the death of his wife almost seven years ago.

“I think it will not be too many years before he retires,” said Albert “He’s stepping back, little by little. He has plenty to do. We have a farm nearby with a thousand fruit trees, which he enjoys very much.”

Okay, one matter settled Now for the other piece of pressing principality business. When will Rainier accept Stephanie’s boyfriend, Ron Bloom, the Los Angeleno who’s also producing her next record album? “Stephanie has a great voice, great style,” said the ponytailed Bloom, 38, whose production credits are indiscernible. In a Friday night snub, Bloom was conspicuously not invited to the black-tie gala honoring Rainier at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club. Stephanie went solo; so did her sister, Caroline, whose husband, Stefano Casiraghi, was AWOL Why isn’t Rainier embracing Bloom with open arms? Perhaps the Prince was less than pleased by recent tabloid photos showing Stephanie and Ron in a provocative clinch.

But just because Rainier gave Bloom a cold shoulder doesn’t mean he disapproves of Stephanie’s singing career. “It depends on how she sounds,” said a cautious Rainier. “She played a tape for me of one song. It’s hard to tell from one tape. It all depends upon how good she is.” Of course, given Stephanie’s mercurial romantic past (Paul Belmondo, Rob Lowe and L.A. club owner Mario Oliver), by the time the album comes out, the Bloom may be off the rose.

—Doris Bacon in Monaco

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