The 'ultimate pay-per-view': How Hollywood's mega rich are spending vast sums on access to William and Kate
Players in Saturday's charity polo match will be forking out $60,000 for the privilege, and a table at BAFTA's black tie do will cost $16,000. And that's small fry compared with the expected charity donations...
By Tom Leonard
Last updated at 1:19 PM on 8th July 2011
Perched on a wooded ridge up in Beverly Hills, the imposing 10,000 sq ft mansion of billionaire Hollywood producer and New York Giants football team owner Steve Tisch offers stunning views across Los Angeles and out to the Pacific.
But it’s doubtful anyone will spare the vista a second glance when 40 or so guests gather at the house for Sunday brunch at the weekend.
They aren’t there, donating six figure sums for the UK conservation charity Tusk Trust, just for pretty views of the sea. Instead, they will be there for an altogether more prized sight – Prince William and his new wife, close-up and hopefully personal.
Living up to expectations: For image-obsessed Hollywood, it's not difficult to see the irresistible appeal of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
The polo match where you have to stump up £60,000 to cross mallets with a prince, the sell-out BAFTA dinner where Hollywood bigwigs willing to help young British hopefuls will have to pay for the honour and the brunch to help African wildlife where you’ll be the party pooper if you don’t leave an elephant-stopping cheque at the door – welcome to Friday’s three-day royal visit to California, the most audacious royal swoop on American wallets since George III taxed their tea.
Nobody, Mark Twain once witheringly observed, can get more ‘satisfaction out of crawling on his belly’ before royalty than an American.
That may be somewhat harsh but the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have certainly proved that nobody else is quite so willing to dig deep into their pocket for that privilege.
The trip is intended to ‘support the interests of the United Kingdom through the prism of the royal couple’s interests’, says St James’s Palace.
It is being paid for by the Foreign Office, a fact which surely puts paid to the rumours that the couple will stay in the £6,683 a night presidential suite of the Beverly Hills Hotel. A rather less luxurious billet in the official residence of the British Consul-General’s residence in the leafy west LA neighbourhood of Hancock Park beckons.
Royal welcome: A store in Los Angeles is celebrating the impending arrival of the Duke and Duchess with a special window display
Still, they’ll get more than enough glitz and it will be quite a change from their preceding nine-day tour of Canada when the couple will savour the simple, outdoorsy delights of street hockey, wagon racing, lake canoeing and local delicacies such as crisps dipped in chocolate.
America’s ‘Golden State’ will allow Britain’s golden couple to top up their tans, raise their culinary horizons a little and meet the sort of people who wouldn’t know one end of a wagon from the other.
The city that defines the worst excesses of celebrity obsession is clamouring for a piece of the newest superstar couple. Local paparazzi report unheard-of levels of pressure from police not to harass the couple.
'You’d think we’re working in Red China, not America!' said one.
For image-obsessed Hollywood, it’s not difficult to see the irresistible appeal of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge: here is a couple who live up to what this town thinks royalty should be – young, incredibly glamorous and with dazzling teeth.
Terminated: Arnold Schwarzenegger had purportedly been angling for a private audience with the couple before the scandal over his love child
Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had purportedly been angling for a private audience with the couple until the scandal over his love child by one of his staff terminated that little gathering.
The lists of who’s coming to what are being kept like state secrets but you can be sure there are scores more ‘A++’ listers hankering to step into the breach and meet what a local publicist called 'simply the hottest item in the world'.
And the attraction is mutual. With perfect timing, just a few months after 23million Americans stumbled out of bed at some ungodly hour to watch their wedding, the Royal couple is heading to the state with an economy bigger than India’s to make some serious money.
He and his wife might much rather be back at their cottage in Anglesey rather than making small talk with plastic cup moguls, but mixing it up with the mega rich seems to be the future of palace philanthropy.
It’s a rather depressing image of HRHs adrift in a sea of sponsors’ logos, look-at-me millionaire philanthropists and a general impression that money means access.
Prince William and Prince Harry have military careers and tapping up the very rich for their favoured charities has the advantage of raising huge sums very quickly. But, rather like speed dating, although effective it means you’re bound to meet some desperate cases.
Inevitably, Palace officials prefer to emphasise how the visit will be about flying the flag for Britain and meeting ordinary people. And sure enough, the couple are fitting in a handful of what we should call ‘non-pay-to-view’ events, with their first appearance in California taking place shortly after they land there from Calgary, Canada next Friday afternoon.
Guests of honour: The Royal couple are believed to be staying at Hancock Park House, the residence of the British Consul-General, while in LA
First up is a somewhat unglamorous sounding technology conference in support of UK trade and investment, followed by a 'working reception' at the British Consul-General's residence in Los Angeles at which the Duke and Duchess will meet local politicans, 'friends of the UK' in California and important figures in philanthropy, business and the creative industries such as film and TV.
Ask anyone involved about the events when people will have to pay to meet the Duke and Duchess, however, and the silence is excruciating.
What we do know is that the Duke and Duchess's first exposure to the wonderful world of multi-millionaire southern California will be a charity polo tournament the next day, Saturday, at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racket Club just up the coast from Los Angeles.
The ground - imported Bermudan grass ground scrupulously trimmed to 7/16 of an inch - will reportedly be graced on the day by those noted polo lovers David Beckham, Oprah Winfrey and Sylvester Stallone.
The formula is predictable if crude - the closer you want to get to royalty, the more you have to pay.
Multi-millionaire southern California: Prince William will play in a charity polo tournament on Saturday at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racket Club
A place on one of the three competing teams costs £60,000. Another 600 people can buy £2,500 VIP tickets which gets them lunch, (pea pesto crostini, California chopped salad, chicken Milanese with tomato fennel sauce), access to the hospitality tent and a grandstand seat.
A packed lunch and a seat in the stands – probably binocular-distance from any royals – costs £250.
The club says both VIP and the economy class tickets are selling 'very well'.
Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis – granddaughter of film producer Dino – could hardly contain herself as she announced on national TV she was doing the catering.
'At first I was crazy nervous but now I'm just purely excited,' she gushed. Expect plenty more 'crazy excited' in coming weeks.
Crazy excited: Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis will be cooking for the Royal couple in Santa Barbara
The polo event will raise £3million, nearly all of which will go to The American Friends of the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry.
Glen Holden, the Santa Barbara club's 83-year-old treasurer and polo friend of Prince Charles, has described it as an 'enormous coup for the club', adding: 'People are clamouring to sponsor this event.'
Reports that some players grumbled at the 'steep' cost of taking part have not deterred deep-pocketed riders from grabbing the opportunity. They include frozen bread and mobile phone entrepreneurs, a hotel millionaire and Andy Busch, scion of the brewing empire Anheuser-Busch which makes Budweiser beer.
Topping the sponsors' list, Tiffany has paid an impressive £350,000. A company director who has been involved in sponsoring previous royal charity polo games described it as a 'potential minefield' which involved 'treading very, very sensitively with the palace'.
Prince William will be playing for a team sponsored by a £100-a bottle Scotch called Royal Salute. His wife will be presenting the prizes and, for the sake of propriety, one can only hope they this time dispense with the past practice of letting him march off clutching bottles of Royal Salute – photos of which needless to say get pride of place on the company's website.
Co-sponsor Audi, whose British PR boss was a surprise guest at the Prince's wedding, will be providing the couple with their top-of-the-range A8 limo to get round the 36-acre club. The German car maker would not comment, citing 'security reasons', on rumours the Cambridges will be using it for the rest of their California trip.
The couple will certainly need something flashy in which to pitch up to their next - and glitziest - appointment, later that Saturday evening.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts black tie dinner at the opulent Belasco Theatre in downtown Los Angeles will give Hollywood the chance to get their claws into the Duke and Duchess. Barbra Streisand, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Hanks and Judd Apatow are all reportedly coming.
Change of scene: Glitzy LA will be a far cry from Canada where the Royal couple have been involved in more outdoorsy pursuits
The inaugural 'BAFTA Brits To Watch in partnership with Audi' (for that is its full title) involves flying out 42 emerging British talents in film, TV and video games for the night.
They will then be seated next to some 300 Tinseltown movers and shakers who will be leant on to give them a career break. And for this dubious privilege the invited studio bosses and top agents are expected to fork out £16,000 a table. On any normal day, you can imagine Hollywood telling BAFTA exactly what they can do with their Brits To Watch - but this will be no normal day.
The prince, BAFTA's president, will be giving a speech. Sure enough, organisers say the event is 'essentially sold out' with the likes of Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Disney rushing to buy tables, some taking two.
BAFTA patrons such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Sir Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins and George Lucas are expected to be there, too.
'A lot of photos are going to come out of this event,' said an organiser. And a certain couple will have to be in every one.
They had better keep some energy in reserve as the next day they have Sunday brunch for Tusk Trust – a pioneering Dorset-based African conservation charity of which Prince William has been a committed royal patron.
Strictly A-list: A fundraising brunch at the LA home of New York Giants owner Steve Tisch counts Catherine Keener and Reese Witherspoon on the guest list
Trip organisers and palace officials have been most tight-lipped about this event, which is not surprising given that it provides rich Californians with the most access to the royal couple in far more exclusive surroundings than a crowded polo marquee or BAFTA dinner.
The brunch at the Tisch home will be attended mainly by rich philanthropists but the list also includes the actresses Reese Witherspoon and Catherine Keener, the Oscar-nominated star of Being John Malkovich.
They will have either already contributed large sums to the charity or have been invited in the hope they are about to do so.
An insider scoffed at official claims that nobody is paying to come. 'Not technically maybe but anyone who hasn't promised a donation of $100,000 (£62,500) a double ticket won't be going through that door,' he said.
'Someone has even pledged $500,000. William wouldn't be there if he wasn't raising money – he doesn't want to meet a bunch of wannabe waxworks in Beverly Hills!'
THE ROYAL COUPLE'S CALIFORNIA ITINERARY
FRIDAY JULY 8
- Arrival in Los Angeles, where they will be met by the British Ambassador.
- Business event in support of UK trade and investment
- Reception at the residence of the British Consul-General
SATURDAY JULY 9
- Centenary event of the Santa Barbara Polo and Racket Club. The charity event is in support of the American Friends of The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry
- Red carpet event at the Belasco Theatre in support of BAFTA
SUNDAY JULY 10
- Private engagement in support of Tusk Trust USA
- Visit to inner-city arts project
- Job fair for U.S. servicemen and women transitioning to civilian life
- Depart Los Angeles
Charlie Mayhew, Tusk's chief executive, admitted they had originally planned a much larger dinner. He made clear he is anticipating guests will get out their wallets in a big way.
The reception would be a 'very small, private gathering – very low key, very relaxed - whereby we are recognising the long-standing support of some our key US-based donors,' he said, adding: 'Naturally, we're hoping they'll continue to be generous donors.'
Other noted 'philanthropists' who don't currently give to Tusk have been invited in the hope they 'will be infected by the enthusiasm of our existing donors'.
He also admitted the charity had been inundated by approaches from people 'willing to pay whatever it took' to get an invite.
'It has been like trying to keep the lid on a volcano since the visit was announced,' he added.
'The Americans are just so excited about the prospect of the Duke and Duchess hitting LA.'
Another source said the Tusk brunch will bring in more 'serious' multi-millionaires into the royal couple's orbit.
'There's a hope that they're genuinely interested in Africa and conservation. It's not just the Hollywood glitterati whereas the polo – I hate to say – looks like it will be any riff raff with a wallet.'
Would these high-minded humanitarians be opening their wallets without you-know-who being there? 'Are you kidding? Of course not.'
And then, finally, to wrap up their tour, William and Kate will also be joining some underprivileged children for a spot of pottery at an LA arts project - and they will drop in on a job fair for ex-US servicemen before flying back to London that afternoon.
Royalty needs to be on its guard in a place like Los Angeles. When they visited in 1983, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh got the full Hollywood treatment and more – a spectacular 500-guest dinner on a sound stage at 20th Century Fox which had been converted into a garden using 19,000 square feet of astroturf and saucy statues of Bacchus.
Guests included James Stewart, Bette Davis and Fred Astaire, while Frank Sinatra and Perry Como sang. A night to remember but afterwards, the Queen was accused by some in the media of basking too much in Hollywood glamour.
It offers a useful lesson for William and Kate as they come looking for quick charity millions. Discreet generosity and an understated affluence that won't embarrass royal sensibilities? They're in the wrong town, baby.
- Barbra Streisand,
- David Beckham,
- James Stewart,
- Reese Witherspoon,
- Frank Sinatra,
- Martin Scorsese,
- Nicole Kidman,
- Fred Astaire,
- Oprah Winfrey,
- Anthony Hopkins,
- Tom Hanks,
- Arnold Schwarzenegger,
- Jennifer Lopez,
- Steven Spielberg,
- Bette Davis,
- George Lucas
- Los Angeles,
- United Kingdom,
- AfricaAdd your comments
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- Liana, Modbury, South Australia, 7/7/2011 Completely agree Liana. This has left a really bad taste in a lot of Canadians mouths too. Why?? Because their Canadian trip was cut short (almost in half actually) for fear the Duchess would be too exhausted to go on any longer...then bango!! They're off to LA. Bad error on the part of the British Foreign Office. They've been backpaddling a lot since the trip was announced. It won't be forgotten.
- Lillie, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 08/7/2011 14:05
Timothy-California Even if Diana and Dodi had moved to Malibu,. I think we can safely say that there is NO WAY the future King of England would ever have been raised in the USA!! Do you undestand how the monarchy works? Clearly not!
- Jenny, Manchester, 08/7/2011 13:44
these Americans don't know what they're paying for / are getting for their dosh. they need to wiki katie middleton & clan = no value for money.
- LadyAsquithFarquhar, Chelsea, 08/7/2011 13:28
I think this exposure to Hollywood and the Beckhams is wrong and misguided. Canada has been a great success though.
- Richard, Seevnoaks, UK, 08/7/2011 11:47
So will it be Andrew or Fergie flogging the tickets then?
- john wilkes, york uk, 08/7/2011 10:38
America’s ‘Golden State’ will allow Britain’s golden couple to top up their tans, raise their culinary horizons a little and meet the sort of people who wouldn’t know one end of a wagon from the other._____________What a horrible, patronising insult to the Canadian people. They are our "cousins" and not only have they welcomed the Royal couple warmly, they have shown just how amazing and diverse Canada and it's people are.
- Karen, Stoke England, 08/7/2011 10:20
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