The Week of the Royals

by Bernard McCormick Tuesday, April 26, 2011 1 Comment(s)

This is the week of the royals, with the big wedding and all the red jacketed, silver helmeted blokes on horses. It is only fitting that we recall Gold Coast magazine’s experience with royals, or something like that. There was a time when it was not unusual to have some obscure royal as honorary chairman of fancy affairs. Prince No Account from Nowhere, or Countess Somebody Unpronounceable, would be fussed over pretty good, although nobody seemed to know exactly who they were.

Thus it was not all that difficult for Prince Michael of Austria to wow Gold Coast society in the early 1970s. The prince (the left-most individual in the photo) would show up at a ball wearing this outfit with so many medals it would make Hermann Goering envious. He was usually accompanied by his equerry, a smiling little beauty himself. Prince Michael made Gold Coast magazine a few times, usually photographed with leading local philanthropists. He particularly liked to be seen at Le Club International on the Intracoastal. Le Club was well named to host a prince.

Prince Michael knew his place. One night a prominent social reporter attempted small talk over cocktails. “Tell me,” she said, “what does a prince do with his time?” His nose took off, and he replied without looking at the woman. “Madame, ladies of the press do not speak to royalty unless priorly addressed.”

Even as he was arranging knighthoods for local chaps and performing other miracles suited for a prince, nobody seemed to question why an Austrian prince often slipped from his haughty tone into what seemed like a New York accent. That mystery was explained when Prince Michael was arrested for running a stolen exotic car ring. It turned out his real name was Michael Waldbaum from Miami Beach. When asked in jail why he called himself Prince Michael of Austria, he replied: “I just thought it sounded better than Michael Waldbaum.”

We don’t recall ever actually meeting the prince, but we did meet another royal from the U.K. He was identified as Prince Edward of the English royal family, and he was in Fort Lauderdale for an event aboard the super sailboat Zeus, which was built for a design speed of 26 knots under sail. Now that is flat-out flying, and we aren’t aware that conditions ever permitted Zeus to hit that speed. Nonetheless, it was an amazing high-tech craft, good enough to attract royalty. The owner of the boat was a prominent Englishman. He ran the money, or something like that.

Well, it turned out that Prince Edward’s real name, for those of us chastened by the Prince Michael saga, was Prince Edward. The real one, and he turned out to be a prince of a guy, extremely good at small talk. Everybody had a picture taken with him, and a typical conversation went something like this:

Prince Edward: “Delated to meet you. And where are you from?”

Meetee: “Here in Fort Lauderdale.”

Prince Edward: “Really. From Fort Lauderdale? “

“Yes.”

“That’s wonderful.”

He made it sound as if meeting someone from Fort Lauderdale in Fort Lauderdale was like encountering a martian in Mexico. But the point is he made everyone feel that it was his undiluted fortune to meet them, a quality Prince Michael singularly lacked.

Everybody left the party saying what a fine fellow Prince Edward seemed to be. The late Joe Millsaps had the best small-talk line of the night.

“What do you say when you meet a prince?” said Millsaps. “Hey prince, if you have a little time, I have a helluva real estate deal you should look at.”

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