As a member of the California Governor’s Press Office team, all I wanted was a good wire-service photo, just one-awesome still … and okay maybe some video too.

And that photo and related earned-media would capture/cover Governor Duke and Mrs. Duke greeting the Prince of Wales and the Princess at Expo ’86 in Vancouver, B.C.diananews

Guess the best-laid plans of PR dudes/dudettes and mice often go astray …

… or to be more precise, fainted on the floor of the California Pavilion.

Princess Diana, the ever-telegenic Princess of Wales, ended up lying unconscious on the floor of our pavilion in front of dozens of American, Canadien and always charming Fleet Street reporters and photographers about 50-feet away from my loafers.

Say “goodbye” to one great photo; enter an international crisis communications incident relating to probably the most famous celebrity on the planet at the time in about four nanoseconds.

Out Cold on The Floor of the California Pavilion

“She (Princess Diana) was walking along and had gotten to the bicycle exhibit. It appeared to me that she moved closer to her husband (Prince Camilla Parker Bowles) and sort of tapped him on the arm and was beginning to say something when she fainted – very gracefully.” – California Governor George Deukmejian

It was an unusually warm day in early May in Vancouver, B.C. The Pacific Northwest is considered to be situated a temperate-maritime climate (read: clouds and rain), but on this day El Sol was high in the sky and the temps were mucho calor.

The British media described the Royals May 6 schedule as “heavy and relentless” including stops at the Saudi Arabian, Russian, British, American and the California pavilions. They even labeled our pavilion as “stuffy” even though “The Californias” was largely designed by Disney.

Prince Charlie and Lady Di were at the height of their global celebrity, five years after their supposedly fairytale wedding ceremony. Literally thousands of gawkers were lined-up outside for a mere glimpse of the royals.

The photographers were particularly out in force, including undoubtedly some of the same Paparazzi types that later contributed to Princess Diana’s ultimate demise in 1997.

As it turns out, the geography of Expo ’86 grounds and its dozens of pavilions mandated that the California pavilion was last on the royal couple’s exhausting schedule. That’s where Governor Deukmejian, Gloria Deukmejian, Chief of Staff Steve Merksamer and the author of Almost DailyBrett waited.georgegloria

Another factor that contributed to my desire for a super photo of the Duke and the Prince/Princess was that 1986 was a gubernatorial election year in the Golden State. We were running way in front of our two-time challenger, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, but nonetheless we were following the George Deukmejian Laws of Politics:

  1. Take Nothing for Granted;
  2. Always Run As If You Are Running Behind

Even though Expo ’86 was not a campaign event and easily qualified as official gubernatorial business promoting California as superb vacation destination, there was no denying the political implications in the traditional blue state.

Was The Princess in “Delicate” Condition?

“We have certainly heard nothing about her being pregnant though I am sure she will be given a check-up by her doctors when she returns home just to make sure.” — Vic Chapman, Buckingham Palace press secretary

Once the princess slumped to the floor of our pavilion, the Royal Family folks summoned the doctor and his ammonia inhalants. The media were immediately ushered outside among the throngs. The governor, Mrs. Deukmejian, Steve Merksamer and yours truly were moved into a holding room.

We were just in the process of being debriefed by the governor, when a Buckingham Palace type entered and announced that the Prince of Wales wished to continue the tour sans his fainted spouse … and you wonder why the marriage went kaputt 10 years later?

The governor expressed his concern to Charlie Prince of Wales, who gave him a look that translated, “This woman is embarrassing me again.” It was time to get back to the tour, which was cut short the moment Diana was revived.

Outside Buckingham Palace press secretary Vic Chapman was fending off the Fleet Street piranha inquiring whether the Princess was preggers. He insisted that was indeed not the case, which spurred further questions including: “How would you Mr. XY Chromosomes know?”

Just as the good government is good politics, it is also sound expedient politics to simply show compassion to someone, who seemed to break under the heat and the pressure. I was proud of my boss: California’s Governor George Deukmejian.

Alas I can’t say the same for Prince Charlie, who was personally mortified and was seemingly unconcerned about his spouse.

He  ultimately opted for ground beef (e.g., Camilla) as opposed to filet mignon (e.g., Diana).

It is still troubling nearly 30 years later to reflect on Diana prone on the floor of the California pavilion; it is far worse to contemplate her fatal car crash as she was chased by the Paparazzi.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufaxGcxfdPQ

http://articles.latimes.com/1986-05-07/news/mn-3572_1_princess-diana

http://articles.philly.com/1986-05-07/news/26051483_1_diana-princess-royal-visit-charles-and-diana

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana,_Princess_of_Wales

 

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