Charity visits, polo fields, and even a chopper ride up the coastline: By Saturday evening, William and Kate seemed to have experienced all California has to offer—save a trip to Disneyland and a stroll down the Walk of Fame. But of course no visit to Hollywood would be complete without a bang-up, star-studded gala.
It wasn’t quite the Oscars, but the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA)’s “Brits to Watch” Gala on Saturday night came mighty close. The studios all bought tables, and rolled out their version of royalty: from Nicole Kidman to Jennifer Lopez and Barbra Streisand; and industry execs that included Harvey Weinstein, producer Brian Grazer, and chairman of Walt Disney Studios Rich Ross.
But every last star and exec was inside—and through the metal detector—by 7:45 p.m., when the royals were set to arrive. Police barricaded several blocks in downtown Los Angeles around the Belasco Theater, and fans in Union Jack T-shirts lined the boulevards with banners and flags awaiting the arrival of William and Kate. It was, perhaps, an unusual venue. The night before the future queen was to set foot on premises? That’d be “Belasco Fridays,” featuring DJ Felli Fel from Hip Hop Radio Station Power 106 (and his $99 Grey Goose).
The crowd roared when the duke and duchess finally arrived—a shocking 9 minutes behind schedule, a far cry from the choreographed-to-the-millisecond royal wedding—in a long LAPD motorcade. Catherine wore a floor-length lavender dress by Alexander McQueen, Jimmy Choo sandals, and earrings reportedly borrowed from the queen. The pair alighted from a blue Range Rover to shrieking fans. Greeted by an entourage of security and handlers, the couple swept down the red carpet (breezing past the video cameras and press teams) and beelined straight to 20 lucky fans stationed in front of the theater. The royals spent a few minutes shaking hands until they were whisked inside.
For Houston native Solome Williams, 21, who met both the duke and duchess, it was a night to remember. “Kate apologized for being late,” she recounted. “She joked that William was busy fixing his hair.” A few spots down the barricade, Katie Symes, a 22-year-old from Pasadena, was “DYING” because Kate told her she liked her chandelier earrings. “I probably won’t wear any other earrings ever again,” she said.
Before the event, even the biggest stars on the red carpet were nervous about meeting the royal couple. What was Nicole Kidman planning to ask the royals during dinner? “I don’t know,” she said. “I’m shy!” “I don’t think I’m going to be approaching them,” said Anna Kournikova, laughing. “I’m too nervous!” As Harvey Weinstein made his way into the event, one reporter shouted: “Your Royal Highness!” which drew a big laugh from Harvey himself.
Inside the event, it was a different story. The duke and duchess certainly held court with the evening’s 275 guests, and were seated alongside Barbra Streisand and Josh Brolin, Nicole Kidman, American Idol executive producer (and BAFTA’s L.A. chairman) Nigel Lythgoe, Universal Pictures co-chairman Donna Langley, and several top diplomats. To begin, Will and Kate were served courgette and mint tian with a lemon and pine nut gremolata garnished with a courgettte blossom, followed by a filet of beef with creamed leeks and pickled garlic. For dessert, it was something William undoubtedly knows well: a good ol’ “Eton Mess,” an English rose meringue with strawberries and cream named after William’s boarding school.
Shortly after the meal was served, William—who is the president of BAFTA—took the stage to toast the night’s honorees, the 42 emerging stars in the areas of film, TV, and video games. “I am immensely proud of the success Brits have had in the fiercely competitive world of film, television, and video games,” he told the crowd. “Their creative and hi-tech achievements have contributed greatly to our national wealth, not to mention our personal pleasure.” He continued: “I particularly celebrate the fact that, hard on their heels, comes another wave of enormously talented Brits, whom you have the chance to meet this evening. They deserve equal success and, with your help, will surely achieve it.”
Royal hype machine aside, the night was, in the end, all about highlighting these emerging stars. “Here in Hollywood, you don’t get the opportunity to meet this higher echelon,” Nigel Lythgoe said. “So to be able to expose 42 of them to these people is fantastic. Whether anything comes of it, we’ll wait and see. But if only one of these young Brits gets something out of this—it’s going to be worthwhile.”