So much for California dreaming: The royal visit to Los Angeles this weekend was nothing if not a tightly choreographed dance. Over the course of 72 hours, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge adhered to a minute-by-minute schedule that had them meeting with Hollywood studio executives, flying up the California coast, making sculptures with schoolchildren on Skid Row, and even meeting Harvey Weinstein and Jennifer Lopez.
Their whirlwind visit to California came at the tail end of a two-week sweep of North America—the majority of which unfolded very differently across Canada: in pastry kitchens and canoes, with Will and Kate playing hockey and planting trees.
But the royal couple proved this weekend that they’re up for anything. From the way the pair patiently greeted fans—and the way Kate even joked about her husband—it was easy to forget that these were two international icons merely expanding the reach of their own celebrity.
There was, of course, uncertainty among the Hollywood set about how to greet a future queen. “What is the protocol, do you know?” asked actress Leslie Mann before going in to the BAFTA event on Saturday night. “Is it Sir and Catherine?” said 22-year-old Dancing With the Stars contestant Chelsea Kane: “Wait, am I supposed to curtsey?” Some stars, however, threw that out the window entirely. “[Bridesmaids director] Paul Feig and I were joking about how it’s a good thing Kate didn’t see Bridesmaids before she got married,” said actress Dana Delany.
On Sunday, the final day of their trip, the couple visited Inner-City Arts, an organization for underprivileged children in Los Angeles's Skid Row neighborhood. William (in a navy suit and a maroon tie) and Kate (in a navy-blue cardigan and white skirt by British designer Whistles) met with schoolchildren, toured the facilities—and even made ceramic tortoises. During a session with fifth graders, the couple learned to make mandalas. As Kate and William sat in front of their own easels, the future queen leaned over to ask her husband: “William, do you know what you’re doing? Start from the center.”
Later that afternoon, they were whisked to Los Angeles’ Culver City, where they attended a Mission Serve job fair for veterans at Sony Studios. They were greeted by Sir Howard Stringer, president and CEO of Sony. William took to the podium to address the crowd. “This is the last event on our tour of North America, but to my mind, it is one of the most important,” he said. “This is because it is about men and women who—of their own free will—choose to put their life on the line for their country. They are the front line of a remarkable relationship between the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada which has safeguarded our freedoms for a century.”
On Saturday night, the duke and duchess attended a black-tie gala for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), which honored 42 “Brits to Watch”—emerging talents across entertainment—in downtown Los Angeles.
Hundreds of fans in Union Jack T-shirts and face paint lined the barricaded blocks of downtown Los Angeles to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. The duke and duchess finally arrived in a long LAPD motorcade, a shocking nine minutes behind schedule. Catherine, dressed in a floor-length lavender dress by Alexander McQueen, Jimmy Choo sandals, and earrings reportedly borrowed from the queen, alighted from their blue Range Rover to shrieking fans. Greeted by an entourage of security and handlers, the pair swept down the red carpet (breezing past the videocameras 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 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.
Earlier in the day, the couple took a chopper to Santa Barbara to participate in the Foundation Polo Cup. The duchess sat front-row center in a floral Jenny Packham dress while William galloped around the field. Though Oprah Winfrey was rumored to be making an appearance, the guest list was considerably more B-list—it included only Zoe Saldana and Rob Lowe. Tickets sold for $4,000 a pop, which included access to a VIP tent and a luncheon catered by Giada de Laurentiis. (The $400 tickets got you only a boxed lunch.)
The couple arrived in Los Angeles just after 4 p.m. on Friday aboard a Canadian Air Force A310. They were greeted at Los Angeles International Airport in 90-degree heat by Governor Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
First stop was, somewhat appropriately, straight into the eye of the storm: the Beverly Hilton—a sprawling hotel in Beverly Hills where the Golden Globes take place. They attended Variety’s Venture Capital and New Media Summit, where venture capitalists, new-media guys, and a handful of Hollywood agents convened to talk about technological innovation in the entertainment industry.
A security sweep two hours before the couple was set to arrive locked down the Hilton, and bathroom access was closed off at 3 p.m. Police were everywhere, dragging around overheated German shepherds. Will and Kate arrived on the premises—passing through clusters of tourists in the lobby—and were escorted into a green room, where they were greeted by a reception of 20 people. “This makes a presidential visit look like Grandma’s coming over,” one onlooker said.
Shortly after producer Brett Ratner and Dancing With the Stars contestant Chelsea Kane left the stage, a panel of British entrepreneurs began to discuss Tech City, London’s answer to Silicon Valley. At 5 p.m., the panel stopped to “welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to the stage.” The crowd rose, and amid total silence—aside from the relentless snapping from the pool of photographers—Will and Kate took the stage, each taking a seat on a plush couch. The audience sat back down, and then, inexplicably, the panel kept going as if nothing had changed. “Google has done a great job with Google+,” one panelist said nervously. The duke and duchess just sat there, smiling, staring out at the crowd. Finally, one panelist acknowledged the royals onstage. “Enough talk about autocratic leadership,” he said. “We have a future queen on the panel!” Everyone let out a deep breath at once. Following the event, the duke and duchess met with entrepreneurs in the ballroom, receiving brief tech demonstrations and posing for pictures.
On Friday evening, they attended a private dinner at the British Consulate, where they saw Victoria and David Beckham. The duchess looked as radiant as ever in a jewel-green belted dress by Diane von Furstenberg. "I love seeing it," the designer said in an email to The Daily Beast. "[Catherine] is cool, smart, and beautiful. She represents all DVF is about: she is the woman she wants to be!" As American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told The Daily Beast: “She smiled, and literally it lit up the entire garden. I told her I would be escorting her, but there wasn’t much time for small talk!”