Prince William and Duchess Kate played it safe during their recent 11-day whirlwind tour of Canada and America including attending receptions for environmental groups, and an arts centre for inner city urban children. But perhaps you didn’t hear about another, less talked about event --
The Royal couple’s first dinner at a Jewish home. My home. An apartment in the Fairfax area of Los Angeles.
I know what you’re thinking: “Mark, you’re a humble, Jewish comedy writer who lives in a modest, one-bedroom apartment in a not so upscale part of town, around the corner from a Thai restaurant and a motel. How in the world did you get to host the future king and queen of England for dinner at your place?”
The closest I’ve been to royalty has been my Prince CD.
You raise a valid question. And you seem to know me well. So I’ll level with you. Granted, prior to this month, the closest I’ve been to royalty has been my Prince and Queen albums and eating at Jack In the Box.
But it just so happened that I was the grand prize winner in the International Host the Royal Couple in Your Home Contest. To enter, you had to write why the royal couple should have dinner at your place. In ten words or less. I guess William and Kate have a short attention span. Or perhaps they just didn’t feel like reading millions of 500-word essays.
In any case, my ten words were: “Bet you’ve never had dinner with a Jewish comedy writer.” Ten words exactly – unless you count “you’ve” as two words. But I guess they allowed it and, as I learned later, had never been alone with an individual Jewish person before, had never spoken to a comedy writer before, and had never been in a one-bedroom apartment before. And, of course, I’d never had royalty over for dinner before, unless you count a Jewish American Princess I once dated. So, it was a new experience for both of us and I suppose they were feeling adventurous.
I never realized just how much preparation was involved even for something as seemingly insignificant as a dinner. But I guess once a future king and queen are to be your guests, you pretty much have to prepare for anything. Hence, the visit to my apartment one day by the U.S. Secret Service, representatives of Scotland Yard, the London Metropolitan Police, and the Royal Protection Squad. I guess they still aren’t taking the results of the American Revolution well.
When my friends found out I’d be hosting Will and Kate for dinner, they offered me all sorts of bribes to be invited, from cash to merchandise to brisket (that one was from my Aunt Selma). But I was only allowed two guests, so I invited my mother and, of course, Scarlett Johansson. I honestly didn’t think Scarlett would ever accept, so imagine my surprise when she did. Apparently, the lure of real royalty is irresistible even to Hollywood royalty. Either that or she wanted to ask me to help her put together a stand-up comedy act. Nah, it was probably the royalty thing.
The magical day arrived. I had cooked, cleaned, gotten flowers, even selected some British-themed music so they’d feel at home. The Best of the Kinks. I wore my best suit, which perhaps was over-dressing just a bit, because Will and Kate were dressed quite casually. In fact, Will wore nicely pressed jeans, an Izod alligator shirt, and a baseball cap emblazoned “My other hat is a crown.” Kate wore jeans and a t-shirt that read “My husband went to Buckingham Palace and all he got me was this lousy t-shirt.” Scarlett wore a tasteful, understated suit, which was classy. And my mother had somehow found a blouse with little British flags all over it. Subtle, mom.
To his credit, Will broke the ice, asking jokingly if this was my servant’s quarters. At least I think he was joking. But I answered anyway, “No, this is my place.” Will and Kate both gave me looks of pity and compassion, and Kate said it was fine as she had spent some time volunteering at homeless shelters and this was most certainly a step up from those. While Will chatted with my mom and Scarlett, I gave Kate a thorough tour of my place, which took 45 seconds.
Will and Kate were quite complimentary about the kosher vegetarian dinner I prepared for them, in particular the soy brisket. My mom even ate it and Scarlett said it didn’t make her gag nearly half as much as she thought it would.
Dinner conversation was lively. Scarlett was fascinated with my experiences on JDate and confided that she usually selects her dates from available major movie stars, but would consider dating a “civilian” if he was a really good person, kind, attractive, and had a bank account the size of North Dakota. Will and Kate asked all sorts of questions about Judaism, bar mitzvahs, Israel, Jews controlling show business, Jerry Seinfeld and Bob Dylan. Afterwards, we went for a walk in my neighborhood, accompanied by several bodyguards and rooftop snipers to protect us. My mom entertained us all by singing several Yiddish folks songs.
What did I learn from all this? I learned that royalty and celebrities are just people, like you and me; granted, people who have vast sums of money, run countries, star in major motion pictures and are impossibly beautiful and charismatic. But underneath that all, they’re simply people with the same basic hopes, dreams and fears that we all have. I’m pretty sure that if I keep telling myself that, I’ll eventually come to believe it. If you’ll excuse me now, today’s the deadline to enter the Spend The Weekend With Howie Mandel Contest.