Hang Up If A Princess Calls

August 27, 1994|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,London Bureau of The Sun

LONDON -- History may record Princess Diana as the first princess who wished she'd turned into a frog when she kissed the prince.

Her life has become more farce than fairy tale. She's distraught, isolated, and trapped in a life that would be tragic if it weren't so pathetic.

She acts out like a spoiled child -- or a spurned wife. Now she's accused of pestering a married millionaire with anonymous phone calls. The man, Oliver Hoare, an art dealer with sensationally soulful eyes, is a confidant of the princess -- and of many other beautiful women. He is also a friend of her estranged husband, the Prince of Wales.

Nobody denies that she made calls -- except her. Not the police who investigated the calls. Not Mr. Hoare. Not the royal family.

The silence has been profound, broken only by her protestations to a reporter -- and by the constant clicking of automatic cameras, an ominous sound like the grinding of teeth.

Brittle talk-show panelists have to be reminded to use the word "allegedly" when declaring that "this young woman who makes anonymous and silent telephone calls is in a state of considerable mental disintegration."

To a reporter she has taken into her confidence, Princess Diana wails, "What have I done to deserve this? I feel I am being destroyed. There is absolutely no truth in this."

The reporter, Richard Kay, 37, the "royal correspondent" of the Daily Mail for 10 years, describes her as distraught and close to tears.

Yesterday, some of Princess Diana's most fervent supporters were lined up on a gray morning to buy tickets for the tour of Buckingham Palace.

"She ain't got any trouble," says Maria Flintham, an emphatic woman from Nottinghamshire. "It's people like you reporters got the trouble. The press is pestering her!" An Englishman, reading the Times while waiting to buy tickets for his wife and mother-in-law, says, "She seems a pleasant enough person. Unfortunately, it's not clear to me she's not partially at fault, you might say, in getting in the condition she's in."

But Sam Hous of Wichita, Kan., says, "I think it's the news media making it up for a profit motive.

"Greed," he says.

He has a point. The Princess of Wales is under relentless media pressure.

When her picture appears on a magazine cover or newspaper front page, circulation soars, not only in Britain but around the world.

Photographers follow her like flocks of Alfred Hitchcock's birds. Banks of cameras flash and wink and peer whenever she leaves the confines of her apartments at Kensington Palace. She supports a whole occupation: paparazzi.

Evasive tactics are useless. She was caught jumping from the kitchen door of her sports club this week, like a scullery maid fleeing an angry headwaiter.

She was even photographed talking to Mr. Kay, the reporter who recorded her dismay at the phone call charges. The photographer, Glenn Harvey, reportedly will eventually earn about $35,000 from a series of pictures that essentially show Princess Diana getting into and out of cars.

Another London newspaper, the Sun, described one photo as showing the princess resting her head on the reporter's shoulder for "comfort." This is a subtle form of photoanalysis: In the newspaper, a red arrow points to reflections and shadows on a windshield.

The Sun, a self-righteous and self-congratulatory tabloid with topless women featured in Page Three photos, is the newspaper with the biggest circulation in Britain. Princess Diana, of course, has been also photographed topless, sunning herself by a pool. A Spanish publisher famously bought the photos to preserve her modesty.

Princess Diana's meeting with Mr. Kay was arranged with the circumspection of a Cold War spy swap -- "In circumstances so bizarre as to raise questions about her judgment and even her emotional stability," said a BBC commentator.

Mr. Kay related getting a phone call from a go-between telling him to go to a quiet square near British Rail's Paddington Station and wait in his car.

He did, and a few minutes later the princess drove up in her Audi convertible. She got into his Volvo and they drove around a couple of hours.

"They are trying to make out I was having an affair with this man or had some kind of fatal attraction," she told Mr. Kay. "It is simply untrue and so unfair."

Not everyone responded with sympathy. Richard Littlejohn, a kind of cockney Roseanne, wrote in his column in the Sun: "I'll tell you, pet. You wanted the fairy tale. Someone should have told you the best fairy tales end in nightmares."

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