They Called Him “Prince”
Three Personal Prince Tales
The First Tale
I was 14 in the summer of 1965. My parents had joined the little theater group “Pleasant Hill Playmakers.” To my dismay, the troupe decided that a summer production of ‘Snow White’ would be the perfect way to give hordes of out-of-school adolescents the chance to try their hands at acting, and to keep them out of trouble. I DID NOT WANT TO DO IT! I really had no choice, however. My father had acted at the famed Globe Theater in Sand Diego; my mother was active in the Playmakers, and along with encouragement and nagging by art director Charlotte Huntley, I was drafted as the only handsome young stud in Pleasant Hill who could pull off the believable role of Prince Charming. Also, nobody else auditioned.
Rehearsals were brutal. The 60-seat theater had no air conditioning, and outside temperatures were consistently over 100 degrees. My Princely costume was…embarrassing. Satin shorts, white leggings, and a funky green hat with a big feather hanging down. The costume remains buried in my mom’s cedar chest, hopefully never to see the light of day again.
The production was a smashing success. Director Genvieve Smith was able to corral 25 kids and 4 adults onto a small stage and create theatrical magic. The Concord Transcript review was heartwarming to the cast and crew.
My role was minuscule. I think I had only 4 lines, and one kiss on the forehead of the lovely, ebony-haired Snow White (played by Vickie Schoonover), which brought her out of the witch-induced coma; a quality which I maintain to this day. To my ultimate humiliation, Charlotte began calling me “Princie baby,” which stuck with me for decades.
The Second Tale
Perhaps the title led you to believe this was a story about the artist formerly and later known as “Prince.” No disappointment provided as the second tale happened in 1987. I was often called upon to shoot interviews with just about every major rock musician and group in the 80’s for the WTBS show, “Night Tracks.” Some of my favorite assignments included Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, Don Henley, Cheryl Crowe, Poison, The Bangles, Aerosmith, and the strangest interview session of all… Milli Vanilli.
I arrived at a super-secret studio somewhere in Hollywood where a music video was being filmed for a relatively new artist named Sheila E. The song being performed was “Love on a Blue Train” written by, who else, Prince. I shot a few minutes of B-roll behind the scenes when I noticed an entourage enter the building. My producer said, “don’t stare at him or we’ll be sent packing.”
I looked at the arrivals and saw the short, thin, fashionably-dressed man standing in the darkness looking at me. I lowered my camera in obedience to the warnings. There was Prince, looking at me. He gave me a slightly sly smile, and I looked away. Apparently, that momentary encounter was all it took for our welcome to be dismissed. That’s a wrap! Sorry, I can’t tell you more about the little musical genius, but he wasn’t much for casual conversation.
Love on a Blue Train (YouTube)
The Third Tale
I like airplanes. I like flying airplanes. I like riding in airplanes. I like filming airplanes. I like people who like airplanes. One of the people I had the pleasure of working with in the early 1980’s was actor and aviation enthusiast Cliff Robertson. Cliff was one of the nicest non-Hollywoodites I ever encountered. We were working on a documentary film near Mammoth Mountain, California along with producer Robert Drew. This was a test prior to the filming of the first flight of a glider soaring over Mt. Everest.
Additionally included on this project was Alfonse Bourbon. I’ve changed his first name, partially out of privacy concerns, but mainly because fading memory makes me question my recall. The name ‘Bourbon’ should ring a bell. Sure, it’s a powerful alcoholic beverage with an extensive history as chronicled at the Smithsonian. The Bourbon family holds its place in history. Phillip V was the first Bourbon king to rule Spain. Alfonse was a Spanish Prince! He was also a regular guy who played down the title. And, like Cliff Robertson, Robert Drew (a WW-II P-51 pilot), and little old me, Alfonse is an aviation enthusiast.
We finished shooting after about one week. Alfonse needed to get from Mammoth to Los Angeles airport to fly back to Spain a day later. I said, “no problem, I can get you there.” He then asked which hotel he should reside in for the night. I replied, “No need for a hotel, you can stay at my house.” So, I called wife 1.0 and let her know a special guest was coming. She asked if she should address the Prince as “your highness.” I said no, just call him Alfonse. We had a pleasant chat on the 5-hour drive home.
So ends the tale of the Prince who came to dinner. By the way, the Mt. Everest glider expedition never happened. The country of Nepal would not approve the flight. Cliff Robertson passed away in 2011, Robert Drew in 2014. Contact with the Prince was not maintained.
Perhaps I will encounter a fourth prince during my lifetime. Or better yet, a princess!