NEW YORK — Greeted by swooning morning headlines that dubbed her “Di-vine“ and
“To Di For,“ and surrounded by cheering crowds every royal step of the way, Diana, Princess of Wales, capped her first full “Di-Day“ in the Big Apple with a gala evening guaranteed to put her in a New York state of mind.
On her first visit to New York and her first major official trip without her husband, Prince Charles, the princess followed a program ranging from luxurious toy stores to pediatric AIDS wards.
Having forsaken the “Disco Di“ leather miniskirts and giddy girlishness that marked the first several years of her royal marriage, the princess presented a clear image of a queen-in-training.
Winding up a day that began with a visit with homeless children and families at a downtown shelter, the princess attended the most glittering event on her three-day visit here.
The evening began with the American debut performance by the Welsh National Opera of Verdi`s “Falstaff“ at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. As patroness of the opera, it was Diana`s official reason for the trip. A hush fell over the 900-strong crowd as the 27-year-old princess entered the opera`s ivy-swagged royal box and the British, U.S. and Welsh national anthems were played.
Having changed from the trim black-and-purple suit she had worn earlier Thursday, the princess wore a slim, strapless dress in ivory satin touched with golden beading on the top and matching bolero jacket. Her blonde hair was swept up to reveal pearl-drop earrings.
Telling Diana the “city is graced by your presence,“ New York Mayor Edward Koch apologized to the princess and the black-tie crowd for his plain blue business suit, explaining, “I had a town meeting in the Bronx tonight.“ Outside, the only demonstration so far to mark the princess` visit was held by those opposing the British presence in Northern Ireland. The small group waved signs and shouted slogans, including, “Tell Princess Di to take her soldiers home.“ The only other awkward moment came 15 minutes before Diana`s arrival, when the entrance to the opera house was cordoned off, causing late arrivals to hike two blocks from their limos. Among the stragglers, Forbes publisher and socialite motorcyclist Malcolm Forbes and gasping society columnist Aileen “Suzy“ Nehle were detained to cool their heels at the barricades for a chilly 15 minutes before granted passage.
During the opera`s two intermissions, members of the audience were presented to the princess, including Howard Stringer, Welsh-born president of the CBS Broadcast Group.
After the opera, the princess and most of the guests whisked off to lower Manhattan for dinner in the World Financial Center`s Winter Garden, where a vaulted glass ceiling and sheer glass walls afford dazzling views of the Hudson River and city skyline.
Despite the late hour, a stiff breeze and temperatures that had dropped to near freezing, a small but enthusiastic crowd was on hand to greet the princess as her motorcade arrived. Coatless, Diana walked to the entrance, pausing briefly to smile and wave at her fans, who thanked her with the shouted advice: “Have a nice dinner.`Amid the garden`s royal palm trees and cascades of marble steps, about 900 guests who had paid $1,000 a head to benefit the Brooklyn Academy of Music took their places at tables covered in burgundy cloth and topped with cranberry glass vases brimming with white anemones and lilacs.
Among guests at both events were British Ambassador to the U.S. Sir Antony Acland and Lady Acland; British Consul General in New York Gordon Jewkes and his wife; Peter Walker, secretary of state for Wales; Welsh National Opera impresario Brian McMaster and the academy head, Harvey Lichtenstein, all of whom were placed at the royal table, where Diandra Douglas and Christopher “Superman“ Reeve also were seated. Among the glitterati were Donald and Ivana Trump; Happy Rockefeller; social grande dame Brooke Astor; and David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, the British designers of Diana`s wedding dress.
Serenaded by strolling violinists from the Peter Duchin Orchestra, the guests nibbled on hors d`oeuvres of ratatouille, asparagus tips, pate, smoked salmon mousse and curried scallops followed by a main course of breast of capon with morel mousse, orzo (a rice-like pasta) and assorted baby winter vegetables, washed down with Torres Vina Sol, 1987, and Torres Coronas, 1985, white and red Spanish wines.
The finishing touch was a pastel-toned tricolor bombe confected of cassis, praline and mango sorbet, frosted with spun sugar, accompanied by raspberry and hot chocolate sauces and served with Perrier-Jouet champagne.
The princess` whirlwind 43-hour visit to New York ends Friday with a tour of the pediatric AIDS unit at Harlem Hospital and a visit to the residence of the British consul general before flying home.
Although Mayor Koch said he hoped she`d remember the visit for its `royal New York welcome.’ Diana may well leave remembering that she made it here, which means, as the song says, she can make it anywhere. Chicago Tribune, February 2-3, 1989