While bopping on the dance floor at London’s Grosvenor House ballroom with Superman Christopher Reeve, the Princess of Wales was heard to remark that some of the men she’d been dancing with seemed a bit reluctant to put their hands on her bare back.
Not so for her first dancing partner of the evening, Bruce Oldfield, who had designed the fortuny pleated, open-back, Odeon draped gown of sun rays in silver and gold lame. Oldfield, who is one of the 23-year-old Princess’ favorite designers, hosted the gala evening as a benefit for Dr. Barnardo’s, the orphanage in which he was reared. It was the Princess’ first official appearance as president of Dr. Barnardo’s, and she dazzled the 900 guests as she posed for pictures with Joan Collins.
DAZZLING: Princess Diana upstaged the soap opera queen Joan Collins. Di glided in, looking as if she had just stepped off the set of Dallas or Dynasty. Her backless gown in shimmering silver flattered her fabulous figure. And, Dynasty star Joan, in a slinky white number with a diamond encrusted bodice was outshone when they shook hands. Oldfield had designed both dresses.
Other guests who paid 100 pounds each for the privilege of saying they had rubbed shoulders with the Princess of Wales on the dance floor–and they did–including ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, Charlotte Rampling and David Frost.
It was 1985 and the party was a gala night for Barnardo’s, the children’s charity. She was the new President and I was a former Barnardo’s boy. She occasionally called me ‘Oily Oldfield’ because in those very deferential days, I’d learnt all the royal etiquette and perhaps overdid it from time to time – I always called her ‘Ma’am’ never ‘Diana’. The Palace thought we were a great fit: me, the mixed-race orphan boy done-good, and her, the beautiful young Princess.
She was very mischievous. At one point on the night, she pinched my backside to make me keep the speech short, and she’d smuggled in a packet of Benson & Hedges cigarettes in her bag for me, even though it was against royal protocol to smoke before the Loyal toast.
Although bought up in very elevated circumstances, the Princess always found the formality of her position a little embarrassing; that was why she always did that mock self-deprecating, winking thing – her playful side. Bruce Oldfield, May 2011, Speaking On his Friendship with Diana.