United World Colleges Gala : Charles, Diana Whirl and Twirl at the Breakers

Times Society Editor

The Prince and Princess of Wales wound up their visit to the United States by dancing up a storm in the flower-decorated Venetian Ballroom of the stately Breakers Hotel here.

It was Merv Griffin, serving as master of ceremonies, who asked the royal pair to start off the dancing Tuesday night at the International Gala honoring Dr. Armand Hammer and raising money ($4 million at last count) for the United World Colleges. Michael Carney's orchestra began playing "This Could Be the Start of Something Big" and Prince Charles, moving with the ease of a Fred Astaire, led his bride of four years onto the floor. Princess Diana, looking movie-star glamorous in a raspberry-pink panne gown with cowl-framed low back, at first had trouble following her royal consort's fast footwork. But soon they were in perfect sync, and remained that way for several numbers. Meanwhile the crowd surrounded them, leaving just enough dance space for Prince Charles' turns. Then the royal couple broke apart and began dancing with other partners. Eventually eager, tuxedoed men were cutting in on the princess, spinning her out and twirling her about. She appeared to be having the time of her life, especially as she danced with one of Hollywood's own royalty, Gregory Peck.

Spurned by the White House, the National Gallery and the British Embassy, none of whom invited her to their parties for the royal couple, actress Joan Collins, the new Mrs. Peter Holm, finally got her wish in this enclave of the privileged. She danced the last dance with Prince Charles and then made her exit hand in hand with her husband, preceded by a phalanx of photographers. The prince's first dancing partner after his wife was Helen Boehm, who has chaired innumerable Polo Balls in Great Britain and who owns her own polo team; Princess Diana's was Frank Cosentino, who is president of Boehm, the firm that made the porcelain-and-silver trophy presented to Prince Charles and the Palm Beach polo team earlier in the day.

'Feather in Your Cap'

"It's a feather in your cap if you were invited here," Bob Hope, part of the program, told the assemblage of the famous, the rich, the talented. "And the feather is tax-deductible."

Victor Borge, the comedian-pianist, did some fancy turns with "Happy Birthday" and finally asked the audience to sing happy birthday to Prince Charles, who turns 37 today.

Sponsors paid $10,000 to attend, benefactors $50,000. For those in the latter category there were special privileges: a chance to meet the prince and princess at a reception in the Players Room at the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club in the afternoon, and again that evening at the Breakers. At the dinner, the royal pair sat at a gold-cloth-covered main table with Dr. Hammer and his wife Frances; Arthur Krim, chairman of the board of the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West in Montezuma, N.M.; Mrs. Milton Petrie, ball chairman; Jerry Weintraub (new president of United Artists) and his wife Jane; British Ambassador Sir Oliver Wright (he had the last dance with the princess) and his wife; Eva Gabor and Dr. and Mrs. Ray Irani (he's president of Occidental Petroleum).

More Among the 400

There were tables on either side of the main one for board members like Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby) and her husband Morton Phillips, Diane and Guilford Glazer, the Arthur Gromans, Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.) and her husband Walter, and such benefactors as Della Koenig and her escort Robin Plunket.

And around the room among the 400 at the gala were Veronique Peck, Rosemary Tomich, Dolores Hope, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Trump (the New York developer has just bought one of Palm Beach's most famous landmarks, Mar-A-Lago, the Marjorie Merriweather Post estate), Mr. and Mrs. Ted Turner, Georgette and Robert Mosbacher of Houston, former California Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown and his wife Bernice, Sherry Lansing with Leonard Stern (the new owner of New York's Village Voice), Adnan Khashoggi's daughter Nabila with Prince Heinrich Hanau, Maury Leibovitz, head of the Hammer Gallery in New York, and Prince Michael of Yugoslavia.

There were quite a few comments over the unpleasant hullabaloo when a few prominent and older social Palm Beach leaders backed out. They claimed not enough Palm Beach-ites had been invited and that in any case the money was going out of state.

'Enough of This'

"They're small-minded," huffed one the guests, David Kreeger, president of the board of the Corcoran Gallery and chairman of the board of the Washington Opera. "Do they think they have a monopoly on fund raising? But then they said and did the same thing when the Knights of Malta had a benefit here." Another Palm Beach resident, Roni Monell Goodman, was even more outspoken as she introduced her daughter Mara Ann and her young friend Mary Frances Turner (she later managed to present both of the girls to the prince). "I've had enough of this. Look at these girls; they're heading up a big party for the City of Hope and that's in Los Angeles. And young society is here to honor Dr. Hammer and his contributions to world understanding."

In good time the proper toasts were made--Krim's to the queen and Ambassador Wright's to President Reagan. Then Merv Griffin introduced Dr. Hammer as the industrialist/art collector/philanthropist and "the founder of the first United World College in the United States."

"For every one of us," Dr. Hammer said, "there are special moments you never forget. For me, one such moment was in 1978 when Prince Charles introduced me to his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten and we struck up an immediate friendship. We were the only ones in the room who had lived through two world wars." Both of them believed that "if we are ever to have peace in this world, we'd better start with the young." Lord Mountbatten told Dr. Hammer of his dream for a United World College in the United States, and that's when Prince Charles stepped in. According to Hammer, the prince said to his uncle: "If anyone can do it, it is Dr. Hammer." Facing the prince square on, Dr. Hammer added: "In our slang we call it setting the hook. But I was glad to take the bait."

'Absolute Nonsense'

It was then Prince Charles' turn at the mike. Beginning slowly, he grew more forceful, at times almost combative. After paying tribute to Dr. Hammer and his "extraordinary powers," the prince set about putting to rights what he called the "snide comments" and the "absolute nonsense" he had heard over the past months about United World Colleges. "I keep hearing," he mentioned, "it was a pet project of my great-uncle and that it is elitist. Those of us who loved and admired Lord Mountbatten know that he wanted to bring young people from all over the world together to exchange ideas." As for the charge of elitism, he emphasized the fact that "there are over 50 countries represented in those colleges." (Besides the Armand Hammer United World College in Montezuma, N.M., there are two-year colleges in Canada, Wales, Singapore, Swaziland and Italy. The selection, said Prince Charles, "is on merit and academic ability. . . . It's a tough course.")

The prince mentioned his hope that United World College graduates will go on to influential positions in their countries and also spoke of the need for more money and more expansion. When he returned to his seat, his wife gave him a big smile and joined in the enthusiastic applause.

Earlier in the day, between Palm Beach and Wellington where the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club covers some 6,000 acres, the weather alternated between hot sun, muggy heat and a bit of rain. When the clouds looked threatening at the club, Matilda Stream, the oil heiress who had flown in with her husband Harold from New Orleans, shrugged, "I don't care. I'm drip-and-dry." Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney watched the polo match from a folding chair on the sidelines, a white parasol protecting her fair skin from the sun. Mrs. Whitney's husband Sonny was a champion polo player and she knows a lot about the sport. She called the prince "a good horseman. But it's very difficult for him, riding a horse he has never ridden before."

Former California Lt. Gov. and Mrs. Mike Curb, Ray Watt with Joyce Hunter, the Ross Perot seniors and juniors were all watching the polo action, too.

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