Royal Couple's Welcome Includes Luncheon Fit for a King and Queen

Times Society Writer

"Sweetheart, do you think we should make an announcement?" Renee Segerstrom asked her husband, Henry, as they paced the gleaming parquet at the Center Club in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, waiting for Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia to arrive for luncheon.

The king and queen were late. Almost 30 minutes late. And reasons for their delayed arrival had begun to fly in the entry of the private club, where Henry and Renee--luncheon hosts--held court before their arrival. "I hear the king and queen wanted to take a couple of more rides at Disneyland," said a member of the royal couple's advance team.

Henry Segerstrom began to clear his throat. Repeatedly. After a brief conference, the Segerstroms decided that an announcement would be incorrect. "Should we pour champagne?" a Center Club staff member asked. "Oh no," said Renee. "We'll save that for the king and queen. Pour some wine."

An army of white-gloved waiters and waitresses appeared out of nowhere and began to pour the Thomas Fogarty Napa Valley Chardonnay 1985 that was to accompany lunch.

Meanwhile, the royal-red carpet waited. The red-costumed trumpeters who would play Swedish fanfare from the 18th Century waited.

And Ruth Segerstrom, the Swedish family's matriarch, waited. "The Swedes are fine people," she said. "It's in their blood. They're fabulous. I just wish some of our early family members could be here. They would be so proud."

Henry Segerstrom waited. "I find Swedes very intelligent," he said. "Highly educated. I am proud to be associated with an ancestry that has characteristics I admire--integrity, boldness, daring."

Are they patient? "No. Not at all," he said, laughing softly.

As Renee waited, she occasionally reached into her small, rectangular handbag and withdrew a tiny box. "A representative of the queen gave me this when I arrived here today," she told special friends, opening the box to reveal a solid gold pendant shaped like the King's crest. "I'll wear it every day!"

At precisely 1:08 p.m., after instructions from the Secret Service, Henry and Renee swept out of the Center Club's heavy double doors to await, curbside, the royal couple's arrival. They were to accompany the king and queen into the Center Club.

Guests waited. "This is my first time to meet a king and queen," said Roger Johnson, a Swede. Johnson, who is chief executive officer of Western Digital, would, along with Henry Segerstrom, flank Queen Silvia at lunch. Johnson's wife, Janice, and Renee Segerstrom sat on either side of the king.

At about 1:20 p.m. the royal couple made their entrance along with the Segerstroms. After a brief welcome by Werner Escher, director of public affairs for C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, owner of South Coast Plaza, about 128 guests--members of the Segerstrom family, members of the king's and queen's entourage and local corporate heads and politicos--settled down to an elegant lunch.

Serving first the king and queen, who each had their own waiter, the staff delivered Monterey artichokes and Salinas Valley lettuce with orange and lavender honey vinaigrette; California Petrale sole with Santa Maria baby vegetables and Ventura lemon tart.

The king, Renee Segerstrom had said last week, had requested an "all-California menu."

While luncheon guests didn't expect to see the king and queen dine in royal regalia--the king wore a dark suit and the queen a colorful print dress--they got a glimpse of the royally dressed couple on the keepsake copies of Town & Country magazine they received when they departed.

The king and queen were on the April cover, which proclaims: "Europe at Its Best."

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