"Her wedding epitomized all the romantic mythology and fantasy of our day," Judith Quine said of Princess Grace of Monaco last week. "It was the happily-ever-after story. She invented the way you do princess-dom in the second half of the 20th Century. We didn't know what a princess looked like until we saw her."
But, Quine wanted to write about more than Princess Grace when she decided to pen her current best-seller, "The Bridesmaids." She wanted to write about the six women (Quine included) who marched with Grace down the aisle, tell what kind of life they've had.
"I wanted to share our stories," Quine told the 300 guests at a luncheon staged by Round Table West last Thursday at the Balboa Bay Club. "Because, whether you live in a palace as she did, or in a women's shelter for the homeless (as does one of the bridesmaids), life ends up being pretty much the same. Our privilege is not our protection. We all end up being involved in this extraordinary process called becoming growing human beings. "
Quine, a petite red-haired dynamo who last year chaired the tribute to Cary Grant on behalf of the Princess Grace foundation, was second on an agenda that included talks by Phyllis Quinn, author of "Star Mothers," co-written with Cher's mother, Georgia Holt, and Maureen Reagan, author of "First Father, First Daughter."
"Grace was a Superwoman. She was a superb actress, a loyal friend, a superb wife and an exemplary mother. She was the dearest, funniest creature, someone full of contradictions, like most interesting people are. And, consider this: can any woman in this room imagine marrying a man who rules by divine right?"
Before luncheon, guests such as Pilar Wayne and her daughter, Aissa, reminisced about the princess who stole their hearts once upon a time. "I met Grace when she and Ranier were first engaged," said Pilar. "The Duke and I had just gotten married. Jack Warner gave us a party and they came over. What a beauty!"
Aissa remembered the princess coming aboard her dad's yacht, the Wild Goose, when it was cruising the cobalt blue waters of the Mediterranean. "One night, Daddy found out Princess Grace was coming aboard and he threw on his clothes over his pajamas to meet her. I'll never forget that."
Quinn, who came with Marlene Willis ("pronounced Mar-lay-nah, as in Marlene Deitrich" she noted), mother of actor Bruce Willis, told the crowd that "mothers of stars are women who deserve to have their day."
"We're not all stage mothers," she said. "There are such things, of course. But I really feel they don't last long in this business."
Quinn, whose children played minor movie roles, told guests about the moms of such stars as Natalie Wood, Robin Williams and Shirley Temple. "Natalie's mother has a condo that is a shrine to Natalie," Quinn said. "And that's good. Just because somebody is gone, you shouldn't forget about them."
Robin Williams, Quinn said, received most of his inspiration from his mother and Jonathan Winters. "Now that's a combo!"
And of Shirley Temple, Quinn said: "There was an actress who people said was pushed by a stage mother. But Shirley says it was a magical, wonderful time."
When Maureen Reagan, a glittering heart pin shining on her periwinkle blue dress, took the podium, she had come up with a thread that tied her with the other two authors. "I feel a kinship with both of you," she said. "My grandmother, Nel Reagan, was a charter member of the Motion Picture Mothers Club (of which Quinn is president). And when I took my first trip to Europe in 1958, I was on the Constitution, which, to this day, is known as the ship Grace Kelly took to her wedding!"
Then, dead serious, Reagan told the ladies who lunch (and read): "My book is one that I agonized over writing. Because I knew that the end of a presidency was the end of an era . . . time to reflect on the lives of a couple who had some say in what went on, namely Ronald Reagan and Maureen Reagan."