Advertisement
Share

Remembering Her Highness, the Nanny

Now it can be told.

Diana liked to nosh.

“In 1980, Diana was a happy, well-adjusted, slightly plump young woman with a healthy appetite. . . . One evening as I was heating up a pot of beef stew I’d prepared the day before, I discovered that all the chunks of meat were missing. Diana had picked them out for lunch.”

That true confession comes to you courtesy of Mary Robertson, a corporate mom who has just emerged from the depths of obscurity with her own Princess of Wales tell-all, “The Diana I Knew: Loving Memories of the Friendship Between an American Mother and Her Son’s Nanny Who Became the Princess of Wales” (Cliff Street Books).

OK, so it’s a very specific kind of tell-all. A tell-all about how incredibly lovely was the late princess of Wales. Except for her icky eating habits, that is.

“It was essential for me that this would be a totally positive book,” Robertson tells us in a telephone chat from her New Jersey home. “There was no scandal. There was no dirty linen in the closet. This would be a caring, heartfelt memoir.”

Read all about it. The bright yellow jacket Diana picked out for Robertson’s son, Patrick, with her own two hands. “He wore the jacket on many of our travels throughout England and Scotland,” Robertson writes. “Later that spring, she gave him a yellow rubber bathtub duck as a present.”

Advertisement

It’s a story aching to be told. The story of an American couple who move to London for their corporate careers and hire a nanny. Everything is la-di-da--they keep their fridge filled with fruit, cereal, yogurt, biscuits, cheese, sliced meats and French bread--until they find a deposit slip imprinted with the name “Lady Diana Spencer.”

After a bit of snooping--hey, far be it from us--they determine their nanny “belonged to one of the oldest and most illustrious families in England,” Robertson writes. “I simply couldn’t believe that a young woman of such an aristocratic background was probably giving lunch to my son at that very moment. The English bankers with whom I worked were equally floored.”

Then the moment of truth.

“I said, ‘It’s quite a surprise for us to have you with your impressive background, I mean a title and all, looking after Patrick.’ She smiled, gestured with a toss of her right hand, and said, ‘Oh, that.’ The subject never came up again. . . . In 1980 Diana was a happy, normal teenager.”

As long as she was a nanny, apparently. She worked for the Robertsons for about a year, until a few months before her wedding. You know the rest.

Robertson says she kept a low profile until now because she didn’t want to be hounded by the press. Then it turned out being hounded by the press wasn’t so bad after all.

ABC News tracked down the Robertsons after the princess’s death because they were the only Americans attending the royal wedding who weren’t famous.

“Within two minutes of that spot, the phone was ringing off the hook,” Robertson says. “And it rang, rang, rang for three days. Every network. Every magazine. European newspapers. The media world beat a path to our door.”

Which can only mean one thing. A book contract, roughly the 60th to see the light of print since Diana’s death last year.

“Over the next few days, we decided this could be something very nice I could do for Diana,” Robertson says. “My husband and I had been disturbed for years about some of the negative and unkind articles or books that have been written about her. We thought we had such a different perspective about Diana, and our experience had been so positive and so warm.”

Well, that certainly sets the record straight.

*

Passion Player: Peter Hedges was having such a good time, he could have been dead.

“You expect to have a party like that at your funeral, so it was kinda dreamy that way,” Hedges, 35, mused after the recent Dutton’s reading and book party celebrating his quirky, semiautobiographical novel, “An Ocean in Iowa” (Hyperion). It’s about Scotty Ocean’s seventh year, surviving his abandonment by his mother.

Could that be why the “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” author, screenwriter and playwright could be found sniffling every now and then in the bosom of his many buddies?

Nah. He’s just a sniffly kind of guy. In fact, when Hedges was agent-shopping, it was no coincidence that the agent he settled on, William Morris’ Michael Peretzian, passed the sniffle test.

“He knew I was very passionate about the theater, and I talked to him a lot about art and how Hollywood really corrupts the creative instinct,” Peretzian recalled at the after-bash at Vincenti in Brentwood. “At some point, we were both crying in the office. It’s not just about making money, and to hear this from a Hollywood agent was so bizarre.

“When he left, I realized that he left his wallet on my couch. So I knew that I had him. I gave the wallet back. But I took out 10%.”

Ba dum dum.

Anyway, the New York-based writer showed his bicoastal stripes with the hybrid crowd he attracted--Hollywood types who love the theater, such as “Gilbert Graper” Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson, and John Pankow of “Mad About You.”

There was Tom Hulce--the Amadeus of “Amadeus” and director of the upcoming Mark Taper Forum production of “The Cider House Rules"--who granted Hedges the Hulce Fellowship for Starving Writers. That consisted of a year’s free rent in Hulce’s New York loft, where Hedges wrote half of “Gilbert Grape” as well as his controversial 1989 play “Imagining Brad.” “Brad"--which featured a husband with no arms or legs and “hideous wartlike bumps where his elbows should be"--made a New Yorker critic’s companions “so angry they wanted to burn down the theater.”

Not so Hedges fan Sally Field, who has already tried to recruit Hedges to adapt one of her projects.

“Peter is a playwright before anything else,” Field said, “and everybody’s here to make sure he continues to do that, because we need him in the American theater.”

But hey, don’t think Hedges has such stars in his eyes that he doesn’t have stars in his eyes. His idea of a good time was punching in the combination to start Danson’s nutty electric car and tooling around Santa Monica.

Said Hedges: “I wanted everyone to see I was driving around in an electric car, and that I was driving around with Ted Danson, who’s maybe the nicest man in the world. It was dark and I couldn’t get the attention I think it deserved.”

*

Experience of a Lifetime: A star is born.

And he’d better get a move on his new career because he just turned 84.

John Franklin Sawyer, a retired postal worker from Montgomery, Ala., just got his first taste of movie stardom, and there’s something he wants you to know.

“I’m available.”

Sawyer plays Shadrach in “Shadrach,” Susanna Styron’s film based on a short story by her father, William. For a debut feature, Styron’s film had a flashy coming-out party. It opened the recent Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.

Which just goes to show that a little nepotism never hurt anybody.

“When I first read the story in 1979 in Esquire, I was a documentary filmmaker, but I was always interested in directing features,” Styron says. “I called my father and said, ‘Don’t ever option this story to anybody because someday I’m going to make a movie out of it.’ ”

Voila.

“Shadrach” follows an ancient former slave who returns to the plantation of his birth to die and be buried. Sawyer, who snagged the title role in an open casting call around the South, partied down with co-stars Harvey Keitel and Andie MacDowell after the screening. It was his first Hollywood premiere, so please be kind.

“I guess I’m about to float down to normal,” Sawyer said just as his feet were touching the ground at the Directors Guild. “I love people when they are just people.”

As opposed to Hollywood people? What did you expect?

“Flying about. You know.”

You know who you are.

Also partying was up-and-comer Adrien Brody, a star of Eric Bross’ festival entry “Restaurant” and Terence Malick’s hotly anticipated “The Thin Red Line.” Brody was tarted up in a batik shirt he picked up in the Solomon Islands, where Malick’s World War II saga was filmed.

In the islands last fall, Brody had off-camera boy fun night-diving around a sunken Japanese transport ship and doing his hip-hop thing in a battle of the bands show.

Which is how he and Mickey Rourke ended up sending two kids to primary school.

The scholarship fund started when a kid who looked 8 or 9 years old appointed himself Brody’s hip-hop fan club president.

“I bought him a coconut and we hit it off,” Brody says. “I’m like, ‘Why are you hanging out? Shouldn’t you be in school?’ Really, this kid was on the streets, and those streets are rough.”

Brody decided to spend the few hundred dollars it cost to send him through sixth grade. When they met again to talk to the school principal, the kid brought along a friend. Thanks, Uncle Mickey.

“It cost nothing,” Brody says. “It was minor to us. I left a woman my agency number, because if he passes his exams, I’ll put him through college.”

*

Playboy’s Exclusive Club: Last week, we brought you Out & About career tips for breaking into the adult-film industry as a second career. This week, we bring you second careers after life as a Playboy bunny.

OK, so it’s really Kathryn Leigh Scott who did the legwork. The publisher of Pomegranate Press in L.A. and erstwhile bunny has come out with her new addition to Playboy-ology, “The Bunny Years: A History of the Legendary Playboy Bunny.”

The family hutch includes such entertainment luminaries as Lauren Hutton, Deborah Harry and Susan Sullivan from “Dharma & Greg.”

Oh, yes. And Kimba Wood. That’s federal Judge Kimba Wood to you.

Sullivan joined the former bunnies and current Realtors and actresses and artists who chowed down at a recent book do at the Playboy Mansion. So did our favorite former bunnies, whom we’d like to introduce:

Patti Reynolds, Miss September 1965, an original Chicago Playboy Mansion bunny who became a naturalist. The kind that would get a salary from the Illinois Conservation Department. Reynolds later went into the baby-bird protection business with an invention that keeps predators out of birdhouses. “I patented a device called the ‘bird guardian'--several versions, snap on, screw on and so on.”

Polly Matzinger, who worked at the Denver Playboy Club in 1969, and is a researcher in immunology for the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. She says she was like a lot of students who became bunnies because the club was the only place waitresses could make real money--the rest of the best restaurant jobs went to men.

Matzinger still puts her bunny ears, that is years, on her resume. Needless to say, she gets a mixed reaction among her scientific peers.

“When I was a graduate student and people heard that I’d been a bunny, I had an advantage over my male colleagues, meaning the biggies in the field would actually talk to me. That’s the advantage.

“The disadvantage was that I had to make sure the conversation stayed on science.”


Advertisement