I flipped on the tube to my late local news, and Sue Simmons was teasing wedding coverage. Then Bruce Beck did a bit about the Giants’ draft picks, including a cornerback who claims to be a Nigerian prince, which I’d always thought was just a scam! “My grandfather was a chief in our village …”
Up on Ovation, there was a smart documentary, a little tragic-farcical, a little like Greil Marcus’ theoretical tinkering with Elvis trinkets. It was Diana’s Dresses. The president of Romance Classics, a niche cable channel, talked about putting together a touring exhibition of Diana’s old clothes. (The dresses toured American shopping malls, totally.) Things were going along great in the fall of 1997, but, unfortunately … “Unfortunately, we had a tagline ‘Dresses to Di for’ …” On the bright side, in what sounds like a great B-school case study in crisis management, they “retooled the tour to a ‘Legacy of Love.’ ” On the celestial side, we later meet a teenaged girl who says, “There’s a place in my heart where I keep God—and Diana’s right there.”
On Nightline, Cynthia McFadden and Tim Gunn were bouncing around a jewelry shop, trying to work it while wearing tiaras. Tim was quick and emphatic when performing an on-the-spot exchange-rate calculation.
According to my cable guide, MSNBC was airing Kate Middleton, which promised to offer “the full story on Prince William and his bride” The full story? Parturition? Teething? Menarche? OK. But when I tuned in, I saw it was just the same package that aired on Dateline last Sunday: “Back in the days of ‘once upon a time,’ a princess was born, not made …”
I turned on FoxNews, simply wanting to watch Hannity for a while to get my bile up. But Hannity had been pre-empted, and the FoxNews team had exploded in a delirious peal of sound effects—a blitz of bulbs and shutter clicks, horny fanfares, and a lot of crystallized tinkles of ye olde pixie dust. The blonde on-screen, who may or may not have been Megyn Kelly, as if it matters, had gotten the whole thing backward from a pop studies perspective. She showed us pictures of Julie Christie and Twiggy and told us that London was swinging again now that Kate was “the it girl of our age.”
That does not move me, even though FoxNews interviewed everyone on King’s Road who’d ever had a commercial interaction with Kate Middleton, and then they interviewed everyone who hadn’t. FoxNews asked an average boutique owner whether she enjoyed the idea of having Kate as a client. The interviewee answered, “Yeah, of course, I would love to,” cooing. FoxNews then brought out Paul Burrell, who, being both a former “butler to the royal family” and the author of tell-all, is help that doesn’t know his place.
“TLC has officially taken over Times Square.” Well, better them than al-Qaida. I searched my inbox for the relevant press release: There was to be a live viewing event with the British Consul-General in New York, to complement the London coverage, which features “actor Rupert Everett and socialite and former model Ivana Trump.” There were precisely four hours—4:00:00—left on the countdown clock. A girl with an awful accent estimated the value of Kate’s engagement ring at $58 million. Only that much? The guy from What Not To Wear was making notes on souvenir-shop camp.
Continuing to flip, I tuned into TCM and watched North by Northwestfor the nth time. The authorities were handling all the red caps, and Roger O. Thornhill had a big face, a small razor, and a mid-Atlantic accent.
I trudged up to the Wedding Channel. Here was an hourlong program titled, in a spasm of practicality, William & Kate. It was rated TV-G, which I found intriguing, as I’d prefer that my kid watched American Psycho. Discourse once again turned toward a photograph of the future queen in her underwear at a “fashion show.” Someone here referred to it as “a virtually see-through chiffon piece of a dress.” I say someone because the graphics were very cheap and hard to read. I think that this was the “celebrity psychologist.” Elsewhere, some old bat, assisted by a Kate look-alike in a blue cocktail dress, possibly mute, presented a how-to segment about handing bouquets to ladies-in-waiting. Talk turned to the question of whether Kate Middleton is now or ever has been a little too skinny. “She looked very anorexic to me,” opined “a socialite” or some such. We concluded, ultimately, with the idea that she’s not, like, seriously ill or anything … Then shoveled up some unsourced speculation about the dress.
At 7:29 Greenwich Mean Time, I put on CNN International and admired the gray and the greenery of the exterior shots, or tried to, while they tried to tell me about “Princess Diana’s Legacy” and such. The sun rose on Britannia and, waking, she looked like Rome from this network’s angle.
Shortly Fox—both real Fox and Fox News—were airing slick SkyTV, also a Rupert Murdoch property. Handsome maps, snappy graphics, flapping Union Jacks, sound bites from the archbishop of Canterbury. You remember the scandal a little while back when a FoxNews employee was caught waving his or her arms to work up the crowd at a Tea Party rally? On SkyTV, this morning, a presenter was doing that stuff out in the wide open at the top of the broadcast.
At 3 a.m. ET, the received pronunciation and wisdom of the BBC flickered to life. The Beeb billed the event as “a glorious pageant, a national celebration, and a royal love story.” It was a love story indeed. Did you catch the name of the reporter chatting about the party busses shuttling guests from the hotel. “It’s making me smile,” she smiled, “because it’s making me think of an Indian wedding.” Then there was Faerne Cotton, who, with her delicate manner and daring eyeliner, possibly rates as the real Alexa Chung. Out in the crowd, one of Elizabeth’s subjects bragged to Faerne that she owned 12,000 pieces of Windsor-themed commemorative china.
On CBS at 4 a.m. ET, Katie was looking tragically MOTB, washed out in a coral suit. Her lead-in was a joke about how neither she nor the viewer had received a wedding invitation. “Don’t despair, however! We invite you to be our guest for the next five hours …” Katie had breaking news: The queen would be conferring some titles on William and Catherine.
On NBC, Matt Lauer said, “Just this morning, the queen has conferred titles on William and Catherine …”
On ABC, Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters were chatting with Tina Brown, who fizzed like this: “Diana, Diana, Diana … I don’t think Kate Middleton is a billowing train kind of a girl.” Diane and Barbara ran out of things to say at 4:07. There was an awkward silence. Then Barbara said, “We just heard about new titles …”
On CNN shortly thereafter, Anderson Cooper correctly identified David Beckham and Posh Spice arriving, then he asked me to scan my TV screen with my phone.
On Univision—en vivo from Londres, Inglaterra—an on-scene correspondent wore a hat so chic that no American TV journalist could risk it. Meanwhile, back in the studios, presenters who were vacuum-sealed inside one-shouldered cocktail dresses discussed the Anglican faith.
For the main event, I flipped back to the BBC, where they’d invited over Simon Schama, CBE, to freestyle. He chuckled at the busses and arranged them in a riff on “the mixture of spectacle and identification … That could be your football team when you’re playing away, really.” When it was confirmed that Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen had designed the dress, a presenter squealed in italicized ecstasy: “I am beside myself!”
At the moment of the hitch, there was a sound glitch, the rare flaw in a grand day: I liked the swell of droning feedback that stripped from the speakers just as the bride was pledging herself. In other noise news, all throughout the kingdom, the microphones picked up a high huge cheer—and tea-kettle shriek—and a beauty of a tintinnabulation. Good show!