And as Chelsea Clinton and Charlie Sheen board that same 21st-century carriage that once held Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, they ride past the glorious Port Authority Bus Terminal, where three thousand drunk and homeless vagrants wait to escort them to the top of the Empire State Building, off whose roof they will be ceremoniously dropped wearing parachutes with a 50% failure rate – live coverage available on Pay-Per-View for only $49.95.
Now that would be a Royal Wedding.
But a prince and a princess – or, excuse me, a duke and a duchess – that’s a little harder for an American like me to understand. Our royal class is created not by birth, but by the only thing that really matters – money. Well, money and celebrity. And we don’t care nearly as much about their weddings as their arrests, overdoses, and funerals. If there are three Americans that can identify a picture of the Vice Presidents wife, I’d be surprised. But everyone knows exactly where they were when Michael Jackson overdosed on sedatives, or when O.J. Simpson headed down the freeway in his white Bronco. If there isn’t a Charlie Sheen breakfast cereal currently in development somewhere in this country, it’s only because no one has thought of the idea yet. And the only people were interested in seeing kiss on a balcony are reality show contestants or perhaps Arnold Schwarzenegger and whoever is soon to be revealed as the mother of his sixteen other love children.
All of which is why I couldn’t help but be entirely baffled by the scene in London on the 29th of April when those people in the fancy costumes were married – and the whole city calmly gathered to wave tiny flags and politely watch the spectacle on the big screens in Trafalgar Square.
Okay, leave it to an American to take all of the majesty out of the Royal Wedding. But, hey, Britain, listen to someone who’s from a country that knows how to create a tourist trap out of nothing – Mount Rushmore, a mountain in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with carvings of a few famous faces that 98 percent of Americans can’t even recognise, gets over 2 million visitors a year – you did it all wrong. Sure, you had a few street vendors selling souvenirs, and some perfectly adequate sandwich tents – except, excuse me, would it have killed the marketing folks at Pret-A-Manger to quickly invent a couple of new sandwiches to commemorate the occasion, perhaps the Prince Harry (bangers and mash, dressed up in offensive costume to look like a German sausage?) and the Pippa (ham – or the cut of meat known in the U.S. as pork butt – with some fancy dressing).
But, no, here you were with practically a million people roaming the streets, pounds in their pockets – and there was virtually nothing to spend it on. As an American – as a capitalist – and as a representative of LUSSO and all that is luxury – I was deeply offended. Where were the premium seats? Where could I get my own 3,000 hat, made from Scottish wildcat fur and the feathers of the endangered grey partridge? If I wanted an outfit like the princes, I didn’t see anyone selling one. And if I wanted to bid on a date with Pippa Middleton, I would have had to have found a vendor on the black market, because it simply wasn’t part of the organised program.
Look, I understand that there’s some nonsense about protocol and decorum that goes along with the British Monarchy, but to an American like me, it’s hard to understand. I walked into Waterstones and saw the huge display of Kate and William merchandise – even got excited for a moment when I saw the Royal Wedding book of paper dolls. But what a disappointment to open the cover and find that on every page, the couple is fully dressed, and every choice of paper outfit is tasteful, polite, and appropriate. I don’t know if there’s a book of paper dolls, featuring the Bush Twins, but if there is I assure you that Jenna and Barbara start out completely naked and end up with all sorts of possibilities for S&M. For example, orgies with the Clintons and Obamas, and an enticing group sex tableau with the ghosts of JFK and Anna Nicole Smith and that guy who got Sarah Palin’s daughter pregnant. This is how you capitalise on a Royal Wedding. With tasteless, rude, inappropriate merchandise that can fund all of the flags you want to fly over the whole city, ten times over.
I could find no relief from the proper British approach. Not in the news coverage speculating on the couples choice of honeymoon – and who goes to Seychelles in April anyway? – or in the tasteful Harrods window displays. Yes, I’ll take two of Kate’s dresses, and I will put them on replicas of the bodies of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Then prop them up in the middle of Times Square, call it some sort of performance art and get a rave review in The New York Times.
After a few days of it – put up in the Zetter Townhouse, which cushioned the experience quite well – luxury accommodations can certainly do a lot to make up for the offense of a country not yet able to realise the full marketing possibilities of its national events – I could take no more, and had to escape to Paris. (And with all the horses tied up in wedding-related events – and all the antique cars as well – I was forced to ride the Eurostar, which is mercifully quick, and that’s about all that’s worth saying in these pages about the Eurostar).
Paris, of course, makes far more sense to an American like me – and especially with the recent revelations about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, which, it has to be said, came about fifty years too late to feel relevant on this side of the world. We’ve been doing political sex scandal for a long time, and if France thinks they can get in on that market, they are surely mistaken. All the DSK news is just going to make yet another Bill Clinton girlfriend, John Edwards mistress, or Arnold Schwarzenegger ten-year-old daughter pop out of the closet. They don’t realise they’re provoking the worlds number one manufacturer of political sex scandals. We Americans do not stand for foreign sex scandals taking over our news media.
But even before the latest revelations, Paris still felt like home, with the vending machines on the street selling condoms, the trash covering the sidewalks, and homeless people around every corner. It’s like New York, if people in New York spoke English and we had nice architecture and decent croissants. As the Brits line up carefully behind the police barricades and politely wave their little flags as the motorcade drives down the Mall, the French know how to have a good time. A royal wedding in Paris would involve riots in the suburbs, burning cars, civil unrest, sniper rifles, and the threat of a new French Revolution. In London, Twinings gives out royal wedding tea samples to the tourists and twenty-four hours after the wedding (and 750,000 people eating and drinking in the streets) there is no evidence that any crowd had ever gathered and all of the trash has been dumped into the Thames.
In London, you dump trash into the river. In America, we dump bodies. In London, you worship people with a legitimate claim to the throne, who, with the exception of Prince Harry, don’t generally embarrass their country. And in America, we worship Paris. I mean Paris Hilton. Congratulations, William and Kate. And good luck in the future, in case I lose track of what you’re up to. After all, the American media won’t cover you again until you overdose.
Whilst in London, Jeremy stayed at the Zetter Townhouse Hotel in Clerkenwell. Further information is available online at thezettertownhouse.com.