You Can Call Me Al

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A 1967 Lincoln Continental turns the corner. Photo: JH.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023. Temps yesterday in New York were mainly in the 70s from low to high. And with the Sun coming and going with storm clouds, around and about. I’ve been spending a lot of my hours going through the miles and miles and miles of accumulated “stuff” — Diaries and the like. 

With my sister Helen around the time I wrote her this letter.

What takes so much of the time is getting caught up in something I saw or wrote twenty, thirty, or forty years ago.  This one was in a letter to my eldest sister, Helen. I had just returned from a trip to Monaco. My first. This was in the late ‘90s.

I‘d been hired by Judy Price, the founder and owner of Avenue magazine, as Editor. Judy did a tremendous business with European advertisers. Those pages doubled the size of the magazine. A lot of her clients came out of Monaco, Monte Carlo.

So I was sent to Monte Carlo to take it all in and meet the Prince (Albert) whose father was still with us. As I explained to Helen in my letter written on April 5, 1998:

I arrived home about five o’clock yesterday afternoon, midnight Monaco time. I didn’t go right to bed because I was afraid I’d wake up in the middle of the night. So I was up until midnight. Unpacking and getting everything together again takes time. And the apartment was in deep need of some tidying up. My dog sitter was kind of a slob. But she was good to the dogs so nothing else matters. 

So cleaning things up is a good way for me to work off anxieties and stress which this job definitely serves up on a silver platter daily.  I know eventually I’ll put it all behind me — the stress part. All of this has been a brilliant experience anyway. 

Monaco was an interesting place to see. When you become so familiar too quickly with a place, with its people, with its history, you develop an odd attachment. Since my job was to go there and learn about it, ultimately I soaked it up. 

Prince Albert with his mother, Princess Grace, 1972 (Hans, Peter, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL, via Wikimedia Commons)

Prince Albert remains the most poignant image because he definitely is a lost boy, a misplaced American in a European tradition. You can see that his mother’s background was dominant in his childhood and youth. There is something very sad about it, life-sad.

In Monaco, going around, it’s impossible to ignore the economic wealth that envelops the atmosphere. The display windows in all the shops proliferate with jewels, expensive leather goods, clothes, plus the Ferraris, the Rollses, the BMWs, the Jags, the Mercedes taxicabs — they know that this is the “safest place to live in the world,” which I suppose it is. 

The just plain enormous (Philip) Niarchos yacht, a ship really, moored in the tiny harbor. I kept thinking What Is Going To Happen Here? When there is a lot of money around, a LOT OF MONEY, controlled by several thousand individuals you know there’s a lot of other stuff around, like dirt, like corruption, like decadence, like … destruction.

Philip Niarchos’ ATLANTIS II. The yacht was commissioned by Stavros Niarchos, Philip’s late father.

Money is Power. And Power is the opportunity to do what you want to think you can. The Big Cheeses are in the privacy of their lairs. And they are ensconced here because they pay no taxes and they don’t have to worry about being hassled by some poor slob or weird nasty.

Prince Albert, or Albert, or Al, looks like a mild and milk-fed naïf under these circumstances. I interviewed him in what could be described as his office or a study with a small living room.  He was casually dressed, sports jacket and slacks. He was so American in his presence it was difficult to imagine him as its succeeding prince. Of course, I understood why, being the only son of a famous American movie star.

Here’s “Al” in 2013 very much looking the part.

Because of his American-ness, I asked him how one was to address him. And he repeated the official address of Prince Albert. I asked him what his friends called him. “Al,” he answered with a big smile on his face, acknowledging the irony. The interview lasted about 45 minutes. It might have been shorter except every 15 minutes his phone rang and he answered it instantly (as if it were an important call). And said to the caller each time: “No, he’s still here …”  

His response to the caller was the kind of a response you’d expect a son to have when speaking to real authority — such as a father. I didn’t feel I got to know him well but his American-ness was so much how he appears that I had the sense that I did know him.

The “Defense Minister” of Saudi Arabia, a 29-year-old Saudi prince, was putting up at the Hotel de Paris for several months, having taken over two floors for himself and his entourage which consisted mainly of security, which means big and not so big galumphs who pack a pistol and anything else needed. And the girls. Lots of the girls. Who were engaging with the prince when he could tear himself away from the Casino, the booze and the cheeseburgers. 

The following evening was the annual Bal de la Rose where Princess Stephanie — said to be four months pregnant by her (then former) bodyguard (who, it is always added in a whisper, is also Jewish) — was there at the Bal with her father, the white haired, white bushy moustachioed Prince Rainier.  Stephanie was wearing black, puffy eyed as if she’d been crying, her formerly dark brown hair a kind of much lighter bottle blonde, her hands carrying a small bouquet which she kept over her growing belly; looking very sad.

Prince Albert providing his sister Princess Stéphanie with a glimpse of happiness at the Bal de la Rose. Abaca Press / Alamy Stock Photo

This is the second bodyguard, I think, to impregnate Stephanie. At least the second that we know of. People think it’s awful or so scandalous or … the Poor Father. I think none of that. I think poor Stephanie. What’s she supposed to do? The Princess in a Gilded Cage, in a city a tow, a village where there’s nothing much else around but bodyguards. Besides, she was an over-indulged, very pretty kid. Besides, oh-they-say-a-good man is hard to find; you always get the other kind …. Isn’t that how the song goes? Well, remember, life is a song. And I’m looking over a four leaf clover ….

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