"Tell me, Princess, do you miss bodysurfing?"
With that question (which I know no one had ever asked Princess Grace of Monaco, the former Grace Kelly of Germantown), she stifled a smile and most likely wanted to burst out laughing, but princesses don't do that - at least not in front of a commoner like me, from Bryn Mawr.
It was February 1972, and I was a guest at the wedding of Prince Rainier's niece, Christine-Alix de Massy, and my boyfriend's roommate, Wayne Knecht. My boyfriend, Joseph Evancich, was the best man at this wedding in Monaco's Royal Palace.
Two days before the wedding, we flew to Paris, jumped into a rented Volkswagen Beetle, and drove south to Cannes - or so we thought. Instead, we ended up in the French Alps, where we spent the night in a nice B&B at the base of a mountain.
The next day, we rushed to get to Monaco by 5 p.m. for a rehearsal dinner. We couldn't be late - royal protocol specified that no one enters a room after the prince and princess.
But at 4:50 p.m., we were still driving around the tiny principality, stressed out as we looked for the Royal Palace. When we finally found it, we were whisked inside to change into our formal wear, then escorted to the cocktail party.
But, alas, we were late, and everyone was already there - including the prince and princess. Would they behead us? Would we be banished sans passports?
As I walked into the room, shaking with giddy nervousness and pure fear, Princess Grace (with Rainier right behind her), extended her hand and said, "Oh, so you're the Americans we've all been waiting for!"
There was time for a quick drink, then we headed into the something-out-of-Hollywood dining room and a sitdown dinner for an intimate group of 50. Behind every other chair stood a servant. In front of me were enough place settings to perform plastic surgery. A crystal glass for white wine, another glass for red wine, yet another glass for vodka.
The mono-linguistic guests were relegated to the ends of the table, while those who spoke several languages sat closest to the royal couple, who sat across from each other.
After our 11-course meal, we adjourned to the reception room - cozy with love seats, comfortable chairs, and photographs of heads of state from around the world. Look, there's President Kennedy's picture, and Queen Elizabeth's and President de Gaulle's.
I was sitting with the bride-to-be on a love seat long enough for three when Princess Grace sat down next to me. To me! Now what? What do you ask a princess? I'm sure she gets the usual: Do you miss Hollywood? How did you adjust to the European way of living?
No. I had to ask her something that no one would ever think to ask her.
Sitting within inches of her porcelain skin and that beautiful bone structure, I went for it: "Tell me, Princess Grace, do you miss bodysurfing?"
Nine years later, she would be gone, but I would have the memories of her face, her slight smile, and her answer.
"Well, yes, Vicky, I do miss it. As you know, the Mediterranean does not have any waves, and my family has a home in Ocean City, New Jersey, where the Atlantic Ocean does have waves, and I used to race my brother, Jack . . . when we were young. . . ."