WHERE DO YOU PEE IN THE PALACE?

 

Much to my disappointment my fairytale night was winding down, but I was determined to savor every last moment before I was forced to exit St. James Palace and turned back into a pumpkin.  

Since dinner, an army of servants had been busy distributing bottle after bottle of the finest Champagne in sparkling crystal flutes till we were all quite tipsy. At the Prince’s insistence, Bob and I performed a few numbers, then I danced with the Duke of This and the Lord of That – getting my toes frequently stepped on in the process. Bob was also in high demand as the female leaders of England’s high society giggled like schoolgirls as my charming and very handsome husband twirled them around the dance floor.

Bob & Muriel taking a walk in Paris in 1925

Finally, I found myself dancing with Fred Astaire. We had recently seen him and his sister, Adele, in the popular play,“ Lady Be Good,” and knew they were wonderful actors, singers and tap dancers, but I had no idea what a remarkable ball room dancer Fred was. He guided me around the room with such grace and ease, I felt like I was floating. I was almost disappointed when the Prince cut in – almost. I had recently taught HRH some new Charleston steps and the Prince kept me on the dance floor till my feet felt like they were going to explode. Feigning thirst, I requested a break. The Prince summoned drinks and led me to a quiet corner where we began chatting.

So far during all my encounters with HRH, he was usually quite proper and formal, much to my disappointment. To my surprise, the Prince began asking several personal questions about my life. He also wanted to know what it felt like to be on stage and hear the applause and appreciation. The Prince seemed envious of our carefree existence and life style. I think in another life he would have ended up on stage too. He even flirted a bit – not that I was interested – but still, to have the future King of England take an interest was quite thrilling. Besides, his current girlfriend is a close friend of mine.

 I glanced over and saw General Trotter glaring at me. He is the Prince’s aide and bodyguard who had lectured me several times to stop asking him questions and being so informal with HRH. The Prince hadn’t complained, so I took a chance. I was just getting him to relax and open up a little, when Adele walked up.

 “Have either of you seen Fred and Bob? They disappeared some ago and I can’t find them anywhere.”

 The Prince, who sometimes surprised us with his rather bizarre sense of humor, said with the most serious of faces, “This is very disturbing news, Adele. People have been disappearing in this castle for centuries never to be heard from again.” Adele’s eyes widened, not sure what to make of his comment.

Turning to the crowd the Prince announced loudly, “Two of our own have disappeared. We must form a search party and discover their whereabouts immediately!”

The Prince took our arms and marched Adele and me out of the drawing room. The other guests looked very confused, but when the future King of England gives a royal command, what is left to do but obey? They all dutifully followed us out into the hallway and down a wide, winding staircase not sure of where they were going or why. The poor servants, not prepared for the sudden exodus of all the guests, scrambled about quickly grabbing trays of Champagne and hurried after the mob in case any of the royal search party got thirsty.  

The Prince guided us through a maze of rooms and hallways, each more spectacular that the last, with no sign of Bob and Fred. I would have preferred lingering in each room taking in the splendor and history than looking for my husband, whom I was quite sure was perfectly okay, but the Prince was on a mission.

After 15 minutes of looking with no success, the Prince held up his hand stopping us in our tracks. He said he heard singing coming from somewhere. Suddenly, from around the far corner, Bob and Fred appeared, arm-in-arm, doing a hop-tap-skip dance in syncopated rhythm down the hallowed halls of St. James Palace and singing a song they had obviously just made up at the top of their lungs.   All I could make out was something about “Tinkling on the royal throne.” As they came closer, the words became clearer and we heard all too clearly a drunken verse of, “Where do you pee in the Palace?”

They were in the height of their idiocy when they looked up and saw the Prince and his startled posse of Princes, Princesses, Dukes, Duchesses, Lords and Ladies staring at them in stunned bewilderment. Bob and Fred froze mid-hop and stared back, equally startled and exceedingly chagrined. There was dead silence for the longest time, until I was absolutely shaking with silent laughter. One look at the dancing duo’s faces and I simply couldn’t hold it in any longer…I burst out in wild, gasping laughter that bounced and echoed off the Palace walls.   The rest of the search party kept their silence until the Prince started laughing so hard his eyes watered. By then, everyone was in hysterics—except General Trotter, of course! Bob and Fred looked greatly relieved as they walked sedately up to join us.  

“Marvelous,” the Prince announced, still grinning and clapping. “Bob, you and Muriel must include that song in your next performance at the Night Light Club. I insist!”  

I had hoped the night would never end, but it was 3:00am and I guess even royals have to get up in the morning and do what ever it is they do, so it was time to say goodnight. The Prince insisted that his personal driver take us back to our hotel. I was hoping our ride would be the Royal Carriage pulled by six beautiful, white stallions, a fitting end to my fairytale night—but alas, it was just in his personal limousine.

During the ride home, I cuddled up next to Bob trying to recall every moment of the magical evening so I could permanently etch them into my mind never to be forgotten. Hard to believe that less than a year ago we were wandering the streets of Paris broke and hungry having no idea what the future had in store for us. Then it suddenly occurred to me. ..

 “Bob?”

“Yes, darling.”

“Where does one pee in the Palace?”

Bob chuckled, “Not sure. Fred and I never did find a damn bathroom, but there is a ficus plant in one of the bedrooms that won’t need watered for quite some time!”