In her famous 1995 BBC interview, Diana, the Princess of Wales, stated that she sought to be “queen in the hearts” of the people, rather than sitting on an ancient royal throne. By then, on the verge of officially separating from Prince Charles, she was opting for honesty. An option given its high public exposure, which attracted all eyes and at that time had it at the center of the talk about the royal family.
During those years the princess – portrayed at length in the new season of the series The Crown, available on Netflix – also took refuge in his close circle. There was Elton John.
For his part, he was having a good time. A short time before Diana’s words were known to the BBC, he consolidated a brilliant return to the covers clean of drugs, and he busied himself in composing some songs for the film’s soundtrack The Lion King, with which he achieved notoriety thanks to pieces such as “Hakuna Matata” or the central theme “Can you feel the love tonight?”.
The job kept him in touch with the Disney people and it happened that one of the company’s top bosses, Jeffrey Katzenberg, scheduled a trip to England. Of course, the artist immediately acted as host and did not beat around the bush; He threw a party at his Woodside mansion.
But between the exotic food orders and the decoration in tune with the event, there was time to make a select list of guests. On the phone, Sir Elton arranged it with Katzenberg, who made a special request.
“I asked him if there was anyone in Britain whom he really wanted to meet and, without hesitation, he said ‘Princess Diana’ – the artist recalls in his autobiography Yo Elton John (Penguin Random House, 2019) -. So we invited her, and also George Michael, Richard Curtis and his wife Emma Freud, Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone, who were in the country at the time. “
If there was an artist close to Lady Di, it was Elton John. They met at a royal ball in old Windsor Castle, where they hit it off without much effort. “He arrived on the dance floor and we connected immediately,” recalls the musician. We ended up pretending we were dancing a charleston while booing because of how low the volume of the disco was. “
Since then both shared a deep friendship. They were seen together at different events, and they also shared interests in charity work; In those days the musician created the Elton John Foundation against HIV AIDS, to support prevention and care programs for people infected with the virus, while the princess also supported different humanitarian organizations.
Diana Spencer was a person who displayed a natural sympathy that allowed her to connect very easily with whoever she had in front of her eyes. “Despite her status and ancestry, she was blessed with an incredible ability to socialize, with the ability to talk to anyone, to appear normal, to make people feel comfortable in her company.”
His ease of treatment and overflowing charisma attracted attention. He had that hard-to-define charm that some call sex appeal; something irresistible that can only be felt in every muscle of the body. “If Diana had blown my mind, that was nothing compared to the effect it could have on straight men,” recalls Sir Elton. They seemed to lose their minds completely in his presence: they were totally spellbound. “
And so it was at the dinner Sir Elton threw for the Disney boss. Two of the guests succumbed to the charm of the Princess of Wales. “Right from the start, Richard Gere and Diana seemed to connect,” recalls the musician. The truth is that in those days, both carried a break, Diana with Carlos, Richard with the model Cindy Crawford. Somehow they shared a similar energy and pain.
“They ended up sitting together on the floor, in front of the fireplace, deep in absorbing conversation,” he adds. As the rest of us continued talking, I couldn’t help but notice a slight change in the atmosphere in the room. “
It was then that the musician noticed Stallone, who as expressionless as on the screen, kept his gaze towards the princess and the heartthrob of Pretty woman. The “Italian stallion” chewed rage like the fuze of a grenade thrown in his movies. “I think he had attended the dinner with the express intention of hooking up with Diana, and found that his plans had been unexpectedly thwarted,” Sir Elton details.
Before long, the guests were told that dinner was ready and they could come to the table. When everyone sat down, there were two unfilled seats: Richard Gere’s and Sylvester Stallone’s. After waiting for them a bit, and throwing a joke to break the awkward moment, Elton asked his partner, David Furnish, to find the two actors.
Furnish returned with both of them, but his evasive gaze and the unusual pale tone of his skin gave away the tension. “It turned out that when he found them, Sylvester Stallone and Richard Gere were in the hallway facing each other, apparently on the verge of solving their differences when it came to Diana with a clean fist,” recalls the composer.
David tactfully lowered the tension by again telling the actors that dinner was served. Thus, he separated them and returned to them. But after the meal, it was over. “After dinner, Diana and Richard Gere took their place in front of the fire and Sylvester went home unhinged,” says Sir Elton.
The actor took his jacket, barely said goodbye to the rest, and hurried to the door accompanied by Elton and David. On the way he unburdened himself. “He wouldn’t have come had he known that fucking prince charming was going to be here,” he exclaimed. If I really loved her, I would already have her ”.
Meanwhile, by the fire, the unexpected couple talked without knowing what had happened. “Diana and Richard Gere kept looking at each other as if in a trance state,” the composer recalls. She seemed completely serene. It is possible that he had not realized what had happened. Or maybe that kind of thing happened to her all the time and she was used to it ”.
For Elton John, that anecdote sums up the impact Diana had. “After his death people started talking about something called the Diana Effect, which referred to that way he had to change the public perception of the royal family, AIDS, bulimia, mental health or whatever. But whenever I hear that expression, I think of that night. There was certainly another type of Diana Effect: the one that could make Hollywood’s big stars about to punch each other over dinner, like a pair of dumb teenagers in love. “
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The night Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone clashed over Lady Di