If you turned on the TV, picked up a paper, or got stuck in traffic, you may have heard that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka William and Kate) were in Los Angeles over the weekend. They packed in scads of affairs, but the most sporting was a polo match benefiting the American Friends of the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry and the Polo Training Center Santa Barbara, where the prince took to the field and Kate presented the Tiffany & Co.-designed trophy. I didn’t wear a hat (it didn’t work) to the match and luncheon on a beautiful Saturday, but the duchess stepped off the helicopter minus any headgear herself. I smiled. Nailed it. The SB polo fields are gorgeous, and I’ve covered matches there before. But this time it had been dialed up a notch—there were security checks, secret service (Brit or U.S., couldn’t tell), sheriff’s deputies on horseback, officers with German shepherds, and fellas stationed on every roof. After the escorted helicopter touched down, the couple swung past the press line (I squealed, “Welcome!” and received a dual nod. Super-cool, real professional.) on their way to a Giada De Laurentiis-prepared luncheon. “We’ve been up a long time,” she said, referring to herself and her staff and the grilling of a lot of zucchini. Once inside, folks practically tripped over themselves to chat with or get a snap of the newlyweds. “My father and brother Harry were as green as that grass when I told them I was going to be here today,” the duke said during lunch. In case the royal couple’s first visit to Cali wasn’t enough reason to celebrate, it was also the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club’s centennial, which had Anheuser-Busch heir/polo player Andy Busch smiling: “It’s a great day to celebrate 100 years!” Tickets ran about $4,000 a pop for the luncheon and around $400 on the club side of the field, where the hats were pretty spectacular and one spectator was there thanks to an anniversary present. Sweet. The people in the condos facing the field filled their balcony patios and had a large party themselves (there were even secret service at their poolside bash, where a ball or two popped off the field into the water). The players (men and women) took to the field for a few practice swings, and despite his headgear I recognized the prince, number 4 on team Royal Salute, taking some shots. Turns out he’s a lefty and the game is played righties only, so he’s had to become a switch hitter. The players were introduced, and then the cameras came out and anything number 4 did was followed quickly and closely and cheered for. “I’ve never seen polo before,” Jennifer Love Hewitt admitted with a big smile before the match. Other celeb types in attendance included Rosario Dawson, Billy Zane, Zoe Saldana, and Rob Lowe. It was a lovely day, and it was refreshing to see everyone’s reception of the couple—all the pair had to do was walk past or chat, and the well-heeled and celebrified folk beamed ear to ear. Despite some early misses, team Royal Salute picked up the sterling silver and gold cup and a kiss from Kate. The couple is back across the Atlantic, and the only thing that remains is my horrible sunburn. OK, I see why you wear a hat.
Photographs courtesy Alex Berliner/AP Images