I’m not a big fan of dressing up like a prepped-out Hamptons dork.
Yet, there I was, sporting the obligatory blue blazer, linen shirt, khakis, and suede moccasins, desperately trying to fit in with the stuffy upper-crust crowd watching British scion Prince Harry take on Argentinean stud Nacho Figueras at the star-studded Veuve Clicquot Manhattan Polo Classic on Governor’s Island on Saturday afternoon, May 30.
It was glamorous. “It’s so lovely to see all these wonderful people dressed beautifully, ladies in hats,” said Mark Cornell, president and CEO of event sponsor Moet Hennessy and a dead ringer for the writer Christopher Hitchens.
It was exciting. “I love men who hit balls with sticks on islands off of Manhattan,” gushed the artist Dustin Yellin.
It was climactic. “Prince Harry! Sets up Revlich! And Revlich wins the game in the final seconds!” hollered the game’s announcer.
It was, in the words of writer Bob Morris, a “rubby” situation: “People feel that if they’re going to go to a polo match and then, on top of it, you have the imprimateur of Prince Harry, then they’ve rubbed up against privilege.”
And privilege was in plenty supply.
“I’m not witnessing a lot of recession suffering, that’s for sure,” said Mr. Morris, scanning the well-heeled crowd that afternoon. “I’m seeing the Hamptons moving into New York. I’m seeing a fuck-load of real estate that somebody must develop. I’m seeing a lot of well dressed people in need of a tab of ecstasy. You know what else it needs? Lily Allen walking around with a little potty mouth, drunk and insulting people.”
Earlier that morning, I had read all about Prince Harry’s hugely hyped U.S. visit in the New York Post, a trip culminating with the day’s looming polo match. He had schlepped up to Harlem, inspiring the kids with that common touch he inherited from his late mum, Princess Diana. What a role model!
This was the kinder, gentler Prince Harry, of course, a far cry from the pot-smoking, paparazzi-scuffling, Nazi-uniform-wearing royal pain in the arse that you read about in the British tabloids; the guy who once referred to a fellow solider serving in Afghanistan as a “raghead.”
In fact, that seemed to be the whole point of his visit; undoing his hard-earned bad-boy image.
“He’s doing a good job this week of doing all the right things, keeping a low profile,” David Lauren, son of Ralph and heir apparent to his father’s fashion empire, would tell me on the polo grounds later that afternoon; errant balls twice whizzing past us—one nearly decapitating some poor young woman in a big hat. “And he should stay low key for now, be understated. I think people are looking for him to be a good reflection of his country.”
I, too, tried to keep a low profile that afternoon. But it’s hard when you’re strapped with that all-important orange wristband. This was my golden ticket, entitling me to easier entry amid some super tight security and also allowing me the pleasure of briskly strolling past spectators in the general admission cheap seats. Commoners!
My ego soared all the way down an endless red carpet, fellow reporters and photographers roped off lest they invade my personal space with their microphones, recorders, stench.
I recognized a few comrades standing in the press line but didn’t nod, just kept staring straight ahead—hey, it is what it is, suckers, eat it!—waiting for a few camera clicks and inevitable whispers of “who’s he?”
Doesn’t happen. Suddenly, I heard someone excitedly say, “Are you Nacho’s sister?” Flashbulbs galore.
For the rest of the day, Mercedes Figueras, sister of Nacho, walked around saying, “I’m not your sister!”
Finally, I arrived at the VIP tent, where things quickly began to unravel. It seemed my hallowed orange wrist band no longer cut the mustard. I needed to fork over at least $1,000 (and up to $50,000) for a silver one to mingle with the A-listers.