Princess Di casts royal spell over Chicago


June 6, 1996
Web posted at: 12:45 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Jeff Flock

CHICAGO (CNN) -- She may be on the verge of a divorce, and a bit faded in the eyes of her countrymen, but in the heartland of the former colonies, Princess Diana is still royalty.

Diana arrived in Chicago Tuesday and will remain through Thursday for a visit to help raise money for cancer research. She spoke at a Northwestern University symposium on breast cancer Wednesday.

Although staggering advances have been made in the fight against cancer, "our work is not yet finished," she said. "I would suggest that now might be a good time to consider another 'C' word which may threaten us. It is the word 'complacency,' and that is why this symposium is of such importance."

She also toured the trauma wards of Chicago's Cook County Hospital, visiting victims of gunshot wounds and life-threatening illnesses. "If she ever wanted to give up her day job as a princess she'd make a wonderful hospital administrator," said John Barrett, head of the trauma ward.

This visit and other stops she has made throughout her Chicago stay might be considered an audition for the post-princess role she is said to seek: ambassador at large to the world.

"This is the visit that will demonstrate her credentials to London, of being an ambassador and being the queen of hearts," said Quentin Letts of the Times of London.


And if this is an audition, it is a good one. Her performance has inspired Chicago to pay perhaps its highest compliment, treating her as though she were as important as a member of the local basketball team. The Chicago Bulls were playing the Seattle SuperSonics Wednesday evening for the NBA title, leaving some basketball fans stuck to choose between going to the game and going to dinner with Di.

Not that many really had the choice. The only tougher ticket than dinner with the princess is the first game of the NBA finals. Dinner runs $50,000 a head; courtside seats to the game, $350 -- or 10 times more than that if purchased through a scalper. Michael Jordan's mother was said to be going to the dinner before going to the game.

Chicago television stations even broadcast the royal movements live, including her trauma ward visit.

Although some Chicagoans have been downright rude -- like the one who picketed the visit and declared that "Diana is embarrassing" -- the sentiment was more inclined to be positive towards Britain's favorite figure.

not a fan

"She was just so radiant and beautiful," said one admirer.

"Just to see her would be wonderful," said Carolyn Williams, who ditched work to do just that.

"I kind of have a cold," she said, feigning a cough. "That's why I'm here." She braved crowds at every stop, and was finally rewarded with the opportunity to present Diana with a flower.

"She is absolutely beautiful," Williams gushed afterwards. "I'm shaking all over." (90K AIFF or WAV sound)

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