31 August 2007

Princess Diana


This is a season of anniversaries. Ten years ago today, Princess Diana died. Like her, I was on vacation in France, riding in a car driven by a Frenchman, when her accident occurred. Unlike her, I was wearing a seatbelt. I heard the news over the radio, and foolishly I thought, "Dan won't fly over to cover the funeral — after all, it's not as if he can land an interview with Diana now." But I phoned the office and received the word. "Drop everything, fly to London, CBS is covering this big time."

All of London seemed to be in mourning, and to this day, I've never been anywhere when everybody was so sad. Even in New York after 9/11, the emotions were more various, even for any one person. I'd always been skeptical about Diana, and I remained so. Her glamour never won me over: all I saw was a trashy soap-opera, as much Coronation Street as coronation. In particular, her manipulation of the media was blatant and shamelessly self-serving, but I had to admit, she made herself a superstar. And this diva had her devotees. You could almost feel the grief in the air.

I spent much of my writing time trying to smarten and toughen up our reports, fighting the tendency to describe Diana as a "real-life fairy-tale princess" — since, after all, the news ostensibly deals more with reality than with fairy tales. I didn't have any responsibility for the 48 Hours broadcast, later that night: they went whole-hog with the fairy tale and won an Emmy for it. Shows how much I know.

But beyond this, I didn't walk away with much insight. I retain a violent aversion to "Candle in the Wind," which I heard roughly 33 times during the day of the funeral, but I don't retain the sort of specific recollections and telling anecdotes with which I'd like to make this blog worth reading.

Still, with every other publication on the planet talking about Diana, I may as well go along with the crowd. I'm not missing out on another Emmy if I can help it.