Or how a southern Illinois redneck got involved with a children’s charity in the service of the Crowned Princess of Serbia
Part of my work at my last full time gig was party invitations for the CEO and his wife. They’re old school New Yorkers, albeit the successful type. They summer in the Hamptons and the south of France, live in the United Nations complex and so entertain quite frequently. It’s part of the job of being a Fortune 500 CEO. While the workers keep the business growing, the people at the top grow investors.
These aren’t the parties you and I host. At one, the entertainment was the Village People. Doctor Phil shows up and curiously, Ginger, aka Tina Louise from Gillian’s Island. She remains the most famous person I’ve ever spoken to.
My CEO had a rather storied past, and got his start making guitar effects pedals, for people like Jimi Hendrix and curiously, Jim Morrison. We bonded over that.
It has been several years since I’d left that job. So I was surprised when I got a call from them, while they were at the opera during intermission. She had a project and thought I’d be the ideal candidate for the job.
It was a benefit for the Serbian Children’s Hospital, being hosted by the Crowned Prince and Princess of Serbia. Note the capitals in that sentence. The proper capitalization and order of words is essential when working for royalty, as I was soon to find out.
I never actually spoke with the Princess, just her secretary. One can imagine how surreal it was to stand outside of Walmart in Carmi, Illinois, to take a call from the Secretary of the Princess, and discuss Las Vegas night in Manhattan. There were any number of friends that I hoped not to see during that call.
It was illuminating to work with them, because you’re at the mercy of their schedule, and trust me, it’s not a schedule that you or I would want to keep. She was on a tour of the states to raise money for the hospital, in a country that till recently was torn apart by war.
Royalty still has an old world mindset in a lot of ways, and digital graphics confound them. They couldn’t grasp why a one inch photo couldn’t be blown up large for a poster. I was taking directions from multiple people involved with the event, but it didn’t take long to realize nothing was set in stone till the Princess gave her approval. A sentence added by one person, I knew wouldn’t fly till the Princess’ secretary secured approval. I became the gatekeeper.
My favorite moment in the project occurred as I was driving to Evansville to pick my kid up from school and bring him back here for the weekend. Just after leaving I got an email saying the Princess wanted see some changes. I’m good, but I can’t do graphic design in a car while driving. A bit later the secretary called and issued the following statement, in a tense and terse voice ….
“The Princess is waiting on you.”
My blood ran cold and my palms began to sweat. I expected to hear “off with his head” in the background. I don’t put a lot of stock in royalty mind you, but perhaps it’s a genetic memory bubbling to the surface.
I explained the situation and it seemed I was speaking a different language. A princess has little comprehension of the distances one travels in the midwest on a regular basis, nor picking up a kid from school for that matter. But in the end, the Princess shuffled off to another engagement, and when she returned late that evening, her requested change were waiting for her.
When I picked up my kid, he had to stop by his girlfriend’s house to drop something off. I told him after he said goodbye to go back for one more kiss. So at least once in his life, he could tell his girlfriend he kept the princess waiting for that last kiss..
In the end the event was a success and a bunch of little children a half a world away benefitted from something I helped with, and that’s always an amazing feeling.
And I got to keep the Princess waiting.