Royal couple in LA's Skid Row as tour ends

11th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

After wowing Hollywood A-listers at a star-studded dinner, Britain's Prince William and new wife Catherine got to see the other side of Los Angeles on Sunday: notoriously deprived Skid Row.

Wrapping up a 12-day north American tour, their first overseas trip since marrying in April, the couple met children taking part in a project that gives free classes in visual and performing arts to children from poor neighborhoods.

William -- who spent a night sleeping rough in London in April for British homeless charity Centrepoint -- was invited with his wife to watch a show put on by the children, before leaving their handprints in clay as a memento.

The couple, widely praised during their tour as the new down-to-earth face of the British monarchy, also did some painting themselves. "It is so exciting," said Cynthia Harnisch, head of the Inner-City Arts project.

"Everyone is feeling so uplifted that the most famous couple in the world are coming to their campus, are visiting their neighborhood."

Later in the day, in their final engagement before their scheduled departure for London at 3:30 pm (2230 GMT), the couple met former US servicemen and helped pack care packages for children with parents serving abroad.

The events came on the third and final day of a visit to California that has seen the royal couple -- who arrived here after nine days touring Canada -- see both sides of LA life.

On Friday they helped drum up investment and trade opportunities for Britain at a media conference, before an evening reception at the British consul-general's residence, where they have stayed for the weekend trip and where the prince met famous British LA resident David Beckham.

On Saturday William and Catherine helicoptered up the Pacific coast to a charity polo match in Santa Barbara, where the prince distinguished himself by scoring four goals, and helping his team to victory.

"They're great role models for young people, they're elegant and great ambassadors for their country," said Santa Barbara resident Victoria Hines, 65, dressed up for the exclusive event an hour north of Los Angeles.

Then in the evening they got the full Hollywood treatment at a star-studded dinner in downtown Los Angeles.

William, president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), started the evening with a suitably Hollywood insider joke, saying: "I would like to thank Colin Firth for my perfect opening line -- I have a voice."

The reference was to the Oscar-winning British historical drama "The King's Speech," in which Firth depicted William's great-grandfather's struggle with a stammer.

More seriously, the prince urged guests including Tom Hanks and Nicole Kidman to give a chance to 42 up-and-coming "Brits to watch" invited to mingle with the Hollywood stars.

"Please give them the opportunities you have always extended to some of the brightest and best that Britain has to offer. When American and British creative talent gets together, magic happens," he said Saturday night.

"Let's continue the winning formula," added William, who with his wife received a Beatles-like reception in Canada last week, and who are hugely popular with Americans fascinated by the British royal family.

Catherine has drawn admiring comments for her elegant style and dress sense -- she reportedly brought 40 outfits for the 12-day trip.

On Friday she wore a vibrant green Diane Von Furstenberg dress in the evening. At the polo Saturday she was in a silver and marble grey number by Jenny Packham, before switching to a flowing lilac dress by Alexander McQueen, and Jimmy Choo shoes, Saturday night.

Officially, the Californian mini-tour will aim to "contribute to deepening and strengthening the multi-layered links between the United States and the United Kingdom," according to a British official briefing.

Unofficially, all eyes have been on who they meet -- after David Beckham and British writer-broadcaster Stephen Fry on Friday, Saturday's celebrity crop included Jennifer Lopez, Barbra Streisand and Jack Black.

© 2011 AFP

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