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Readers, be sure to read my preceding posts on Princess Margaret’s October 1979 Trip to America. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four

Hollywood celebrity powerhouse agent, Sue Mengers, and her client, Ryan O’Neal. After 1972’s hugely successful movie, “What’s Up, Doc?,” Sue became known as the most successful packager in the business: she had put director Peter Bogdanovich together with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal. In 1979 when Princess Margaret dined at her Beverly Hills home, Sue Mengers was at the peak of her power. Her phone rang incessantly with calls from actors and directors and screenwriters, all wanting to work with her.

The 1970s era Hollywood super agent Sue Mengers was only interested in representing the top talent in the industry. Her“bulging celebrity contacts book” included Barbra Streisand, Jack Nicholson, Mike Nichols, Ali McGraw, Peter Bogdanovich, Faye Dunaway, Bob Fosse, Cybill Shepard, Sidney Lumet, Cher, Michael Caine, Ryan O’Neal, Candice Bergen, Gene Hackman, Burt Reynolds, and on and on.

Agent Sue Mengers, left, with clients Ali MacGraw and Candice Bergen.

The first female super agent Sue Mengers, left, with clients Ali MacGraw and Candice Bergen. Early 1970s.

For a time, there was only thing more star-studded than Sue Mengers’ client list: one of her parties at her mansion atop Bel Air. It was said that

“If a bomb went off on Bel Air Road, then half of Hollywood would be obliterated.”

Sue’s dinners were as exclusive as they were intimate. At one of Sue’s legendary parties at her grand home, Johnny Carson, the host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” looked around at the other guests assembled and complained,

“God, there are too many stars here, not enough sycophants!”

Bawdy, brash, and pushy, Sue Mengers had met Princess Margaret in the fall of 1978 at the London home of literary critic, Kenneth Tynan, and said to her that she would love to throw her a party, should the Princess ever find herself in Los Angeles. The following March, Sue received a call from Princess Margaret’s social secretary, saying that the Princess would indeed be in L.A. in October and would like to take Sue up on her party offer.

‘It seemed like we did nothing from March to October but plan the party,’ said Sue’s assistant, Cindy Pearson. (1)

Usually, Sue set out sugar bowls filled with cocaine and rolled joints for party guests—but not on this occasion. For the formal sit-down dinner for fifty, she hired a chef and a staff of 25. She laid out her best china and silver and had to borrow some from Marcia Diamond, Neil’s wife. Although she was a seasoned and celebrated hostess, Sue, a chain smoker, was nervous as a cat. In the days leading up to the event, many of her friends and clients thought Sue was going to have a nervous breakdown. She lost weight and cut her beautiful, blond hair. Everything had to be perfect. For years, she had studied the lives of the British royal family and learned the finer points of protocol. She idolized Princess Margaret and hated her own mother whose name was Ruth. Sue always used to say,

“Sure—instead of being born to Princess Margaret, I got born to Ruth.”

Then, four days before the dinner, on Tuesday, October 16, 1979, the Los Angeles Police Department learned of a credible threat to the Princess’ life. Intelligence sent by the U.S. State Department indicated that an Irish Republican Army terrorist had been dispatched to murder Margaret during her three day stay in Los Angeles. Sue’s assistant Cindy Pearson said,

“The party was on a Saturday night and several days before, Scotland Yard people were sent with bomb dogs to smell the house.”

For some reason, a third-floor bathroom was locked after the dogs had cleared it, and no one could use it until the Princess’ arrival.

On Saturday, October 20, 1979, a few hours before the dinner at the Beverly Hills home of agent Sue Mengers, Princess Margaret made an appearance at a charity function held at Bullock’s Wiltshire Department Store, L.A. Outside she was greeted by an angry mob of 30 people yelling “Filthy Swine!” and holding up placards decrying the British presence in Northern Ireland. Members of “Action for Irish Rights” tried to present the Princess with a pig’s head on a platter. Two live pigs were there. The next day, she would travel to San Francisco where Irish-American activists promised to flood her hotel with 1,000 pigs (but only one would show up) and a crowd, some dressed as pigs or holding stuffed pigs, would chunk rocks at the limousine of her hostess, Mrs. Gordon Getty.

Security that Saturday night was intense. The dinner Sue Mengers gave in honor of Princess Margaret attracted every “twinkly” (star) in Hollywood. Everyone entering Sue’s palatial home was searched. The guest list at the informal affair included Barbra Streisand (and Jon Peters), Jack Nicholson (and Angelica Huston), Candice Bergen, Michael Caine (and Shakira), Robin Williams (and Valerie), Neil Diamond (and Marsha), Ryan O’Neal (and Farrah Fawcett, “fetching in black silk pajamas”), John Travolta, and Gregory Peck. Ali MacGraw, wearing a short black and gold dress came stag. Her boyfriend, Steve McQueen, was absent because he had snorted too much cocaine and had made himself sick. This made Sue furious. Hunks Nick Nolte (1992 People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive”) and Sean Connery (1989 People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” and the “Sexiest Man of the Century in 1999”) were there. Princess Margaret had met Sean Connery on her 1965 visit to California. He had given her a gold lighter engraved with “007” which she proudly showed others. Gore Vidal, David Geffen, Barry Manilow, Joni Mitchell, and music agent Peter Asher also attended Sue’s bash.

Jerry Brown, governor of California and presidential hopeful, arrived with his longtime love, rocker, Linda Ronstadt, 33. Linda looked stunning, dressed way down, wearing a simple white cotton mini-dress and some little red boots. At that year’s American Music Awards Linda won two awards: Best female pop/rock vocalist and female country single “Blue Bayou.” She sang everything: rock, country, mariachi, rhythm and blues, big band tunes. Although the room was full of gorgeous women, men always turned to look at Linda. As singer Willie Nelson remarked,

 “There are two kinds of men in this world. Those with a crush on Linda Ronstadt and those who never heard of her.” 

Linda Ronstadt / photos by Annie Leibovitz, Malibu, 1976.

Fans said of her:

“She took your breath away.”

“Linda was electric in performance.”

In the 1970s, Linda Ronstadt was everybody’s sweetheart. She was a class act in concert, barefoot, wearing off the shoulder Mexican blouses, jeans, with a flower tucked behind one ear. She was sexy without twerking and her voice was clear and strong and could make sad songs feel even sadder.

Singer Linda Ronstadt and Governor Jerry Brown of California dated for a decade. Photo 1970s.

Linda Ronstadt and Jerry Brown had been going together since the early 1970s and were the source of much gossip. They were considered wildly different. People speculated on what she might be like as a First Lady should he be elected to the U.S. Presidency following Jimmy Carter.

The comic strip, “Doonesbury” by American cartoonist Garry Trudeau, chronicled the hard-to-pin down relationship between Linda Ronstadt and Governor Jerry Brown of California in the 1970s. These were freewheeling times and the country was paying attention to a couple that might occupy the White House.

Linda and Mick Jagger were great friends. At that time, Mick would stay at Linda’s Hancock Park home in L.A. when Linda wasn’t there while he was divorcing Bianca.

Princess Margaret was also friends with Mick and Bianca. Although this could have been a conversation that would have drawn the Princess and Linda into a friendship at the dinner, that was not going to happen. Linda was competition for the Princess.

At 8:30 p.m., the Princess arrived in a police motorcade with her lady-in-waiting, Lady Annabel Whitehead. The guests were seated inside. The Princess made her entrance. The guests would not have stood up in her royal presence. Perhaps they gave her a little clap, which was allowed.

The Princess was wearing a black and silver dress by Dior. She wore jewels handed down to her from her grandmother, Queen Mary: a necklace of blazing round diamonds (at least 3 carats each) and drop diamond earrings.

Sue Mengers had adhered to Emily Post advice for seating protocol when entertaining a dignitary such as Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. To the Princess’ right, she seated the person next-highest-in-rank, Governor Jerry Brown. The rest of the seating assignments were left to the hostess’ discretion. Sue decided to seat Margaret’s fellow Brit, actor Michael Caine, to her left. They fell into an instant rapport.

The same could not be said of her relationship with Governor Jerry Brown. Jerry Brown, as is true with many politicians, was never in doubt as to his prominence in a room. He started off his relationship with Princess Margaret by turning to her and saying,

“Good evening, Your Highness, I just dropped by to say hello. I have another appointment, so I’m only staying for the first course.”

Oh, my goodness. He must have not have gotten the memo. When you first speak to the Princess, you call her, ‘Your Royal Highness.” He had left out the all-important word, “royal.” If he had read his history, he would have known how all important that word was to a royal person. In 1936, King George VI, Margaret’s father, had denied Wallis Simpson the right to be called “HRH” even thought her husband, the Duke of Windsor, was allowed to remain an “HRH” following his exile to France. This slight caused such hurt that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor began to play around with Nazis, perhaps looking for a new kingdom they could rule.

The Duchess of Windsor (formerly Wallis Simpson) shakes hands with Adolf Hitler, 1937, in Munich, as her husband, the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII of Great Britain), looks on. AP Photo.

The second faux pas committed by Jerry Brown, the visionary nicknamed “Governor Moonbeam” for his belief that solar power would one day power homes and offices, was his plan to get up and leave before the Princess left. This just was not done! Everyone could begin eating when she lifted her fork. Everyone could leave once she had left.

The Princess said not a word to Governor Brown. She turned her back on him and, turning to her left, struck up a conversation with Michael Caine who was breaking into American films after having made a name for himself in British ones.

As the dinner was informal, the dinner was a buffet style. The guests at the first table (we shall call, “Table One”) lined up in the buffet line, following the Princess. In her column, “Suzy Says,” (Daily News, Oct. 23, 1979), Suzy remarked that, along with the others at Table One, the Princess

 insisted on standing in the buffet line herself and helped themselves to a dinner of sesame chicken, lasagna, ham (obviously, Sue Mengers had not been following the Irish pigs scandal), and homemade ice cream.

Once Table One had returned to their seats with their plates, Linda Ronstadt rose from her chair from across the room—she was not seated with her date—and approached Governor Brown. She had not yet been through the buffet line. Standing by Brown’s chair, she asked, looking down at his plate,

“‘What are we having to start?” She then leaned over with the intention of taking a piece of food off his plate in order to taste it. In doing so, she not only put one hand on the governor’s shoulder, but she also put the other on the Princess’ shoulder.

Michael Caine was watching.

“‘I have seen people shrug many times, but the Princess’ shoulder shrugged like a punch from a boxer and with almost the same effect on Miss Ronstadt. She [Linda] almost overbalanced and fell on the floor.'”

Never once did Her Royal Highness even look up.

When Jerry Brown left the party in the middle of the meal, the Princess still had not spoken a word to him. Once he was gone, she turned to Michael Caine and remarked, “What a dreadful man.” (2)

Sue attached herself to the Princess for most of the evening, recalled Michael Caine.

“They got on like a house on fire.”

Sue could not stop curtseying to her exalted guest. Every time the Princess looked her way, she curtseyed.

Helicopters circled above all night, making the most tremendous racket. Police searchlights filled the garden. Guest Michael Black remembered that “Princess Margaret got a little sauced and was definitely coming on to John Travolta.” Prodded by Gore Vidal, Jack Nicholson offered the Princess some drugs, saying he wanted to get to know her better, but she turned him down.

Sue Mengers and Jack NIcholson. Photo by BEI/Shutterstock

At 12:30 p.m., Princess Margaret departed with the manager of the Rolling Stones, Prince Rupert Loewenstein (full name: Rupert Louis Ferdinand Frederick Constantine Lofredo Leopold Herbert Maximilian Hubert John Henry zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg, Count of Loewenstein-Scharffenecka), a Bavarian aristocrat who would turn out to be a financial wizard for the Stones’ fortunes.

Everyone told Sue that the party was perfect but she was sure that Jack Nicholson had ruined everything. Now she would never be invited to Buckingham Palace.

And she never was.

This cursed fund-raising trip was said to have raised a mere half-million dollars for the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, and much of that had been pledged before the Princess had even left Britain.

By the end of the month, the Princess had arrived on the island of Mustique to reunite with her younger lover, Roddy Llewellyn. He, too, had suffered from the fallout from the Princess’ less-than-choice remark, “The Irish, they’re pigs.” He had learned that some irate members of his community back in Fulham, England, had smashed up the terracotta pots outside his flat and emptied the plants and dirt into his basement. Roddy loved his plants. This upset him very much.

Sources:

(1) Kellow, Brian. Can I Go Now?: The Life of Sue Mengers, Hollywood’s First Superagent. 2015.

(2) Caine, Michael. What’s It All About? 1993.

Readers: For more on Princess Margaret, click here

Readers: For more on the British royal family, click here

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First, please be sure you have read this post: “Princess Margaret’s Trip to America, 1979, Part One

It was August in 1979, a time when almost every Briton took a holiday to some faraway family home or destination. Queen Elizabeth II loved to go to Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This year, as in many years, she was spending the late summer with her sister, Princess Margaret, and some of the children. Princess Margaret had celebrated her 49th birthday at Balmoral on August 21. She was resting up for her October U.S. tour. The Queen Mother stayed nearby at Birkenhall. The Queen’s husband Prince Philip (the Duke of Edinburgh) was in France. Prince Charles (the Prince of Wales) was fishing in Iceland.

Every year Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom spends the summer break at Balmoral Castle, where she is joined by other members of The Royal Family. Queen Victoria bought the Castle in 1852. The original castle was built in the Fifteenth Century.

Aberdeen Press and Journal (Scotland)

Monday, August 27, 1979

Braemer’s Royal guessing game

Although Balmoral [Castle] is the holiday base for the Royal family at this time of year, individual members are constantly coming and going to attend public and private engagements. This always leads to interesting speculation on who will occupy the Royal Pavilion at the Braemar Gathering. On current information, Saturday, September 1 looks like being pretty much a ladies’ day.

At Balmoral at present are the Queen, Princess Margaret, Princess Anne, and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones. The Queen Mother has been at Castle of Mey….On the male side at Balmoral are Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, and Viscount Linley [David Armstrong-Jones].

Royal visitors are a treasured tradition at the gathering but no one knows who will be present or when. It adds an intriguing touch to an already fascinating day.

“Uncle Dickie,” Prince Philip’s uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten, 79, was at his usual summer haunt, the family’s home in Ireland, Classiebawn Castle.

Louis Mountbatten with his daughter, Lady Patricia Brabourne, and her children, from left, Joanna, Philip, Norton and Amanda, in front of Classiebawn Castle, County Sligo, Ireland. (Getty Images)

 

Lord Louis Mountbatten, white-haired and wearing a black turtleneck, is boating with his family and friends aboard his wooden cabin cruiser, Shadow V, probably in Donegal Bay, Ireland.

Lord Mountbatten was a prominent member of Britain’s Royal Family with an impressive record as a war hero and elder statesman. In 1947, as the last Viceroy of India, he negotiated that country’s independence from the United Kingdom. On September 12, 1945, he received the Japanese surrender in Singapore, signaling the end of World War II. Since the age of 16, he saw active service in the Royal Navy rising to its highest rank—Admiral of the Fleet. He was very popular and gregarious. He is credited with having brought together his nephew Prince Philip with the then-Princess Elizabeth when she was only a teen. Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth were friends of his daughters, Pamela and Patricia.

Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) dances with Lord Louis Mountbatten during a fundraising dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London. July 3, 1951. Photo by Jimmy Sime/Central Press/Getty Images)

 

Charles, Prince of Wales and Lord Louis Mountbatten (Louis, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma)  cutting a ribbon to allow the public to enter Lord Mountbatten’s home, Broadlands in Romsey, Hampshire. May 22, 1979 (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

Prince Charles considered “Uncle Dickie” to be the grandfather he never had. He served as Charles’ mentor. By 1978, Mountbatten had grown concerned with Charles’ playboy behavior. He had hoped that Charles would settle down and marry his granddaughter, Amanda Knatchbull, but she turned down Charles’ proposal. Mountbatten warned Charles that he was “beginning on the downward slope that wrecked your Uncle David’s [Edward VIII, later, Duke of Windsor’s] life and led to his disgraceful abdication and futile life ever after.”

800px-Lord_Mountbatten_Naval_in_colour_Allan_Warren

Lord Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma

Aberdeen Press and Journal (Scotland)

Tuesday, August 28, 1979

Anger grows over killing of Lord Louis Mountbatten

Earl Mountbatten of Burma was killed yesterday when a bomb blew apart his boat as it sailed from a quiet harbor in the Irish Republic. A grandson and a teenage boatman died with him as terrorists struck at Mullaghmore, County Sligo.

Lord Mountbatten, 79, a second cousin of the Queen and uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh, was setting off on a holiday trip on his 29 ft. motor vessel Shadow V when the blast occurred.

The former Viceroy of India and wartime leader, known affectionately as “Uncle Dickie” to the Royal Family was already dead when he was brought ashore.

His 14 year-old grandson Nicholas was dead. So was 16 year-old Paul Maxwell, who was with the family as a crew member.

Lord Mountbatten’s daughter, Lady Patricia Brabourne, her husband, Lord Brabourne, and their son, Timothy, Nicholas’ twin—and the Dowager Lady Brabourne—were all badly injured.

After the blast the I.R.A. issued a statement in which they claimed responsibility for “the execution today of Lord Mountbatten.”

As fury over the latest violence mounted, the British Prime Minister [Margaret Thatcher] said, “By their actions today, the terrorists have added yet another infamous page to their catalogue of atrocity and cowardice. 

If reports of their involvement in the death of Lord Mountbatten prove true, they will earn the condemnation and contempt of people of goodwill everywhere.”

Speculation is that Mountbatten was checking the lobster traps on his boat when the fifty-pound bomb was set off by remote control by a terrorist at a distance. He did not die instantly, as was initially reported. His legs were blown off. Locals were carrying him out of the water but he died before reaching shore.

Belfast Telegraph (Northern Ireland)

Tuesday, August 28, 1979

Murder Toll Climbs

The death toll from the bomb explosion which killed Lord Mountbatten rose to four today. The latest victim was the Dowager Lady Brabourne, 82-year-old mother-in-law of Lord Mountbatten’s daughter. It was also learned today that three medical experts from Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital went to Sligo Hospital following a personal request from Buckingham Palace to give advice on the care of the survivors of the explosion.

Flags flew at half-mast throughout India today as a mark of respect for the country’s last Viceroy.

The Royal undertakers J. H Kenyon’s today flew in a chartered plane to prepare for the removal of the bodies of Earl Mountbatten and the Dowager Lady Brabourne.  A police spokesman said: “With the tides the wreckage has been scattered. There’s still quite an amount over Donegal Bay and on the shore. It’s a difficult job.” And it was also learned today that the bomb which destroyed Earl Mountbatten’s boat may have been left on the seabed in a lobster pot he [Mountbatten] checked each day.

There are reports that on Sunday holiday makers saw two skin divers emerge from the water near the line of lobster pots owned by Lord Mountbatten. This has strengthened the police theory that the bomb was in a lobster pot and not attached to the boat.

Viewpoint: Mountbatten: the glory and the grief

The murder of Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma and the killing of 18 British soldiers by the Provisional IRA in one day marks a watershed. The horror of Irish affairs and the cold ruthlessness of Republican terrorists has been shown to the people of these islands in a starker dimension than at any time during the past ten years….

The gravity of events has been such that, internationally, the busy world has had to stop and stare….The impact in Britain is literally incalculable. Lord Mountbatten was more than a mentor to the Queen and the Royal Family. He was a father figure to the nation and an embodiment of all that was best in the British character….

The British public and the public in Northern Ireland are absolutely clear about the reality of terrorist firepower within the Irish Republic. It is a firepower that must be faced and faced down.

There is no doubt that Mr. Jack Lynch and other political leaders in the Irish Republic are deeply shocked and ashamed that such evil can spring from their midst….[W]ords are not enough, messages of condolence are not enough….Terrorists should no longer be able to hide behind the lack of extradition for so-called political crimes. Extradition must become a reality.

Prince Philip flies home

The Duke of Edinburgh is flying back to Britain tonight, arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport at 8 pm. on board an Andover of the Queen’s Flight….The aircraft will go to Iceland to bring Prince Charles home from a fishing holiday….Arrangements for Lord Mountbatten’s funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 5 are being worked out by Lord Chamberlain’s office…the Queen drove from Balmoral Castle to nearby Birkenhall to tell the Queen Mother personally of the tragedy.

Reading Evening Post (England)

Friday, August 31,1979

Round Up—100 arrests in police purge on the IRA 

POLICE CELLS were bulging today as a massive round-up of IRA sympathizers continued in the Irish Republic in the wake of the “Bloody Monday” killings. More than 100 people with terrorist links have so far been arrested. But although two men have been charged with the Mountbatten murder, another two are still eluding police.

Mourners Expected in their thousands

Earl Mountbatten is home. His body lies in the marbled Sculpture Hall at Broadlands, his estate near Romsey at Hampshire….Prince Philip and Prince Charles stood in silence…as the bodies flown home by the RAF were gently carried to the hearses.

 

The Funeral Of Lord Mountbatten of Burma following his murder by the IRA (L-R), Reverend Edward Carpenter, HM Queen, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, Prince Andrew Prince Charles, Princess Margaret (at far right, straining to see something), Princess Anne, Captain Mark Phillips, the Dowager Duchess of Gloucester, gathered outside Westminster Abbey, London, September 5, 1979. (Photo by Central Press/Hutton Archive/Getty Images)

Click here to read:  “Princess Margaret’s Trip to America, 1979, Part Three.

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