LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Britain’s Prince William and wife Kate ended their southern California stay on Sunday, bearing witness to both the poverty of Skid Row and the power of Hollywood.
In their first trip to the United States since marrying in April, the royal couple chose to favor charity and business over celebrity in their three-day visit.
But the glitterati of Hollywood were never far away, as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge drew the movie stars and studio executives to help raise funds and awareness for their causes in the entertainment capital of the world.
At their final event at Sony Studios to support military families and a job fair for veterans, William said he would take ideas home to Britain, where he serves as a Royal Air Force pilot and Kate is a military wife.
“I am delighted, therefore, that our Foundation — and in that I include Harry, my low-flying Apache, very average brother — is a partner in today’s event,” William quipped to the crowd. “We have much to learn from you.”
Earlier in the day and far from the media glare, the royal couple was given a private tour of Skid Row, the gritty terminus for the homeless in downtown Los Angeles and a growing population of single mothers after the economic recession.
The tour was a late addition to the royal agenda and served as preparation for a visit to the Inner-City Arts Center for children living around Skid Row, one of the largest concentrations of homeless people in the United States.
It was also a stark contrast to the opulent events on Saturday — a charity polo match in coastal Santa Barbara and a black-tie dinner with Hollywood royalty.
Even with the emphasis on work and business, wherever they went William and Kate brought a royal glamour that even Hollywood couldn’t emulate.
At the bright and airy arts center, Kate, dressed in a navy lace top and white pleated skirt from UK retail chain Whistles, donned a smock and painted a snail along with the kids. William, sans smock, appeared to paint something more abstract. It gave the couple an opportunity to be playful in public.
“William, do you know what you’re doing? Start from the center,” Kate said. He took the direction and returned to his canvas.
The day had started off on a glamorous note as the duke and duchess attended a private brunch with Hollywood notables like actress Reese Witherspoon and the CEO of Disney, Bob Iger, to garner interest in Tusk, a charity for African wildlife conservation.
They had also charmed the stars at the gala on Saturday night, where A-listers like Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman and Barbra Streisand turned out to support the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, of which William is president. He asked the Hollywood power crowd to give opportunities to a new generation of British talent.
The California leg of the 11-day overseas visit had none of the large crowds of their Canadian tour, and most Californians had to resort to the media to get a glimpse of the royals.
But for the lucky few, like Vietnam war veteran Jose Ramos, the contact with the potential king and queen of Britain was special. He gave William his original jump wings from 1966.
“When he thanked me for being a veteran and serving in Vietnam, I offered them to him and he said he’d wear it proudly,” Ramos said. “That was my original set. I don’t give those out lightly for sure. I’ve worn them every day since I received them.”
Writing by Mary Milliken; Editing by Cynthia Osterman