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the royal flush

by Charlie Finch  




Anne Boleyn


Red flag?

   "Whatever I do, it's never enough for some people." -- Princess Diana

The refusal of the royal family to publicly offer words of sympathy to the world after the violent death of Princess Diana raises questions about the "accidental" nature of the Paris car crash that took her life.

Whenever a major public figure dies violently, it is always important to ask, "Cui bono?" Who benefits?

The royal family, its agents and retainers, were deeply disturbed by Diana's relationship with playboy Dodi Fayed, whose father Mohammed was despised for buying Harrod's, refurbishing the hated Duke of Winsor's French mansion and generally aspiring to patrician status.

According to Steve Dunleavy of the New York Post, Prince Charles' reaction upon first hearing of Di's death was, "What was she doing with that man?"

With Kitty Kelley's potboiler, The Royals, due out this month, alleging that the Queen Mother is a bastard and the Queen a product of artificial insemination, and Fergie, rebel duchess, scheduled to embark on an Oprah-heavy publicity tour, Diana's horrid death seems timed a little too perfectly.

People fail to appreciate how much absolute power and cold ruthlessness a thousand-year institution like the British monarchy has, and the consequent threat to it of Diana's manipulative charisma.

Fortunately, bodyguard Thomas Rhys-Jones (a Fayed employee) survived the crash, and may provide answers to these questions:

What was the explosion heard by witnesses just before the crash?

Does an automobile as structurally solid as the Mercedes 600 exhibit violent cross-shredding after a mere collision, no matter how forceful?

Did the paparazzi motorcycles veer off before the Mercedes entered the tunnel, as Italian shutterbug Marco Brenna told the New York Post?

Isn't it automatically possible for the rich and famous to conceal themselves absolutely if they want to? Did Dodi Fayed himself, as reported in the New York dailies, tip off the tabloid press to his latest conquest?

Typically, the big media chews up the screen, blasting small-fry photo reporters, the way it regularly trashes the Internet.

If the paparazzi were such an integral component of the "accident," where are the dead photographers and damaged motorbikes one would expect from such proximity?

The British monarchy has a tradition of executing independent, charismatic women -- Lady Jane Grey, Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots. Diana's great-grandmother, consort to Edward VII, knew how to play the game, privately. Diana did not.

Was the Princess given the royal flush?

"If Sotheby's is counting on the Windsors' magic touch, it may be in for a surprise....

"A young fashionable woman said she had not noticed anything in the catalogue about the Duke's Nazi sympathies or the Duchess' affair with the sadistic Woolworth heir Jimmy Donahue.

"The lack of enthusiasm may have been owing to the spectacularly dull selection of 'treasures' on view or to a fundamental difference between the Windsors and other salesroom stars. The talented dead are still good box office, but the Windsors appealed only to syncophancy, an emotion with a notoriously brief life beyond the grave. It remains to be seen how much profit there is in a man whose contribution to history was running away from it." --Rhoda Koenig in the
Wall Street Journal

According to Page Six, Di and Dodi were headed, at the time of their deaths, to the Bois de Boulogne mansion, where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived in exile.

The Quislings' things go up for sale next week. More coincidence? Word is that the sale will be postponed until Jan. 1997 out of "respect."

Great timing at the Robert Miller Gallery, where they are opening a show on Sept. 9 called "I Paparazzi," hosted by Vogue Italia and Uomo Vogue.

With his usual 20-20 foresight, Art and Auction czar Bruce Wolmer published a now-tasteless Diana cartoon on the very day the Princess joined the majority. In it, some freakazoid wearing a strait-jacket remarks, "It's one of Diana's old outfits," uncomfortalby evoking Diana's trapped, expiring body. Way to go Wolm.

It's oh-so-droll to see tasty tag-team Roberta Smith and Jerry Saltz extolling the Madison Avenue Coffee Shop right here in ArtNet Magazine, at the expense of the admittedly lousy Sarabeth's, the Whitney Museum cafe.

How about this little ditty from this fantasy musical Roberta --

You won't find me in a cantina,
All I wanted was a sandwich,
A Caesar salad,
No Salmonella --
I kept my "Promise,"
It tastes like butter

Co-starring Jerry as Che!!!

It appears that a long-anticipated critical burnout has singed New York Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman.

Always an uneasy fit for art (his first love is music), the Harvard-educated pedant opined in the New York Times Book Review, "Writing on art is generally so awful these days" (he oughta know!!), then announced in the arts section the same day that site-specific art is over, because it's "too ephemeral."

Kimmy topped it off two days later, with a brooding navel-gazer, on NYPD mug-shots. Time to yield the Times throne to the perservering Bobbie Smith?

"Vacuum cleaners, urinals, and sinks sell as artwork"

-- N.Y. Times program listing
for the Aug. 31 60 Minutes,
rescheduled for a later
date due to Di's death.

Sometimes a handshake is only a handshake, but not when you're venerable kitsch mistress Louise Bourgeois.

According to the Times (which seems to provide almost as much arts coverage as ArtNet Worldwide), Bourgeois' tacky bronze Welcome Hands was unceremoniously dumped in a Battery Park garden because officials of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, devoted to the study of the Holocaust, feared the piece, placed on their doorstep, would offend visitors.

Because the potential kitschiness of curating the Holocaust has been a matter of fierce contention in the museum community, the high kitsch content of Bourgeois' work red-flagged the skittish museum staff.

Bourgeois' usual claque protested the mistreatment of this "masterpiece," but let's face it, the "shaking hands" morph is a cliché. Lexus autos uses the motif in its TV ads, and Bruce Nauman exhibited pieces strikingly similar to Bourgeois' dreck just last year.

Esthetically, the museum was right.

Artforum droopy-butt Knight Landesman has relinquished one of his two long-held titles, advertising director, to Danielle McConnell -- he remains executive publisher.

"Fake it till you make it"
--Hillary Rodham Clinton

That was poor Diana's problem, she didn't want to fake it.

CHARLIE FINCH is the New York editor of Coagula Art Journal and has coauthored the forthcoming Most Art Sucks from Smart Art Press.