Royal fans all over the world certainly remember the famous photo of Princess Diana dancing with John Travolta at a White House dinner in 1985. But their “modern fox trot” might not have happened if Diana had her way.
The Princess of Wales reportedly had her heart set on taking the floor with another star who was there that night. Here’s who Diana really wanted to dance with, what Travolta thought about the royal’s moves, and the other person the princess wished she hadn’t danced with.
What Travolta said about dancing with the princess
On Nov. 9, 1985, Princess Diana and Prince Charles were guests of then-president Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, at a gala dinner held at the White House during their trip to the United States.
A number of Hollywood celebrities were also invited to the affair including Saturday Night Fever star John Travolta. Mrs. Reagan had told him that the princess wished to dance with him and asked if he would mind.
“I was awestruck with her,” Travolta admitted about dancing with Diana. “She led the way, and I thought: ‘Well, that’s not going to happen! I’ve got to go back to my school days of learning ballroom dancing and show that I can lead her.’”
After the photos of them together made the rounds, Diana was dubbed the “disco queen” and the long black velvet dress she wore was referred to as “the Travolta dress.”
Who Diana really wanted to dance with
What Travolta didn’t know was that their dance was all orchestrated by the Reagans for a press op and the princess reportedly wanted to join a different man on the dance floor.
Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, claimed that she told him she didn’t want to dance with the Grease actor because she was hoping Mikhail Baryshnikov would ask her.
“Diana really wanted to share the floor with one of the world’s greatest ballet dancers, Mikhail Baryshnikov. Nancy and [Ronald] Reagan set up the press to take a picture of her dancing with John Travolta,” Burrell wrote in his book The Way We Were: Remembering Diana.
The actor Diana wished she hadn’t danced with
Travolta wasn’t the only celebrity Diana danced with that evening. She also hit the floor with Hollywood heavyweight Clint Eastwood but that was a dance Diana likely wished she hadn’t had.
According to Tom Selleck, who was also in attendance that night, the Dirty Harry star was totally out of his element and just watching him and the princess together was painful.
Selleck had cut in when Diana was with Travolta and they did the waltz. While Selleck admitted that he was very nervous and couldn’t think of anything interesting to say to the Princess of Wales, it was better than her dance with Eastwood.
“At least I wasn’t quite as uncomfortable as Clint Eastwood,” the Magnum P.I. actor told the Daily Mail’s Piers Morgan. “He went next and was really out of his safety zone!”
People noted that their conversation wasn’t great either as Eastwood said to her, “You’re too old for me” to which Diana protested, “But I’m only 24!”