Royal wedding hype invaded the media the past month, and Americans appeared bored with the marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton long before the early (very early, for the West Coast) Friday morning ceremony took place. At the Mayflower Club in North Hollywood, where British-Americans and Anglophiles gathered for a large-screen viewing of the wedding on Friday afternoon, there wasn’t a hint of indifference.
Twenty minutes before the planned starting time, the room was packed full. A few arrived early to volunteer in the kitchen, others to reserve a good seat. The house, a former synagogue, has held the British-American social and networking club since 1965. The club, started by post-World War II veterans, was created as a place for British expatriates, who had relocated to the San Fernando Valley or other parts of Los Angeles, to socialize and form a community with other Brits.
“I find a great value in this club because it is a great place to come and hang out,” said club president Terrel Miller.
The viewing audience, a mix of elderly women in fancy hats, men wearing Kate & William patches on their button-down shirts, and scattered tiaras, sat patiently through the pre-wedding coverage, which consisted of anchors interviewing people on rooftops with ridiculous views and large crowds screaming in Hyde Park. Then Miller took a vote on whether to fast forward or not. At first, only a third of the audience raised their hands. But when Miller announced that the actual wedding was over an hour away, the room quickly agreed to the edited viewing (She offered to make copies of the video for any members that wanted to see the unabridged version).
“Just pretend what they’re saying,” she told the audience.
The video sped past several more interviews and coverage of crowds of women vying for Prince Harry. She stopped at a place that was still not the wedding, and not even the arrival of the royal family, but it was a point that pleased the purists. At 2:30, tea was called. Several women emerged from the kitchen in shiny tiaras and Union Jack aprons, setting up glasses of milk at each table in the dining area. Miller came around and poured tea for the 50 guests. Triangular sandwiches and small pastries came next.
At a corner near the bar, a group of men were huddled together -- a rarity in the female-dominated room. They expressed the importance of royalty, and even traditional ceremonies.
“It’s a unifying factor in present-day Britain,” said Ian Cugley, a Mayflower member since 1988. “Even in this county, the president wastes his time on ceremonial things.”
Yet Cugley noted, “they can do with a few less palaces.”
The wedding viewing party is designed, like all their other events, as a “purely social” activity, said Cugley. There is no political basis in the club; card games, dances, and plays fill the calendar.
“To some people, it’s very significant,” he said.
The bar is fully stocked and decently priced, the library is full of books, and the stage is used for mystery plays and an annual Pantomime. The clubhouse is in North Hollywood, but some members drive out from other counties or different areas of the Valley for the events. At Cugley’s table, the members hail from Glendale, North Hills, and Burbank.
“Now we’re a minority within a minority,” Cugley said of British-Americans in the area.
Alfred Steed, a man in a sharp suit and a Union Jack tie, has been a member for about 40 years. A Royal Navy Association member, he wore a pin on his lapel. He recalled a story of members of the royal family coming aboard a ship he was on.
“The royal family keeps everyone together,” he said.
Miller agreed that the royal family is still extremely important to British culture.
“The British like their traditions much more than Americans,” she said.
None of the annoyance of the wedding, scribed on social networking sites and blogs the past week, affected the members and guests who came to the clubhouse to celebrate a long-awaited event.
“With all the problems that we’re having in the world, it’s nice to have something to cheer about,” said Raffi Raplian, a first-time guest at the Mayflower clubhouse. “You don’t have to be British to enjoy it.”