The Duchess of Cambridge called me the other day to commiserate.
“Hi, Your Highness,” I said.
“Actually, it’s Your Royal Highness,” she corrected me. “But let’s not worry with that — just keep it ‘Kate.’ Like the old days”
“Ah, the old days, would that they were still around,” I chuckled.
“Actually, these new days have given me a little bigger — house,” she said merrily. It was good to know she has kept her sense of humor, for these are trying times. For the both of us. Naturally, hers is the problem that’s getting more attention.
You’ve read of it: Her Royal Highness — Kate — and her husband, the Duke, who I’m sure would ask me to call him Wills, as I did in the old days, were vacationing in the South of France, at a chalet loaned them by a friend. It was warm and sunny, and they were alone, and the rays were so inviting, and so Kate doffed her bikini top to add some ultraviolet bronze to the Royal Bosom. Except they weren’t alone — the couple, I mean. Kate and Wills, I mean.
Lurking some distance distant was one of those awful paparazzi, with a telephoto lens, and…and…and now a couple of European magazines have flooded the newsstands and the Internet with…with…with pictures of Kate in the near-buff, although looking buff, I must say. Or, I would say, had I stooped to look at them. “At least they’re a little blurred,” I told Kate.
“You looked at them?”
“No! A…a…a newspaper article said they lacked resolution,” I explained. “[begin ital] What [end ital] lacked ‘resolution’?” she asked indignantly.
“I assume they meant the pictures,” I said quickly.
“Oh. Well.” She seemed reassured.
“The Palace has its lawyers chasing the magazine people from one side of Europe to the other,” Kate continued. “Injunctions, cease-and-desists, libel and slander and what-not, and I assume there will be remuneration at one or another point. Of course,” she sighed, “there’s no recalling them from cyberspace. The pictures, I mean.”
“I know, I know,” I lamented. Indeed, I know, I know. And of course you know. Surely you’ve read of it. No?
You see, at virtually the same time Kate and Wills were taking the rays my wife and I were in the South of Arkansas, at a deer camp loaned to us for the weekend by a friend. It was a warm and sunny day, and we were alone, and, what the hey, I took off my shirt. Except we weren’t alone. Stalking us, from somewhere in a stand of pine, was one of those leeches, those vermin. A couple days after we returned home a large manila envelope arrived in the mail. It contained pictures of me, shirtless, and a message created from letters cut from newspapers: “Leave $5 in unmarked bills at the front door of the Arkansas Arts Center or these will be sent to the statewide newspaper.”
I would not be blackmailed. I went to the FBI. An agent questioned me in the reception room, then took the pictures into another room. I could hear laughter through the door. The agent returned the envelope to me and said, “They’re big enough, but the case isn’t.”
The Arkansas attorney general was more willing to act. “I’ll handle this,” he assured me.
Arriving the following day was a large manila envelope from the attorney general, who wrote, on his letterhead, “Mail $500 to my campaign or I’ll file the enclosed document in court.” The document was a petition demanding that the pictures be published not only in the statewide daily but in every newspaper in Arkansas. “Where do things stand now?” Kate wondered.
“I’m at the gym every afternoon, and I’ve got them down to a C-cup,” I replied.
“No, I mean the litigation.”
“Oh. There’s not any, really. My barrister tells me the attorney general was only joking, else he’d have asked for $50,000. And so I have no practical recourse. The deer camp wasn’t posted. And he tells me I have no realistic assumption of privacy in today’s world. A cruel world it is.”
“To be certain,” Kate agreed. “At least those snaps of you don’t reproduce very well on the Internet.”
“You looked?” I blurted, aghast.
Kate was silent for a moment. “I peeked.”
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Steve Barnes is host of Arkansas Week on AETN.