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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: 75,000 visitors and counting

At 75,000, Diana: A Celebration, the exhibition at Union Station that chronicles the life and charitable works of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, has significantly exceeded attendance expectations.  Union Station officials expect the numbers to rise considerably higher before the exhibition ends June 12.

The last Union Station special exhibition, Dinosaurs Unearthed set an attendance record of more than 100,000, but it was open 22 weeks longer.  Thus “Dinosaurs Unearthed” had an average weekly attendance of 2,778.  So far, Diana is averaging about 6,818 visitors a week, giving it a 245 percent advantage over Dinosaurs. In other words, if the weekly average attendance for Diana remains the same for the rest of the exhibition’s run, it will see more than 95,000 visitors in less than half the time it took Dinosaurs to be viewed by 100,000 people.

“That so many people heard about and came to see Diana: A Celebration from all over the Midwest and the nation is certainly exciting,” said George Gaustello, president and CEO of Union Station. “Such numbers show that Union Station has become the kind of destination attraction it should be. We’re already getting ready for the next big exhibition, Art of the Chopper,which will attract a different audience and help expand awareness of the Station and its ability to bring in visitors.”

To accommodate the large number of Diana fans, Union Station will open the exhibit on Mondays, when the it is normally closed, for the remaining weeks of its stay in Kansas City. Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets well ahead of time and to plan to attend on a weekday to avoid the largest crowds.

“With the kids out of school, Diana: A Celebration makes a perfect weekday summer excursion,” Gaustello said.  “People of all ages enjoy learning Princess Diana’s story.”

Tickets for Diana: A Celebration are available online at www.unionstation.org or at the Union Station ticket office and the Sprint Center box office. More information is available at www.unionstation.org/diana.


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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: And yet more royal wedding trivia

On Google, there are some 3,330,000 websites dedicated at least in part to royal wedding trivia. Surely, they have covered it all. England’s royal family must be the most intimately known group of people on earth. Of course, Princess Diana herself was a prime example of the phenomenon of prying. The difference is that she knew how to use the media to advance her own ends, including her extensive charity work.

That commentary aside, it is time to join the herd and trot out a few more trifles about the royal family. These factoids have been taken from sources that include zoomermag.com and voxmagazine.com. An effort has been made to stay away from the salacious and hold to the higher road.

For example, it is not true that Kate Middleton and Prince William are too closely related to be married. They are actually 12th cousins, once removed. They shared a great-grandfather, Sir Thomas Leighton, 12 generations ago (for William) and 11 generations ago (for Kate). Sir Thomas was an Elizabethan (the first Queen Elizabeth) aristocrat. William Shakespeare was writing his plays and sonnets at the time.

This is unfortunate but hardly scandalous: Kate and William share their wedding date with an infamous couple from the fairly distant past. Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler were married in a Berlin bunker on April 29, 1945. Shortly afterward, the unhappy couple committed suicide.

The digital age has taken a turn for the romantic. Kate and William’s engagement was announced via Twitter.

William and Kate will not be accepting gifts. They have asked their wedding guests to donate to the Zoological Society of London. Both of them are dedicated to animal conservation, the Zoological Society is very active in that area, helping preserve elephants in Asia and Africa and rhinos in Kenya. By way of contrast, when Diana and Prince Charles were married, they asked for, among other things, a gourmet barbecue set and a pair of cockatoos.

As is well known by now, Kate’s 27-year-old sister Philippa Charlotte Middleton (Pippa) will be maid of honor at the ceremony in Westminster Abbey.  What might be less well-known are Pippa’s plans for the prenuptial experience. Rumor has it she is hosting a top-secret “hen party” in London and a Dirty Dancing party in Berkshire at the family home.

Stepping back into history for a moment: Prince William is only the second eldest son of a Prince of Wales to be married before his father became king of England. George V did it in 1892. He married Princess Victoria Mary of Teck. Princess Victoria Mary had been engaged to George’s older brother Albert Victor. However, Albert Victor died before he married Princess Victoria Mary, thus making George the eldest son. When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Prince Albert Edward, George’s father, became King Edward VII.

Of course, it was the eldest son of George V and Victoria Mary who would become King Edward VIII briefly. He abdicated the throne so he could marry Wallis Simpson, an American. His brother George then became King George VI, he of The King’s Speech fame.

Obviously, part of the problem with royal family trivia is how complicated it can become. However, if one can at last commit the previous bit of information to memory, it is certain to impress a crowd, if not completely befuddle everyone present.

Whatever the case, it should be unfurled like Princess Diana’s 25-foot train at the Union Station Royal Wedding Watch Party, beginning at 3:00 a.m. on April 29 — the Big Day. Time should be saved also to pay a visit to Diana, A Celebration. Admission is free from 3:00 to 6:00 a.m. and just $5.0o from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m. Harvey’s Union Station will be serving coffee, and live coverage of the royal wedding will be shown. Many other contests, giveaways and other activities are planned.

Tickets for Diana, A Celebration, for other days are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, the Union Station ticket office, the Sprint Center box office and www.unionstation.org.

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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: The parallel lives of Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe

Princess Diana died in August 1997 at the age of 36. The American movie star Marilyn Monroe died in August 1962 at the age of 36. The coincidence is interesting, though not particularly meaningful.

What is perhaps more important is how Princess Diana thought of Marilyn Monroe. It seems she had a strong affinity for the actress, a sense that they were very much alike. It was not a matter of similarities in appearance, though some argue there were moments when Diana looked a bit like Marilyn. And it apparently had little to do with personality.

From Diana’s perspective, she and Marilyn were alike in that they were both beset by powerful enemies. At least, this is the view of Diana’s friend and mentor Meredith Etherington-Smith as recorded in Sarah Bradford‘s Diana: Finally, the Complete Story.

“She was quite obsessed with Marilyn Monroe, Meredith said, and in one of the pictures she did look like the young Marilyn,” Bradford writes. “She often talked about her, and how she had fought the studio system in Hollywood on her own and won, because they had dumped her and then had to take her back.”

It is difficult not to draw a parallel between Marilyn Monroe’s struggles with the Hollywood studio system and Diana’s rocky relationship with members of the British Royal Court and other “Establishment” figures. Bradford quotes one of Diana’s friends as saying,”They would have preferred her to disappear . . . . [S]he was deeply inconvenient . . . .”

Bradford writes further that “Diana felt beleaguered by court circles. She told Meredith she had ‘a lot of enemies.’ ‘That sounds a bit paranoid,’ Meredith replied. ‘No, you know how it works. It’s justification — I’m the baddie.’ ‘Well, all you have to do is to be a goodie, and you are a goodie by the example you set. That’s why landmines (sic) — patently you have an enormous sympathy with people less fortunate than you are.”

Like Diana’s image of Marilyn Monroe, Diana herself felt alone against implacable forces. She believed, Bradford writes, that she had found in Marilyn a kind of soul mate, “another woman against the world.”

There is much more to learn about Princess Diana, and much of it is on display in Diana, A Celebration, an exhibition chronicling her life and work now in its last North American appearance at Union Station in Kansas City. The exhibition will be open through June 12.

Tickets for Diana, A Celebration, are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, the Union Station ticket office, the Sprint Center box office and www.unionstation.org.

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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: The Honourable Diana as a difficult child

The Honourable Diana Spencer, as the future Princess of Wales was known from her birth until 1975, did not always behave honorably or admirably. Part of the reason for her antics can almost certainly be traced to the divorce, in 1969, of her parents, Edward John (Johnnie) Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, and the Honourable Frances Burke (Roche) Spencer. The official cause of the divorce was infidelity on the part of Frances, but whoever was to blame, the effect on the children was not good.

“Both parents were so traumatized by feelings of guilt (on Frances’s side), humiliation and despair (on Johnnie’s), that they spoiled the children and exercised little parental control,” writes Sarah Bradford in Diana: Finally, the Complete Story. “Like many children of divorce, the Spencers manipulated their parents to get what they wanted.”

By their own admission, as well as reports from people who knew them at the time of their parents’ falling out, none of the Spencer children was a model of decorum. Along with Diana, the other three children, Elizabeth Lavinia Sarah, Charles Edward Maurice, and Cynthia Jane, all apparently took advantage of their parents’ guilt and hesitation to apply discipline.

Diana was not the worst offender, according to Bradford. That designation belongs to Elizabeth Lavinia Sarah. Sarah, as she was called, became “a horror,” Bradford quotes a Spencer employee as saying. For example, Bradford goes on: “[S]he would bring her pony into the kitchen and ride it round the table despite the cook’s protests.”

But Diana held her own in the naughtiness department, as Bradford illustrates:

“Diana remembered being extremely badly behaved towards the young and inexperienced ‘nannies’ who were imposed on them [the children], sticking pins into the seat cushions and throwing their clothes out of the window.”

Despite the disruption caused by her parents’ divorce, Diana can hardly be said to have had a tragic childhood. “The children, according to people who knew them, had an ‘awful upbringing’ with no rules beyond eating everything on their plates and writing thank-you letters,” Bradford writes.

However, Bradford also cites an author who knew Diana, in support of the theory that the future Princess of Wales also experienced many happy times as a child of divorce:

“As Mary Clarke wrote: ‘A child who was truly, deeply traumatized, would not be able to maintain the contentment Diana continually displayed, apart from those occasional hiccups, throughout the time I knew her.”

Does all this help explain the two sides of Diana that became apparent as she grew into adulthood and became a wife, mother and princess? Perhaps. More on that in other posts.

Diana, A Celebration at Union Station Kansas City from now through June 12, 2011, helps tell the story of Diana’s childhood through artifacts and home movies. It chronicles the changes she went through as she matured and became one of the most admired people of the 20th century. Tickets for the exhibition are available at all Ticketmaster locations, the Union Station ticket office, the Sprint Center box office and unionstation.org.


Bradford, Sarah. Diana: Finally, the Complete Story.


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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: Princess Diana, Prince Charles and marriage in the public eye, part 2

In a previous post exploring the marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, it seemed clear that pressure from both the public and the press had a negative impact on the couple’s relationship. If someone in the media noticed a momentary lapse in affection between the two, it became a matter of international interest and comment. Around the world, ordinary people became obsessed with Diana’s clothing and sophisticated good looks, often ignoring Charles (or worse, at least in Charles’s opinion) and lavishing all their attention on his wife.

In Diana: Finally, the Complete Story, Sarah Bradford points out that the fairly tale image of Charles and Diana did not die easily. There seemed to be an argument going on around the world: Are the royals on the outs? Do Diana and Charles still love each other? The answers varied practically from day to day, giving more credibility to one point of view one day and more to the other the next.

However, that there was tension is obvious. Whether at first it was between Charles and Diana or between Charles and the rest of the world is more difficult to determine.

One thing seems clear: Charles tended to resent playing second fiddle to his wife. When they traveled, Diana was constantly in the spotlight, and Charles was in her shadow. It was not his imagination, either.

While Charles and Diana were on a trip to Australia, Bradford writes, Charles was treated shabbily by the crowds that seemed to follow the couple everywhere. Bradford quotes author Jonathan Dimbleby:

“So infatuated was the throng at every walkabout that as they [Charles and Diana] got out to ‘work’ the crowd, an involuntary moan of disappointment would rise from that part of the crowd which turned out to be nearest to the Prince and furthest from the Princess. Even as they drove through the streets, the Prince could hear the cries of disappointment, ‘Oh, no, she’s on the wrong side.'”

To add insult to injury, Bradford adds, some people in the crowds held up signs with drawings making fun of Charles’s ears. Others waved caricature masks. Still others shouted insults.

Perhaps the real tragedy of Charles and Diana’s marriage is not that it ended but the reasons behind its ending. It seems as though forces were at work over which neither of them had control. In other words, it is very difficult — perhaps even cruel and unjust — to place blame.

If Charles and Diana had not been in the public eye, would their marriage have worked? No one can answer that question with certainty. But a compassionate view might at least consider the question: Under the circumstances the princess and prince dealt with every day, could any marriage survive?

For another look at Diana and Charles’s romance and marriage, visit Diana, A Celebration at Union Station Kansas City. The exhibit reveals much more than Diana’s famous wedding dress. Photographs of the couple are evidence of their love for each other, at least during the early years.

Tickets for Diana, A Celebration, are available at the Union Station ticket office, the Spring Center box office, all Ticketmaster locations and www.unionstation.org.

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Diana, A Celebration, Kansas City: Exhibition opens in 11 days

The excitement is growing.

Diana, a Celebration, will open at Union Station Kansas City in just a few days. Already, construction crews are at work transforming the exhibit space into nine galleries. These galleries will hold 150 items from every aspect of Diana’s life — her childhood, young adulthood, marriage to Prince Charles, many humanitarian works and more.

If the record of this spectacular exhibition holds true in Kansas City, it will be a huge hit. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, more than 94,000 people shared the triumphs and tragedies of Diana’s too-brief life, far more than anticipated. And it has been the same everywhere.

As the opening of Diana, A Celebration, grows closer and after it is available to the public, we will continue to provide updates and information about one of the icons of the twentieth century. Hers is a fascinating story, one that has held millions of people in thrall for decades.

Tickets for Diana, A Celebration, are available now at ticketmaster.com. The exhibition will remain in Kansas City from March 4 through June 12. For more information, view the video and photo gallery on this site or click on “Diana Exhibit” in the menu.

Diana, A Celebration, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about the life of the people’s princess. This is its final North American appearance.

Eleven days and counting: As she did so many times in so many places, Diana will soon take Kansas City by storm.

In two days here at dianacelebrationkc: The teenaged Lady Diana meets her prince. Be sure to check out MSNBC for continuing coverage of the next royal wedding. Lots of great information.

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Diana, a Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: Princess Diana Fighting AIDS in New York

Princess Diana became known over the years for her charitable work. She was tireless in her efforts to end deaths from landmines, to promote better care for children and the elderly and to support many other causes.

Perhaps the work for which she was recognized most during her lifetime, however, was the fight against HIV/AIDS, the devastating disease that arrived on the stage in the early 1980s. On one of her trips to the U.S., Diana succeeded in doing more than researchers, doctors and even other AIDS activists to change people’s prejudiced view of HIV/AIDS patients. And all it took was a single gesture.

In February 1989, when the stigma attached to AIDS was still very strong, Diana visited New York’s Harlem Hospital Center. She was there to tour the pediatric unit, which, at the time, housed a number of children with AIDS.

Naturally, photographers were along to make sure the event was well documented, and they got more than they bargained for. As she had once before, at a hospital in England, Diana arranged to have her photograph taken with one of the patients.

Within a very short time, the picture of Princess Diana and a child with AIDS had been wired around the world. The reaction, as recorded in Sarah Bradford’s Diana, was immediate and profound.

“[P]eople began calling, saying: ‘I didn’t realize about these kids with AIDS until Princess Diana visited Harlem Hospital,’” Bradford writes, quoting the head of the Harlem Hospital Center pediatric unit. “Suddenly we had a whole group of willing foster parents who wanted kids with AIDS. . .and at the end of two years for all of New York City, there was a surplus of foster parents wanting kids with AIDS. . . . I know in my heart that Princess Diana is the one who made this possible.”

Diana had learned an important lesson at the hospital in England, and she carried that lesson to America. In England, she had taken the hand of an AIDS patient without wearing a glove. The resulting photograph had caused a worldwide sensation because she acted in the face of a fear of contagion. She had discovered the positive side of the power of the press.

Diana, A Celebration, will appear at Union Station Kansas City beginning March 4, 2011, and continuing through June 12, 2011. The exhibition gives visitors a glimpse of the life and humanitarian work of Diana, Princess of Wales. It consists of nine galleries and 150 items, including Diana’s wedding gown, tiaras, home movies, and other memorabilia.

Source: Bradford, Sarah. Diana: Finally, the Complete Story

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