The Night the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Visited Ciro's Restaurant in Hollywood in 1947
Dec. 19, 2011
I am summarizing this account, which appears in H. Allen Smith's book, The Compleat Practical Joker (New York: William Morrow,  1980), pp. 141-43. I read it over fifty years ago.
Jim Moran was a legendary publicist who had a unique skill. He specialized in what he called mental hot foots -- not, to be sure, practical jokes.
Here is one of his classics.
In 1947, Crown Prince Emir Saud of Saudi Arabia visited the United States for a month. He visited Hollywood for several days. The local newspapers publicized this.
Moran got an idea. He did some research on Saudi protocol and diet. Then he looked at photos of the Prince's retinue. He rented similar outfits from a wardrobe company. Then he hired three actors to accompany him. One of them could actually speak Arabic. This was ideal.
He checked the Prince's schedule. On the night he was to leave town, Moran had an assistant call the manager of Ciro's. "The Crown Prince wants to come this evening with three of his assistants. Can they get a table?" Of course they could.
He called in an Associated Press photographer and briefed him on the plans. The photographer could not resist.
The four had their faces stained. They had fake whiskers applied. They donned their costumes.
Then he assembled his jewels -- fake, of course. He bought one real amethyst that cost him (in today's money) about $300. It was big. He put them in a goatskin pouch.
That night, a limousine pulled up in front of Ciro's. Two servants emerged. They went in to check all of the details. They returned to the limo. Then the Prince -- Moran -- and his companion entered. So did the photographer, who arrived on foot as they entered.
The restaurant was jammed with Hollywood celebrities. They all stared. This was royalty! As the evening wore on, they tried to get close to the Prince's table. The Prince ignored them.
At one point, the Prince spoke to his assistant. The assistant went to the band leader and requested a song, Begin the Beguine. The band played it. Then the Prince reached into his goatskin pouch. He spread out the jewels on the table. He took the large amethyst. He handed it to his servant, who took it to the band leader as a token of appreciation.
This caught the attention of the crowd.
Later, the Prince decided it was time to leave. He rose and clapped his hands. One of the servants adjusted the Prince's robes. Then they started for the exit. The dance floor was clear, so the entourage walked across it.
Then, without warning, there was a clatter. The goatskin pouch had fallen open. The jewels were all over the dance floor. The two assistants started to pick them up. But the Crown Prince commanded them to stop in what seemed to be Arabic. He waved his hand, indicating that he wanted to leave, and leave right then. They obeyed. They all went out the door.
Pandemonium broke out. The Hollywood set went down on their knees, trying to grab as many jewels as they could. Chairs and tables were knocked over.
The AP photographer took a photo.
As author Smith ends the account: "Mission accomplished."