Who would’ve thought that a celebrity would be humbled by a Cinderella moment?It was 1985. President Ronald Reagan was hosting a dinner in the White House together with an impressive roster of guests – celebrities, politicians, business people, and royalty.Who would forget that night in November 1985 when an iconic snapshot made it to the broadsheets?
It was of Princess Diana, one of the most celebrated royals of the United Kingdom, dancing with a commoner named John Travolta.After almost four decades, Travolta opened up about what transpired that night.The new PBS special “In Their Own Words: Diana, Princess of Wales” explores the late princess’s life through the words of the people who met her, worked with her, and quite uniquely, danced with her.
Travolta, who found himself in the company of big names, felt that he was just an “extra” that night.
So when the president’s wife, Nancy Reagan, approached him, he didn’t expect he’d take center stage with one of the most phenomenal celebrities of the time.
The world was crazy for Princess Diana in those years.
“When Diana went to America in 1985, it cemented her place on a world stage,” Royal historian Kate Williams told PEOPLE.
“She was no longer this young, naive girl. She was a huge celebrity, the most famous woman in the world. Di-mania spread from Britain across the world, and then it seized the world.”
So, if the princess was this big, how did Travolta score that dance with her?
What circumstances led to the iconic dancefloor snapshot? The answer? Another big name.
Travolta confessed that it was all Nancy Reagan’s doing.
“About 10 o’clock at night, Nancy Reagan tapped on my shoulder and said, ‘The princess, her fantasy is to dance with you. Would you like to dance with her tonight?’” he recalls in the documentary. “And I said, ‘Well of course.’”
The First Lady then discussed a plan with Travolta. She would escort the actor to the princess at around midnight so that he can grab to chance for a dance.
And even if he was the charming John Travolta, he was still nervous at that moment.
“My heart starts to race, you know, and I tap her on the shoulder and she turns around and looks at me, and she had that kind of bashful dip [of her chin] that she did, and she looked up at me, and I said, ‘Would you care to dance with me?’” he recalled.
At that moment, the room cleared and suddenly the “extra” got the chance to be a part of one of the most unforgettable moments in White House history.
The partners danced for what felt like 15 minutes and it was something that Travolta kept with him until today.
But in the end, Cinderella had a clock to beat.
“It was a storybook moment,” said Travolta.
“We bowed when it was over, and, you know, she was off, and I was off, and my carriage turned into a pumpkin.”
He shared that it was surreal to even think that something like this could happen to him.
And at that moment, he said that he was smart enough to stamp it in his memory.
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