WHERE WERE YOU WHEN: Princess Diana danced with John Travolta

It was like something out of a fairytale, remembers former royal correspondent Jennie Bond.

Princess Diana dancing with John Travolta
The pair on the dancefloor with Diana in the iconic gown – now known as the Travolta dress. Image: Rex Features.

A Hollywood heart-throb and a princess dancing to the strains of Saturday Night Fever. The time was midnight. The venue, the White House. Did it make headlines? You bet it did!

In 1985 I was working in the BBC’s radio newsroom, putting bulletins together and deciding what was newsworthy. The Princess of Wales certainly was. Di-mania was in full flow. Thousands would turn out to see her wherever she and her husband went. They would call out for her and swoon if she came over. Prince Charles was said to be jealous of the adulation his wife commanded.

Everyone wanted to believe in their love story – even when eagle-eyed journalists began to see the cracks.

It was November when the Prince and Princess paid a three-day visit to the US. And, sure enough, Di-mania was just as rampant over there. President Reagan and his wife Nancy welcomed Charles and Diana to the White House. The Princess, so tall and elegant, wore a Victor Edelstein off-the-shoulder gown in midnight blue velvet for a gala dinner. She looked stunning. Among the A-list guests was the actor John Travolta and, along with half the world, I was a little in love with him, having watched him work some incredible moves in Saturday Night Fever and Grease. So when the pictures appeared of him taking to the dancefloor with the Princess, I was bewitched.

Diana had once hoped to be a ballet dancer and it remained a passion. On one occasion, she invited me to Kensington Palace for a private performance by the English National Ballet. She could certainly move and looked lithe as Travolta guided her through the dance. The pair spun around the floor for about 15 minutes.

Years later, in June 1997, I was in New York to see that dress being auctioned for charity. It was bought by a Florida businesswoman for £100,000. Subsequently, it was sold on for more than double that to a British man who said he wanted to cheer up his wife.

There’s no doubt that the sight of Danny from Grease and Diana from the Palace dancing together that night gave a lot of cheer to people worldwide.

Also that month…

Kent Gavin/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
  • Britain and the Republic of Ireland signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, giving Dublin a role in Northern Ireland for the first time in more than 60 years.
  • Wham! had a number one single with ‘I’m Your Man’.
  • The Goonies was released in the UK.