Tension rose in the room and was so sharp you could cut it with a butter knife. And in the middle of it all was Princess Diana.
Social, witty, charming, graceful, beautiful. These are just some of the words that could be used to describe the People's Princess Diana. Everywhere she went, she had the ability to charm people and they would flock to her, wanting to be in her presence. And once they met her, people couldn't help but fall in love with her dynamic and charismatic personality.
As her close friend, musician Sir Elton John would put it, "She was blessed with an incredible social ease, an ability to make people feel totally comfortable in her company," according to his memoir, Me, which ran in the Daily Mail. And it was this very quality of hers that caused two major Hollywood stars to nearly brawl over her.
But let's start at the beginning. The 5-time Grammy Award winner had met Princess Diana for the first time in 1981 at Prince Andrew's 21st birthday party at Windsor Castle. And when they met, they immediately clicked which led to a long-term close friendship, until the day she died.
Over the course of their friendship, the 72-year old described his friend as "fabulous company" and "the best dinner party guest." As for the men who surrounded her, they "seemed completely to lose their minds in her presence: they were just utterly bewitched," he wrote in his memoir.
Then came the event leading up to the tension that arose between actors Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone. "While I was making The Lion King, Jeffrey Katzenberg, the head of Disney, came over to England. David Furnish — now my husband — and I threw a dinner party for him and his wife, and asked if there was anyone they really wanted to meet. Straight away, they said: 'Princess Diana,'" the Can You Feel The Love Tonight singer recalled. "So we invited her, George Michael, Richard Curtis and his wife Emma Freud, Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone, all of whom were in the country at the time."
As the party moved into full swing, "The most peculiar scene developed," said John. "Straight away, Richard Gere and Diana seemed very taken with each other. She was separated from Charles by this point, and Richard had broken up with Cindy Crawford. They ended up sitting in front of the fireplace together, locked in rapt conversation." But while they were locked away in their own world, there was someone else who was not too happy about the arrangement.
"As the rest of us chatted, I couldn’t help notice a strange atmosphere in the room. Judging by the kind of looks he kept shooting them, Diana and Richard Gere's newly blossoming friendship was not going down well with Sylvester Stallone at all," he explained.
According to Men's Health, the Rocky actor had met Diana before at a children's charity event in 1993, and clearly, he was taken in by her endearing personality. So at the party, John recalled, "I think he may have turned up to the party with the express intention of picking Diana up, only to find his plans for the evening ruined."
Continuing, the Rocketman singer said, "Eventually, dinner was served. We moved into the dining room and seated ourselves at the table. Or at least, most of us did. There was no sign of Richard Gere, or indeed Sylvester Stallone." Worried about what was happening, given all the tension right before this, "I asked David to go and find them. He came back with both of them, but he was wearing a fairly ashen expression."
"'Elton,' he mumbled. 'We have . . . a situation.' It transpired that he'd discovered Sylvester Stallone and Richard Gere in the corridor, squaring up to each other, apparently about to settle their differences over Diana by having a fist-fight. He'd managed to calm things down by pretending he hadn't noticed what was going on — 'Hey, guys! Time for dinner!' — but Sylvester clearly still wasn't happy."
And he was in an even worse mood after the meal when Diana and Gere "resumed their position together in front of the fire" which resulted in Stallone storming off. As John and Furnish were showing him to the door, the Rambo actor apparently snapped, saying, "'I never would have come,' if I'd known Prince f***in' Charming was gonna be here.' Then he added: 'If I'd wanted her, I would've taken her!'"
Unfazed by his reaction, John continued saying, "We managed to wait until his car was out of sight before we started laughing. Back in our living room, Diana and Richard Gere were still gazing raptly at each other. She seemed completely unruffled. Maybe she hadn't realized what was happening."
Well, it seems that whether or not the People's Princess had an idea of her effect on people, others certainly noticed it and had coined it the "Diana Effect." "There was definitely another kind of Diana Effect: one that could bring Hollywood superstars to the verge of a punch-up over her, like a couple of love-struck teenage idiots," the legendary singer signed off.