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On Sunday, Jan. 27, Bohemian Rhapsody star Rami Malek took home the award for Best Lead Actor at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, a ceremony that is renowned for predicting the same year’s soon-to-be Academy Awards winners. But even more interesting than the deserved win is the Freddie Mercury Princess Diana story Malek told reporters on the red carpet. It’s one of our favorites.
There was one moment that I hear [Freddie Mercury] took Princess Diana and disguised her as a man and took her into a bar, just so they could have their own fun moment without anybody else being aware. Now, I don’t know if that’s true, this might be an urban legend.
It turns out the Freddie Mercury Princess Diana story is even more interesting, and it is generally acknowledged to be a true tale.
Spelled out in the 2013 memoir of actress Cleo Rocos, the Freddie Mercury Princess Diana story involves champagne, Golden Girls, London’s beloved gay bar the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and the “People’s Princess” in drag.
According to Rocos, Mercury and the princess, who had become friends by the mid-’80s, were enjoying a night of champagne and the sitcom Golden Girls one night in 1988, when Diana found out Mercury and his friends had plans to hit up the RVT later that night. The princess wanted to join, but the constant harassment she regularly experienced at the hands of the press would never allow her to hang with her friends at a rowdy gay bar.
But according to Rocos, Diana was “in full mischief mode.”
That’s when they had the idea to dress Diana up like a gay man. They decked her out in an Army jacket, aviator sunglasses and a leather cap to conceal her hair. Says Rocos, “Scrutinizing her in the half light, we decided that the most famous icon of the modern world might just — just — pass for a rather eccentrically dressed gay male model.”
It’s said that when they stepped into the RVT, Diana’s presence was fully ignored due to Mercury’s star power, and she was never recognized. “We inched through the leather throngs and thongs, until finally we reached the bar. We were nudging each other like naughty schoolchildren. Diana and Freddie were giggling, but she did order a white wine and a beer. Once the transaction was completed, we looked at one another, united in our triumphant quest. We did it!” says Rocos.
Years later, in 2016, the Freddie Mercury Princess Diana story was actually turned into a musical that was performed at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.