Prince William and Catherine tour skid row, arts center in downtown L.A.
The newlywed British royal couple saw another side of Los Angeles on Sunday as they took in a tour of downtown’s skid row and an arts center for poor children.
Cynthia Harnisch, president of Inner-City Arts, took Prince William and his wife, Catherine, on a tour of the gritty neighborhood centered around 6th and San Pedro streets, where they heard about the recession-driven influx of single mothers to the neighborhood and the challenges of poverty and homelessness.
The couple's motorcade of black Range Rovers drove past a few dozen fans gathered outside and arrived at the Inner-City Arts campus about 11:30 a.m.
Half a dozen third-, fourth- and fifth-graders held up a welcome banner painted with ladybugs, butterflies and flowers as a police helicopter circled overhead.
William and Catherine shook the hand of each one and chatted with them for a few minutes before going inside the nonprofit organization's leafy campus to tour its black box theater and art studios and see student dance performances.
A small but boisterous crowd of a few dozen fans staked out spots on skid row in anticipation of William and Catherine's visit.
Many of them picked this event specifically because they thought fewer tourists would venture to a place known for its sketchy reputation.
Royalty of sorts was already among them: Arianna Menon, the self-proclaimed Duchess of Silver Lake, had arrived wearing a black pillbox hat.
Menon, 35, came with her husband and friends to see William and Catherine, who, she said, brought the British royal family into the 21st century. “They brought a breath of fresh air to the monarchy,” she said. “They’re not like the other royals: standoffish.”
In Los Angeles encountering celebrities isn’t out of the ordinary, but for some onlookers the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are in a different category.
“I can’t think of any other celebrities I’d come out at 9 a.m. for,” said Andreas Tompros, 33, of Los Feliz and a Canadian who grew up with a portrait of William's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, in his home.
"We see celebrities all the time," added his wife, Shannon Tompros, 37, "but we never get to see royalty."
The appearance drew less enthusiasm from some residents of skid row.
"It's a dog-and-pony show," said Victor Green, 53, who sat on a piece of cardboard in a patch of shade on 7th Street near Central Avenue. "What's the big idea? ... It's not going to change anything."
His companion, Tina Green, 4O, disagreed. "I think it's a special idea," she said. "They live in a castle; they live in a better place. If they are coming to see this, it's nice .... I thank them for their support."
-- Alexandra Zavis and Samantha Schaefer
Photo: Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, sit down to paint a picture during their tour of the Inner City Arts campus in skid row. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Reuters