Diana Wanted Baryshnikov -- Not Travolta -- for Dream Dance


If you can't dance with the man of your dreams, John Travolta is not a bad second choice.

While Princess Diana enjoyed her famous White House dance with Mr. "Saturday Night Fever," it was Mikhail Baryshnikov that drove her to a fever pinch.

For years, Diana's famous twirl was one of the most heralded moments in her life.

It was said that the princess' "only wish" when she came to America in 1985 was to dance with the disco king, and photos of the beaming couple, with her in a striking midnight-blue, velvet gown, became world famous.

In exclusive interviews with ABC News, however, Paul Burrell, Diana's butler and confidant, has offered new details about her storied life, and her circle of famous friends -- from her close relationships with Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Rodham Clinton, to a bizarre evening with Tom Cruise, when he invited her to a movie premiere, and then ignored her.

The dance with Travolta was hardly a dream come true, Burrell writes in his new book, "The Way We Were," which is being published by Harper Collins.

"The Way We Were" is a follow-up to his best-seller, "A Royal Duty," which sold more than 2 million copies worldwide.

"John Travolta was a gentleman and absolutely charming but he wasn't my chosen partner," Diana once said, according to Burrell.

In reality, the princess was smitten with Baryshnikov ever since she was a teen.

She had once waited for him at the stage door of a London theater, to get him to sign her autograph book, only to be disappointed.

"He had signed it without looking at her," Burrell writes.

When they met years later at a White House reception hosted by President Reagan, it was Baryshnikov's turn to ask for an autograph.

He passed her his menu, to get her to sign it.

Diana wanted more than a signature, Burrell writes.

"All the time, she wanted to dance with Baryshnikov."

Was the Disco Dance Prince Charles' Idea?

Unfortunately, the dance with Travolta had been prearranged, and she never got the moment she wanted with the ballet legend.

It was all something of a mystery to Diana, especially when Travolta recalled the moment in subsequent TV interviews.

"Nancy [Reagan] had asked if I please would dance with Diana, because it was her big wish," Travolta said to "Good Morning America" in 1997. "And I said, 'Well, I was nervous, but I'd be glad to do it.'"

A spokesman for Travolta did not return a call to comment on the book.

Diana later speculated that the whole thing had been set up without her knowledge.

"Maybe it was all Prince Charles' idea," Diana told Burrell.

The rest of the world might have seen the dance as a symbol of the new nexus between Hollywood and British royalty, but according to Burrell, the princess reflected fondly on the photo "because it reminds me of the night I got to dine with Mikhail Baryshnikov."

But no matter how the princess felt privately, the moment was a testament to the 24-year-old's sudden star power.

The next day, London's Daily Mirror declared, "Disco Queen Diana Upstages John Travolta," and similar headlines appeared on papers around the world.

Within the next few years, Diana would become one of the most famous celebrities in the world.

Her ties with the United States only intensified as her marriage to Prince Charles crumbled, ending in divorce in 1996.

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