John Travolta Recalls Dancing with Princess Diana: Felt Like a ‘Fairy Tale’

by Suzanne Halliburton

John Travolta and Princess Diana dancing in the East Room at the White House was an iconic moment of the 1980s.

And John Travolta, almost four decades later, still looks at the memory as one of the best of his life. He called it a “fairy tale.” Indeed, it was a modern version of a fairy tale as one of the most famous actors in the world danced with a beautiful princess. But in this case, the castle in the fairy tale was the White House. And the host and hostess of the party were the President and First Lady of the United States.

The event was in November 1985, when Princess Diana and her then-husband, Prince Charles, visited the United States for the first time as a royal couple. Ronald Reagan was president and invited the royal couple to Washington, D.C. And when his wife, Nancy, planned a party, the affair would be elegant and likely star-studded.

John Travolta Said He Wanted to Make Sure Diana Had Fun on the Dance Floor

“I didn’t think they’d ask me to dance with her,” John Travolta said in a recent interview with Esquire Mexico. “I had the great privilege and honor of doing so, and I thought, ‘There must be a reason for doing this and I better give it my all. That meant lead the dance well and make sure we had fun. That was the easy part, but just the fact of greeting Diana appropriately, being confident and asking her to dance was a complicated task.”

“Think of the setting. We were at the White House. It’s midnight. The stage is like a dream. I approach her, touch her elbow, invite her to dance,” he said. “She spins around and gives me that captivating smile, just a little sad, and accepts my invitation. And there we were, dancing together as if it were a fairytale.”

He added, “Who could ever imagine something like that would happen to them someday? I was smart enough to stamp it in my memory as a very special, magical moment.”

Nancy Reagan Suggested Travolta Ask Diana to Dance

Nancy Reagan made sure the entire country experienced the magical moment. She suggested to John Travolta that he ask Diana to dance.

The evening started with a grand dinner, with guests eating lobster mousseline with Maryland crab and peach sorbet. The Reagan presidential library included other details. The guest list included Neil Diamond, Clint Eastwood, Tom Selleck and former astronaut Alan B. Shepard.

The room was decorated in peach roses. And the official entertainment was provided by opera star Leontyne Price. But eventually, John Travolta got some dancing music. He was famous for his dancing, with his star turns in Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Urban Cowboy. He was a perfect choice to ask a princess to dance.

The Couple Danced to Saturday Night Fever Sound Track

What did John Travolta and Princess Diana dance to? Songs from the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever and Grease, of course. Eventually, after 15 minutes, Tom Selleck cut in. Then Diana danced with Clint Eastwood. She reportedly had her heart set on dancing with Mikhail Baryshnikov, the iconic ballet star. But the Reagans already set up the photo op for Travolta, Selleck and Eastwood.

“I’ll never forget it,” John Travolta said. “I’m so honored that I was able to experience this, and I know for a fact that it was her highlight of being in the United States; it was her favorite moment. So I feel I made her life better, she made my life better, and I’m very sorry that she’s not here.”

Sadly, Princess Diana died in 1997 from injuries she suffered in a Paris car accident.

In 2019, the dress Princess Diana wore for the party at the White House fetched an enormous price. The evening gown, which was etched in our memories, was deep blue and off the shoulder. Couturier Victor Edelstein designed it for her. The gown commanded an auction price of $280,000.