Summer of Diana


By Aaron Hicklin

It was the year of Comet Hale-Bopp, Dolly the sheep, and Clinton's second inauguration. It was also the year two men registered the domain name of Google. But 10 years on, what keeps 1997 burnished in the collective memory are two violent deaths bookending an otherwise quiet summer. On July 15 a spree killer named Andrew Cunanan shot and killed Gianni Versace on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion. Six weeks later, on August 31, the paparazzi got their final shot of Diana, Princess of Wales'crumpled in the mangled wreckage of the car that had spun out of control in a Paris tunnel. The fact that Diana had attended Versace's funeral served to exacerbate the poignancy of her death, but it also underscored the intimate relationship between fashion and celebrity. If Versace was responsible for creating the supermodel phenomenon, then Diana'arguably the woman most photographed during her lifetime'was the ultimate supermodel. They came from very different backgrounds, but both dealt in the realm of fantasy, and gay men loved them for it. Diana's photo ops sometimes seemed a little too manipulative, perhaps, but her simple yet radical gesture of touching a man with AIDS in 1987 demonstrated the humanity that made her resonate so deeply with so many. Her funeral was watched by an estimated 2 billion people (about three times the number who had watched her get married), and 10 years later the Diana industry shows no sign of tiring. In addition to a televised memorial service scheduled for August 31, her sons, princes William and Harry, are masterminding a concert on July 1'which would have been Di's 46th birthday'starring George Michael, Duran Duran, and Elton John. Meanwhile, former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editrix Tina Brown publishes The Diana Chronicles (Doubleday) on June 12.