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Tom Selleck Recalls Dancing With Princess Diana at the White House in 1985

Gary Gershoff

Princess Diana and John Travolta made history when they danced together at the White House in 1985, but few might recall that Magnum, P.I. star Tom Selleck also took her for a spin on the dance floor.

In his new memoir, You Never Know, Selleck, 79 — who played mustachioed TV detective Thomas Magnum for eight seasons in the 1980s — recalled dancing with the Princess of Wales at a state dinner thrown in honor of her and her then-husband, Prince Charles (now King Charles III). President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan hosted the November 9 soiree, inviting three Hollywood actors: Selleck, Travolta, 70, and Clint Eastwood.

Selleck remembered being “anxious” to meet Charles, now 75, and the late Diana, though he quickly relaxed in their presence, Hello! reported. Both royals put him at ease and he found Diana to be “charming, graceful, and beautiful” while Charles impressed him with his ability “of making you feel like you were important to him in your moment together.”

After dinner, the gala guests moved into the East Room, where Travolta twirled Diana and showed off his famous footwork. The princess grinned from ear to ear and stunned in an off-the-shoulder, dark blue Victor Edelstein gown that became known as the “Travolta dress.”

princess diana

Related: Princess Diana's Most Iconic Looks

Soon, a woman approached Selleck with an urgent request. According to the actor, she was “speaking very rapidly” and asked him to cut in.

“Mr. Travolta and the princess are dancing for a second time together,” she told Selleck, according to his autobiography, released earlier this month. “We can’t have that. We don’t want to start rumors, do we? Mr. Selleck, you must step in and replace him.”

“I’M NOT CUTTING IN ON JOHN TRAVOLTA!” he replied, recounting how he spoke with “probably too loud a voice.”

Ultimately, he caved to the woman’s demand and hit the floor with Diana. She “was lovely,” he wrote, “and there was a very shy quality about her in spite of her being well schooled in the art of conversation.”

Prince Harry Remembers Princess Diana and John Travolta's Dance in Living Legends of Aviation Speech
Princess Diana dances with John Travolta in Cross Hall at the White House during an official dinner on November 9, 1985 in Washington, DC. ZUMAPRESS/MEGA

Still, Diana managed to diffuse the awkwardness with friendly small talk.

“I gotta say she seemed to be having the time of her life,” he added. “I was relieved she talked most of the time. Let’s just say it was not my finest hour as a conversationalist.”

Selleck brought his then-girlfriend, Jillie Mack, whom he married in 1987, as his date to the dinner. She got to dance with the future king.

“The prince asked Jillie for a second dance,” wrote the actor, who went on to star in the CBS police procedural Blue Bloods. “Clint took over for me, and I got to dance with my friend Nancy [Reagan].”

“She was relaxed, and I was relaxed. They were playing a song from the 1940s. I wish I could remember what it was, because Nancy was quietly singing along. What a nice way to end the evening.”

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