From ritzy to gritty, royals go to Skid Row

Associated Press
Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, greet students as they arrive at Inner-City Arts during their royal tour of California in Los Angeles, Sunday, July 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Prince William and Catherine saw Los Angeles's less-glamorous side Sunday when they visited an inner-city school in downtown's notorious Skid Row area.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were greeted at the Inner City Arts academy by six elementary school-aged children holding a welcome banner while a crowd of about 150 people cheered and looked on, some waving British and American flags.

Kate, as she is better known, wore a navy-and-white crochet top and a white pleated skirt, both by U.K. fashion company Whistles.

Cynthia Harnisch, the academy's president and chief executive officer, spoke to the couple about Skid Row and the challenges of poverty and homelessness faced by many students at the school.

The duke and duchess were then escorted to a visual arts studio where they donned art smocks and sat at easels. Fifth-graders helped them create mandalas, a type of Buddhist painting.

Next, the couple went to the ceramics studio where children were working on separate parts of a giant tortoise. The duchess joined the students who were creating the tortoise's shell while the duke sat at another table where children were working on the reptile's body.

After the visit, the clay tortoise will be fired in the studio's kilns and placed in the school's cactus garden.

Skid Row, with its intractable poverty and large homeless population, could hardly stand in starker contrast to the more glitzy parts of Southern California that the couple has seen on their whirlwind visit.

On Saturday, William wowed the crowd with four goals at his charity polo match then he and the former Kate Middleton headed by helicopter to downtown Los Angeles for a black-tie film industry event that drew Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand, Jack Black and Jennifer Lopez, among others.

Saturday night's soiree at the restored 1920s-era Belasco Theatre in downtown Los Angeles was organized by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, of which William is president, to promote up-and-coming British talent in the industry.

Fans cheered as they strode a red carpet and the couple responded by walking over and shaking a few hands.

"Before I start, I'd just like to thank Colin Firth for my opening line: I have a voice," William quipped in brief remarks to the star-studded audience, referring to Firth's role as William's great-grandfather, King George VI, in the acclaimed film "The King's Speech."

The guests included executives of major studios and entertainment companies along with such luminaries as James Gandolfini, Don Cheadle, Blake Lively and Kristin Chenoweth.

The royal couple began Sunday by attending a swanky reception to raise money for the Tusk Trust, an African wildlife conservation group.

Their final stop before departing for the U.K. will be with the group ServiceNation: Mission Serve, which aims to help veterans find jobs.

Inside the event's venue, Studio 15 on the Sony Pictures Studio lot in Culver City, giant U.S. and British flags hung behind a stage where the duke and duchess would later speak.

The soundstage hosted a job fair for military veterans, with employers such as Mattel, Walmart and entertainment industry companies such as Warner Bros. and CBS manning booths. The companies must have jobs in order to participate in the fair, said Ross Cohen, Mission Serve's director.

Cohen, who served in Afghanistan and was an army paratrooper, said events such as the job fair were crucial for returning veterans. Unemployment rates for young vets and their spouses are as high as 25 percent, Cohen said.

Kelly York, a 23-year Air Force veteran, came to the fair hoping to find a job that will allow her to remain in the Los Angeles area when she retires early next year.

"I'm sure that they had 50 million places they could go and see," York said. "The fact that they even take five minutes to stop here and say something to the veterans, that's huge."

After arriving at the event and speaking with some veterans, the duke and duchess plan to help prepare care packages for members of the military serving overseas and then depart Los Angeles.

William and Kate's arrival in California has been a lower-key affair than the largely rapturous welcomes they received as they crisscrossed Canada for nine days.

Though Prince William has been to America before, it is Kate's first trip to the U.S. William's late mother, Princess Diana, who would have turned 50 this month, charmed Americans when she visited in the 1980s.

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Associated Press writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.

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