You might think that ballroom dances between a charming prince and lovely princess are just the stuff of animated Disney movies.
But John Travolta lived that experience off-screen almost 35 years ago, when he cut a rug with Princess Diana at a White House dinner in November 1985.
At the time, Diana was still a new addition to the British royal family, having married Prince Charles four years prior.
The two were on a tour of the U.S., and then-first lady Nancy Reagan organized an event in their honor.
Travolta, meanwhile, had graduated from scene-stealer status on the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter and become a big-screen superstar thanks to hits like Saturday Night Fever and Grease, both of which established him as America's leading dancing heartthrob.
** FILE ** Actor John Travolta arrives at the 19th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala in Palm Springs, Calif., in this Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008 file photo. Russell Crowe, Kate Beckinsale and John Travolta will be among the stars set to present trophies at this weekend's Screen Actors Guild Awards, officials said Monday, Jan. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
John Travolta arrives on the red carpet during the 14th Rome Film Fest at Auditorium Parco Della Musica in Rome, Italy on October 22, 2019. (Photo by Barbara Como/Pacific Press/Sipa USA)
John Travolta attends the photocall during the 14th Rome Film Festival in Rome. (Photo by Cosimo Martemucci / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Rome Italy. October 22, 2019. John Travolta walks on the red carpet and gives interviews to journalists during the 14th Rome Film Festival. (Photo by Gennaro Leonardi/Pacific Press/Sipa USA)
John Travolta arrives to the 2019 G'DAY USA Los Angeles Gala, held at 3 Labs in Culver City, California, Saturday, January 26, 2019. (Photo by Elise Leclerc/Sipa USA)
HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES, CA, USA - DECEMBER 14: Actor John Travolta attends the Pitbull Hand And Footprint Ceremony held at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on December 14, 2018 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA)
(L-R) Victoria Gotti, Kelly Preston, John Travolta and John A. Gotti attend the "GOTTI" New York Premiere at the SVA Theatre in New York, NY, on June 14, 2018. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)
(L-R) John Travolta and Kelly Preston attend the "GOTTI" New York Premiere at the SVA Theatre in New York, NY, on June 14, 2018. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)
MIAMI, FL-JUNE 8: John Travolta and Kelly Preston are seen during Despierta America morning show to talk about the up coming movie 'Gotti' on June 8, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alberto E. Tamargo/Sipa USA)
Kelly Preston, John Travolta and Ella Bleu Travolta attending the Solo: A Star Wars Story premiere at the 71st Cannes Film Festival. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS
John Travolta and Kelly Preston during the Gotti photocall held during the 71st Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS
Hollywood actor and pilot John Travolta poses with a L-39 Albatros from the Breitling jet team at the 47th Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 21, 2007. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol (FRANCE)
John Travolta attends the 2018 G'Day USA Los Angeles Gala at the InterContinental Hotel Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
American actor John Travolta stands in front of the first production 747-400
Extended Range jetliner delivered to Australia's Qantas Airways in Everett,
Washington on October 30, 2002. Travolta, who is a commercial pilot
qualified to fly numerous aircraft including the 747 jetliner, is Qantas'
goodwill ambassador. He recently completed a 41,632-mile world tour flying
his personally owned 707 jetliner. REUTERS/Anthony P. Bolante
U.S. actor John Travolta waves as he leaves his vintage Boeing 707 jet
aircraft at Rome's Ciampino airport on August on 22, 2002. Travolta,
who holds eight pilot licences, has been adopted by Australian airline
Qantas as their 'Ambassador at Large' for the world tour entitled
'Spirit of Friendship'. REUTERS/Vincenzo Pinto
U.S. actor John Travolta waves a Union flag from the cockpit of his vintage Boeing 707 jet aircraft at Heathrow Airport in London August 19, 2002. [Travolta, who holds eight pilot licences, has been adopted by Australian airline Qantas as their 'Ambassador at Large' for the world tour entitled 'Spirit of Friendship'. Travolta will pilot himself throughout the tour which visits 13 cities.]
John Travolta introduces a performance by Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood at the 59th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
John Travolta arrives at the AFI Awards at the Four Seasons Hotel on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2015 file photo, John Travolta, right, touches the face of Idina Menzel as they present the award for best original song at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Since strutting onto the big screen in “Saturday Night Fever,” John Travolta’s career has been one of dramatic ups and downs, from comeback king to Internet meme. Travolta, 61, is prepping a handful of projects and ahead of the release of an explosive documentary on Scientology that focuses considerably on Travolta’s relationship with the organization. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP, File)
FILE - This Sept. 6, 2013 file photo shows actor John Travolta arriving for the screening of "Killing Season" at the 39th American Film Festival in Deauville, Normandy, western France. Travolta will appear during the 15th International Indian Film Academy awards in Tampa. Organizers of the event said Monday, April 21, 2014 that Travolta will receive the "Most Popular All-Time International Star in India" at the awards ceremony. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)
FILE - Actor John Travolta attends a special screening of "Killing Season" hosted by Jagermeister at the Sunshine Landmark Theater in this Thursday, June 20, 2013 file photo taken in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
FILE - In this June 7, 2012 file photo, John Travolta attends the AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Shirley MacLaine at Sony Studios in Culver City, Calif. Since strutting onto the big screen in “Saturday Night Fever,” John Travolta’s career has been one of dramatic ups and downs, from comeback king to Internet meme. Travolta, 61, is prepping a handful of projects and ahead of the release of an explosive documentary on Scientology that focuses considerably on Travolta’s relationship with the organization. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
File-Actor John Travolta poses at the Four Seasons Hotel during a press junket for the movie "Hairspray," Saturday, June 16, 2007, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
NOVEMBER 1985 FILE PHOTO- Princess Diana is shown wearing a Victor Edelstein gown as she dances at a November 9, 1985 White House dinner with actor John Travolta. The ink-blue Edelstein gown sold for $222,500 during an auction at Christie's auction house in New York June 25, the highest price paid for any one of the 79 gowns worn by the Princess, and auctioned to raise funds for AIDS and cancer charities in Britain and the United States.
NOVEMBER 1985 FILE PHOTO- Princess Diana is shown wearing a Victor Edelstein gown as she dances at a November 9, 1985 White House dinner with actor John Travolta. The ink-blue Edelstein gown sold for $222,500 during an auction at Christie's auction house in New York June 25, the highest price paid for any one of the 79 gowns worn by the Princess and auctioned to raise funds for AIDS and cancer charities in Britain and the United States.
FILE - In this Nov. 9, 1985 photo provided by the Ronald Reagan Library, actor John Travolta dances with Princess Diana at a White House dinner in Washington. This outfit is featured in an exhibition of 25 dresses and outfits worn by Diana entitled "Diana: Her Fashion Story" at Kensington Palace in London, opening on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. (Ronald Reagan Library via AP, File)
Director Quentin Tarantino, actress Uma Thurman, actor John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston, actor Bruce Willis pose on the red carpet for the screening of their film "Pulp Fiction" in competition at the 47th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 21, 1994. REUTERS/John Schults
Director Quentin Tarantino (R), actress Uma Thurman (C) and actor John Travolta pose on the red carpet they arrive for the screening of the film "Sils Maria" (Clouds of Sils Maria) in competition at the 67th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes May 23, 2014. The film "Pulp Fiction" will be presented on Friday during a beach front cinema screening for its 20th anniversary. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau (FRANCE - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
Actor John Travolta appears outside Lenny's Pizza, that was featured in his movie 'Saturday Night Fever' to promote his upcoming movie 'Gotti' in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, U.S., June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Actor John Travolta attends a 30th anniversary screening of "Saturday Night Fever" held at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California November 20, 2007. REUTERS/Phil McCarten (UNITED STATES)
Actor John Travolta and Australian singer Olivia Newton-John perform a song from their musical film "Grease" during a party at Paramount studios September 24, 2002 in Hollywood celebrating the DVD release of six classic musical films including "Grease," ["Saturday Night Fever," "Flashdance," and "Footloose."] This is the first time they performed songs from "Grease" since 1982.
Actor John Travolta (C) star of the musical films "Grease" and
"Saturday Night Fever" poses with his co-stars from each film,
Australian singer Olivia Newton-John (L) from "Grease" and Karen Lynn
Gorney from "Saturday Night Fever" as they arrive for a party at
Paramount studios in Hollywood September 24, 2002. The party celebrates
the DVD release of six classic musical films including "Grease,"
"Saturday Night Fever," "Flashdance," and "Footloose." REUTERS/Fred
Actor John Travolta holds the award presented to him by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award (BAFTA) at the 8th Annual ceremony in Beverly Hills, California October 15. Travolta received the award for his contribution to the international entertainment industry, as he has starred in the films "Saturday Night Fever," "Primary Colors," "Pulp Fiction," and his television work on the sitcom "Welcome Back Kotter.
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It's no wonder that the first lady decided to pair the two at the White House... although she didn't prepare Travolta for his role. "I didn't know until I got there that I was supposed to dance with her," the actor reveals to Yahoo Entertainment.
"[Princess Diana] kept that a secret when she met me. She didn't know that Nancy Reagan hadn't told me yet that this was the plan — that I was the Prince Charming of the evening."
Of course, Travolta would never think of turning down a First Lady... or a princess for that matter.
Taking the dance floor, his nerves initially got the better of him as images of Diana dancing with Charles at their wedding flooded his mind. "I was awestruck with her," he admits now.
"She led the way, and I thought: 'Well, that's not going to happen! I've got to go back to my school days of learning ballroom dancing and show that I can lead her.'"
Thinking back on that night some three decades later, Travolta's memories have less to do with what he and Diana talked about — Clint Eastwood's tardiness was one subject they discussed — and more about the charisma his dancing partner brought to every room.
He also has a near-perfect recall of the black velvet dress she wore — a dress that, as it happens, is currently up for auction courtesy of the London-based Kerry Taylor Auctions.
Diana's dress is included amongst a "Passion for Fashion" collection of boutique ensembles, which are on display for viewing on Dec. 6 and 8, with bidding scheduled for Dec. 9. "It fit her beautifully," Travolta recalls wistfully.
"I could probably sketch it in my mind because it was so specific."