My fantasy of riding into the sunset with a handsome European prince finally came true.
Except instead of riding on a magical pumpkin carriage through an enchanted forest, Prince Lorenzo de' Medici and I hopped on a TMZ bus between a Hooters and a puppy humping a 10-foot plastic Shrek on Hollywood and Highland.
OK, so it wasn't the fairy tale of my imagination, but at least he's an actual prince. And we did ride off into Sunset ... Boulevard.
Prince Lorenzo Maria Raimondo de' Medici is the 37-year-old heir to the Medici dynasty of Florence, Italy, which was responsible for cultivating the birth of the Italian Renaissance over 700 years ago -- a legacy we honored here in L.A. by showing him the exact spot where Hugh Grant picked up a hooker for 60 bucks.
The prince holds an MBA degree and does marketing for luxury goods. But lately he's been disguised as a lowly psych student in this season of TLC's Secret Princes, a show in which four royals explore Austin, Texas, in search of true love. Think Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, only more awkward.
I met him and his publicist, Niki, at Sweet! Hollywood, where tourists gather for a round of diabetes before being escorted by their guides to their celebrity stalking adventure of choice.
Six feet four inches, with short blond cherub-like hair and blue eyes, Lorenzo wore a bright red scarf over a blue velvet jacket, his gold watch decked with the proud Medici butterfly logo. Niki, on the other hand, was somewhat incognito in a beige trench coat and sunglasses.
I couldn't blame her. For people like us who live in L.A., revisiting the ghosts of drunken celebrities past on a bus tour is probably the most desperately touristy -- and therefore most uncool -- thing we could possibly do.
"I've seen all the pretty sides of L.A. You know, Beverly Hills, the Palisades. Not this side," Lorenzo said as he pondered the purpose of a baton filled with candy. "Is this some kind of sexual toy?"
We sat in the back of the bus behind the Korean, Australian and Canadian tourists. Despite our utter discomfort, Niki and I were secretly excited. I mean, it's TMZ, the one place besides church where judging and condemning others is a way of life.
Besides, our tour guide Nasrene's enthusiasm for all the places where Paris Hilton, Halle Berry, Lindsay Lohan and others crashed their cars was contagious. Once she realized that a prince was on board this bus of shame and empty promises, there was no stopping her eager questions.
Lorenzo was a gracious and talkative guest. And for this, we were grateful, because he and his velvet jacket originally belonging to Leonardo DiCaprio were the closest we were got to a celebrity that Tuesday afternoon.
As to how he obtained the jacket, Lorenzo explained, "I think we drank a lot. And he took my Italian tailor-made jacket. So I said, 'What he's doing?' But he was Leonardo DiCaprio, quite famous. I come close to him, I say 'I'm sorry, that's my jacket' and he says, 'Take mine.'"
Lorenzo then raised the jacket triumphantly for everyone to see, something like Mufasa holding up Simba as the rest of the animal kingdom looked on awestruck.
"It's short for me," he concluded, "but brings me luck a lot."
A couple of screens on board were showing clips from TMZ, videos meant to prep you for what's to come. For example, first you watch Kanye West running into a street sign by 90210 PHO Restaurant over and over again. Later, you get to actually see the place.
Sitting next to Lorenzo was sort of like having a personal TMZ reporter running clips. Once in a while he'd lean in and whisper some insider information. "Caffee Roma? That's where all the real Italians come for a drink at night." Urth Caffe on Melrose? Home of Russian supermodels. Prada? The fashion house makes wine, but don't bother trying to find it at BevMo; the owner only sells to the elite. Lorenzo included.
He confided that he thinks Paris Hilton may have an alcohol problem. Just maybe. And that Sharon Stone is one of his favorite big-name celebrities he's spent time with. "She's very intelligent and her legs, they are amazing."
The only TMZ trivia he found utterly shocking was the idea that anyone would pay $600 for a haircut from the stylist who pioneered "the Rachel" or purchase what is apparently the cheapest suit at Bijan's for $10,000. Even for the heir to the wealthiest family in Europe, this kind of spending was uncalled for.
Ultimately, it became clear that neither Nasrene nor I could contribute anything exciting to a man who just a few days ago was invited to watch Rumer Willis perform in Hollywood, who has traveled in his share of Maseratis, Bugattis and Ferraris, and who claims Chanel No. 5 was stolen from his ancestor, a queen of France.
So unless he wanted to talk about my 2003 Honda Civic Coupe or the time I saw Danny Pudi from Community at Peet's in Pasadena, we had to move on to a more universal topic. Food.
"In-N -Out for me is the best burger I ever had in my life! It's one of the things as an Italian I can tell is really good. We have real food," he chuckled as if he'd just divulged something I should take with me to the grave.
We finally reached an understanding when, two hours and zero celebrity sightings later, we arrived back in Hollywood.
Even though Lorenzo was sort of disappointed we didn't run into Oprah, Danny Devito and Johnny Depp (none were at the Ivy), he was still pretty inspired. You may even catch him performing one day at the Laugh Factory. "Yes, I'm very funny," he said, matter of factly.
He's also a hopeless romantic. If what he's looking for in a woman is any indication: "I think that she should be a celebrity inside and make me feel like a celebrity always."
Does he find his unicorn princess? We'll find out on the season finale of Secret Princes this Sunday, Dec. 8, at noon. If not, I did see a Cinderella roaming in front of the Mann Chinese Theater, looking for her Prince Charming. She'll probably be there for a while.