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Prince Charles and Princess Diana dazzled Palm Beach Tuesday...

By JEFF BATER

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Prince Charles and Princess Diana dazzled Palm Beach Tuesday on the polo field and at a charity ball tainted by some socialite snubs and revelations an organizer had posed nude for a British magazine.

Diana arrived at the ball at The Breakers hotel wearing a slim-fitting pale pink velvet evening gown that was backless to the waist, leading one fashion consultant to predict that style would become the latest rage.

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'Diana sets the trends,' said consultant Lynn Hodges. 'Backless dresses will be 'in' now.'

As the prince and princess emerged from a limousine to greet billionaire host Armand Hammer, celebrity guests jammed the main entranceway to get a glimpse of the royal couple.

Outside, about 50 onlookers were kept away from the main gate and policemen patrolled the grounds with explosive-sniffing dogs.

Charles and Diana winged into West Palm Beach International Airport at 12:30 p.m. EST Tuesday aboard a Royal Air Force VC 10 to greetings from Gov. Bob Graham and other dignitaries.

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Well-wishers waved Union Jacks and American flags and clicked cameras as the 24-year-old princess, wearing a pinstripe skirt and jacket, accepted several bouquets of flowers.

The couple was then whisked to the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club for a private reception before Charles joined the winning Palm Beach team in a polo match against an All Star team.

The prince, who turns 37 Thursday, was greeted by a chorus of 'Happy Birthday' when he ducked into a tent to mop his brow during halftime.

The last time Charles played at the club, in 1980, he was hospitalized for heat exhaustion. He came through Tuesday's match unscathed and joined teammates in accepting a silver and porcelain winner's trophy from the princess.

The climax of the royal couple's Palm Beach visit was the black-tie ball, which included a seven-course meatless dinner.

The couple, who visited Washington earlier in the week, will leave for London Wednesday morning.

Ball guests included Her Majesty the Sultan of Oman and Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Forbes, deemed 'benefactors' because they paid $25,000 each for the chance to sit near the royal couple's table.

Among the 'patrons,' paying $5,000 a plate and seated a bit farther back, were Mr. and Mrs. Cary Grant, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Hope, Mr. and Mrs. Ted Turner, Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Peck, and Gov. and Mrs. Edmund Brown.

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The visit was marred by reports that Palm Beachers were snubbing the ball and by revelations that the ball's organizers, Patricia Kluge, had posed nude for a fleshy British magazine in the 1970s. She resigned as national co-chairwoman of the ball and reported she would be traveling abroad during the royal visit.

The crowning blow came when the Palm Beach chairwoman of the ball, Mary Sanford, decided days before the ball she would have nothing to do with it and called the Kluge incident 'hideous.'

Charles seemed aware the visit had ruffled a few feathers. He asked West Palm Beach Mayor Carol Roberts at the airport if she was attending the ball.

'I said yes, and he said, 'Aren't you brave to come,'' Roberts said.

Organizers, however, proclaimed the ball a smashing success, saying it had raised $4 million for the United World Colleges -- double the goal.

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