LOS ANGELES — A gentlemanly polo match where England's future king will showcase his riding skills while raising money for charity has turned into the scene of an ugly American spat.
Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Toby Mayer, who has helped stitch up cuts at Santa Barbara Polo Club matches for years, said he was delighted when he was tapped to be on stand-by at Saturday's match in case the Duke of Cambridge has a spill. The 69-year-old doctor promptly sent out a press release and did a series of interviews with domestic and overseas media.
"As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are embarking on a new life, keeping Prince William healthy and looking Hollywood, camera-ready, is of utmost importance," Mayer said in the news release. "I'm honored to be selected by Buckingham Palace to be the Beverly Hills surgeon given (that it's) such an esteemed privilege to keep his royal highness looking good."
It didn't go over well.
On Tuesday, Mayer said he got a call from the club's general manager, Ariana Nobel, saying he'd been "deselected."
"Ariana said `They want to control the media,'" Mayer said. "There's not supposed to be any interviews granted unless they tell you it's ok."
Nobel and the event organizers acknowledged Mayer helped out at past matches, but not in this case.
"Mayer was never confirmed as the plastic surgeon on site for the event," she said. "It seems as if he chose to assume he would be the doctor on site on the 9th since he has served as the doctor at many prior polo events at the Santa Barbara Polo Club."
Geannie Sheller, president of the Polo Training Center, said they had already contracted an emergency medical technician and ambulance for the event.
"We did not request a medical doctor or plastic surgeon to be present during the polo match," Sheller said.
For his part, Mayer believes he is being punished for giving unauthorized interviews. A longtime club member, Mayer regularly shuttles between his office in Beverly Hills during the week to play polo in Santa Barbara over the weekend.
The lush stretch of coastline two hours north of Los Angeles is nicknamed the American Riviera and has been home to celebrities including Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey.
For many years, Mayer said he provided his medical services at club matches when players fell off their horses or were hit by mallets or balls.
"I'm extremely disappointed with the Polo Club and this foundation that after 30 years of service to the membership that I was treated this way," he said.