William E. Cleator, Was San Diego City Councilman

SAN DIEGO - William "Bill" Cleator Sr., perhaps best known as the mayor who scandalized Britons by lightly touching Queen Elizabeth II during her visit here, died yesterday of cancer. He was 65.

Mr. Cleator was elected to the City Council in 1979 and served two four-year terms. As deputy mayor, he became acting mayor for five months when Mayor Pete Wilson left office early to become a U.S. senator.

It was during that time, in February 1983, that Mr. Cleator accidentally touched the queen on the back as he tried to direct her out of a reception.

The British media described the gesture as an insult - a commoner daring to touch royalty - and said the gentle brush caused a look of annoyance to cross the queen's face.

"Get Your Hands Off Our Queen," a headline in one British tabloid screamed. Television stations replayed the incident in slow motion.

Cleator sought to apologize to the queen, but Prince Philip assured him that no apology was necessary, said Don Harrison, a longtime friend and former press secretary to Cleator.