Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hearst Gossip





I finally visited Hearst Castle on the southern California coast. Something that I've wanted to do for years. The structure was never finished, even after 30 years of construction. (Please click to enlarge!) There are several tours to choose from, and we took the basic tour which included two gigantic pools, one inside and one outside, both of olympic proportions. This tour also included one of three guest houses, William Randolph's favorite - the one he chose to spend time in toward the end of his life at age 88, despite a lavish master bedroom in the main structure. He had homes all over the world, but "The Ranch," as he referred to it, was special. It continues to be a working cattle ranch. Hearst's parents bought the property in 1865 and it includes 50 miles of coastline. The castle is now a museum, but the property and houses on the ranch remain with the Hearst Corporation.





What we found interesting was the people who surrounded Mr. Hearst. He began building this incredible structure when he was 56 years old! After completing the first guest house, he began a 30-year affair with Marion Davies, a 21-year-old starlet, 37 years his junior. He never married her, and while she was his constant companion, his wife, and mother of his five sons, would sometimes act as hostess to important guests at the castle. Winston Churchill, Amanda Earhardt, Charles Lindbergh, David Niven, Howard Hughes, Myrna Loy, Bob Hope, Cary Grant, to name just a few.


The story goes that while on his deathbed Davies became upset with the loud chatter and activity surrounding him. We can only guess that she felt he was not being afforded proper respect. At which point she was given a sedative by her niece and her niece's husband. When she awoke she was surprised to find that he had died during the night and his body, and all personal effects, had been removed. His funeral took place in San Francisco without her in attendance. It was only after the death of her niece did it become publicly known that she was actually the love child between herself and Hearst. One wonders if the "niece" ever knew who her real parents were, since it did not become public until after her death. Hearst was not known to have many children as guests at the ranch.


The movie The Cat's Meow is based on Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst, and will be on my Netflix queue, since my current obsession is all things William Randolph. Of course there are other interesting stories, such as the supposed fatal shooting of Thomas Ince on Hearst's yacht. The story goes he caught Davies and Charlie Chaplin in bed, chasing him to the deck where he accidently shot Ince while trying to kill Chaplin. (Charlie was quite handsome!)

Many more stories surround the life of William Randolph Hearst, but you'll have to wait until my next tour of the castle. We hope to make annual trips to the beautiful coast of California each spring.

32 comments:

Lydia said...

This is very ironic, because tonight we were watching Jeopardy and (can't remember the category or answer) they showed a photo of the Hearst Castle, which was of course the correct question. I got it right even though I've never laid actual eyes on the place. What an iconic piece of American pop culture/history. My mother used to talk about the whole Marion Davies thing; I think it captured her romantic heart.
I agree that Charlie Chaplin was a really handsome man...had never heard the story of him with Davies, etc.
You are SO lucky to have such a great getaway and to make this one of your stops. What a great post. I'll go look at the video now...

Natalie said...

Very exciting... I love all the goss. :)

Deborah said...

Pretty fascinating, Nancy! What an amazing place to visit - I'd go there instead of Disneyland if EVER I get to California.

There is nothing any novelist can invent that's more interesting than what real people get up to, hmm? Thanks for the story!

Brian Miller said...

fascinating nancy...and nice pics...

Pam said...

That first picture is amazing! It doesn't even look like something I think you would find in America!

The Good Cook said...

Now I want to go to Hearst Castle. Thank you for a great review and story. I'm going to order Cat's Meow too.

I am fascinated by the lifestyles of the rich and famous of old. Not so much now, the Pitts and Jolie's put it all out there - nothing fascinating about that.. but the whole Hearst story - the forbidden love, the love child, the castle, etc..

Sounds like you had a marvelous time.

willow said...

Charlie Chaplin was quite the ladies' man. I've heard of the story of him with Davies. Magnificent castle. Keep us posted on your current obsession! ;^)

lakeviewer said...

Yeah, lots of gossip and intemperance all around. I worry about all the scavenging and looting he conducted to get his antiquities.

Shrinky said...

Wow, what a life of scandal and gossip - poor Davies, you can't help but feel some pity for her. This castle is amazing, I've never heard of it before. I think I would like to see the movie now, too, thanks for an interesting post.

Herrad said...

Hi,
Please come by my blog and pick up your Beautiful Blogger Award.
Love,
Herrad

Mental P Mama said...

I remember seeing this on the Biography Channel...well most of it. Very saucy indeed!

Whitney Lee said...

This is fascinating. I've never heard of any of this...Why does it all sound so glamorous? If this were the current story it would seem sordid. Of course, if this were the current story there would be no secrets!

DJan said...

I never heard anything about this before, either. The Cat's Meow is going to be hard to get on Netflix for awhile, it's already been added to my queue. Nice tour, Nancy, and I appreciate learning about this tasty little snippet of gossip. Of course, today it would be well known and not all that exciting. But then... !

Leah J. Utas said...

Fascinating. Thanks for the tour.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

Loved the post and photos. I visited Hearst 2 times while we lived in CA, but would do it again; always something more to see and take in there. And the tales of such glory, extravagance, comfort, oppulence always attract me. I'm sure I was there in another life,,,:)

Reya Mellicker said...

Such a bizarre place, isn't it? When I visited, I thought it should be beautiful, but somehow it isn't. It's like a mirage, not quite of our world.

Very weird vibe there. But I'm glad you're out in the sunlight, gazing at something other than snow.

R.J. said...

What is it about the seduction of Hollywood that results in the loss of values and inhibitions of the stars or famous people? My inner cynic says it is true everywhere and we just hear about it when they indulge.The Orson Welles-Citizen Kane connection is fascinating. Marion Davies must have been a very independent person in those days and rumored to have connections to more than one rich and powerful guy. At least the wretched excess resulted in a great museum for the rest of us.

Amy said...

Nancy, It was so fun to read this post - my husband and I visited Hearts Castle in the mid 70's and he still tells the story of the catsup and mustard bottles on the massive dining room table! Plus, when we had our nursery, we were "invited" to deliver a large number of pansies to Wyntoon, the Hearst's 'summer place' near McCloud CA (near Mt Shasta). It was designed by Julia Morgan and looks like a village scene from a fairy tale. Mrs Hearst always insisted on large plantings of seasonal color - usually just one color (which I thought was rather boring!). But it was fun to see the place anyway!

Can't wait for the next installment!

Phoebe Miriah Kirby said...

I love having new obsessions! I didn't know all of this about his life. Imagine actually residing in a place as gorgeous and momentous as the Hearst Castle..

Meeko Fabulous said...

I loved visiting Hearst Castle! Isn't the place gorgeous! OMG! The dining room and the indoor and outdoor pool!

California Girl said...

I guess you can see why I want to retire along the Central Coast. Of course, if CA doesn't get it's shit together, it will lose population. They've been fiscally unsound for over two years and it isn't getting any easier.

Saw "The Cat's Meow" a few yrs ago. It's okay. I don't think anyone really knows the true story except Hearst, Louella, Marion, Ince. They're all dead! LOL

Did they tell you the story of the mustard & ketchup bottles on the grand dining table in the rectory?
He was such a regular guy. :)

F. Scott had it right, "The rich are different from you and me."

Jayne Martin said...

You probably drove right by me on the 101 from L.A. to Cambria. I've lived in California all my life and have never seen the Hearst Castle. How pathetic is that. I'm motivated now! Thanks for the tour.

GYPSYWOMAN said...

fabulous post, nancy! i've always been intrigued by all the stories surrounding the man and his women or the women and their man as the case might have been - have seen all the movies and still never tire of hearing the stories! and your, wonderfully told, as usual, lady! great post! thanks for such a fun entertaining time!

ds said...

Fascinatin' stuff. Didn't know about the Davies/Chaplin connection (so to speak), or that she & WRH had had a love child. He certainly wasn't the only member of his family to have had controversy in his life...
How ironic that the dinner guests played Monopoly!
Thanks for the tour...

Nancy said...

Lydia - You really need to visit it if you have the chance. I can see why it may have captured your mother's romantic heart - it was a love story - of sorts.

Natalie - It's what makes stories come alive - don't you think?

Deborah - I agree. Whatever the mind can imagine, someone has already done! :-)

Brian - Fascinating place.

Pam - It is far more otherworldly than the pictures can capture!

Good Cook - So am I! My husband and I talked about their lives all the way home. Filling in the blanks is such fun, especially since the docent gave very white-washed accounts of the happenings.

willow - I had no idea Chaplin was so handsome. I can see why he was a ladies man. The character he became famous for did not do the man justice!

lakeviewer - During the 1970's, while my husband was stationed in Fort Ord, in Monterey, he visited the castle a few times and the stories of his looting was part of the dialog. Now they make a point of saying he only bought from art dealers in NYC - what they fail to mention is that the art dealers were working full time for Hearst looting the monasteries and old homes in Europe!

Shrinky - You do feel sorry for her in a way. Then you think she sold her life and child for wealth and fame. We all make choices.

Herrad - Thanks - I'll stop by!

Mama - Nothing like a good scandal to keep our minds active. Ha!

Whitney - It was sordid then as well, I'm sure. Asking Mrs. Randolph Hearst what she thought of it would have had a different twist to the story, I'm guessing.

DJan - Hearst was in the news even then. Of course, he controlled the news... In fact he fought long and hard to not have Orson Well's Citizen Kane released.

Leah - My pleasure!

Pat - I agree. It's really an amazing story. (Maybe you were there...)

Reya - It was heaven to see green, believe me. It's been a very long winter!

RJ - And the really odd thing is that Hearst never really lived there! It was just one of many opulent residences. No wonder he lost control of the Hearst Corporation after the Depression. He was spending like there was no end - all the while plundering the earth for timber, mining, etc., to fuel his extravagances.

Amy - The ubiquitous catsup and mustard bottles are still on the table! I had no idea about the McCloud residence! We go by McCloud on our way to Portland several times a year. Now I have to go in search of this one. I wonder if it's open to the public? This residence sounds like it might have been off limits to Marion Davies. Mrs. Hearst sounds like she was in control with choosing just the right color of flower.

Phoebe - The funny thing is that he never lived there, just visiting from time to time...

Meeko - I really wanted to swim in those pools! It seems such a waste to not have them used for more that 2 hours once a year for the people and families that work on the estate. And only the outdoor one.

California - Scott Fitzgerald certainly had that right! I could see retiring to this section of coast. It was so lovely this time of year. California is having so many problems, but so are many other states - including Nevada (a billion in the hole.)

Jayne - You're on 101? Then we probably did drive by you. You must go see the castle! We're doing several mini-vacations this year. This has been on my list forever.

Gypsy - Glad you enjoyed a couple of tidbits - his life held many more, believe me. It would take a book, however. Or a movie...

ds - I know! Monopoly! When you see how small all the furniture and beds were, you realize this was a very opulent place, but a very long time ago. Even the big gathering room would be considered small by todays opulent standard. We've upsized everything!

Emom said...

Have FUN! smiles.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Wow. That's some estate!

Lori ann said...

Glad you had such a wonderful time, i love those green hills. My favorite part of Hearst Castle is the drive up and down. It's a facinating place, i agree. We've been on every tour but the night one. Curiosity kept us coming back. Did you get a chance to see the elephant seals at the bottom of the hill? :)

jeannette stgermain said...

Always wanted to visit, but just a little to far for a 2 day weekend trip. Thanks for sharing, and neat to meet another Californian blogger! (I am Dutch but have lived here for 20+ years in the L.a. area)

Rain said...

Lovely pools, wow, I'd love to have that in my backyard! That movie was very good actually. It kept me in suspense!

Land of shimp said...

Fun post, Nancy. Hearst, and many other ultra-wealthy people often bring to mind the question of what is true wealth? He had so much, but lived beyond plenty, and into excess.

It's impossible to think of Hearst, for me, without thinking of Citizen Kane.

I have to agree with Shrinky, I can't help but feel sorry for Davies also. I'm not sure that Hearst and his actual wife had ever married for love, but it seems that Davies did love him.

One of the sadder things is that obviously Davies knew afterward that her own daughter had (perhaps kindly) drugged her into submission, and in doing so, caused Davies to miss the death of a man she loved...no matter how complicated the situation. Heavy burdens all around.

A friend who toured the museum said something I found rather telling: "I couldn't imagine laughing in there. The echoes alone intimidated me into silence."

There is something so lonely about an echo, and I thought that was very fitting. I know he had everything money could buy, but I never think of Heart and Happy in the same thought.

susan said...

It just doesn't seem right that anyone should be allowed to own 50 miles of coastline. Talk about keeping the riffraff out :-)