Monday, October 5, 2015

New York in Fall and California Dreamin'

A fall scene. 1 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, October 5, 2015. It was a cool and breezy weekend in New York, overcast on Saturday and sunny on Sunday, with temperatures in the 50s and the “Real Feel” a little lower than that.

I love this weather. I’ve always loved Autumn (some people hate it). It represents New and Fresh, a dynamic renaissance. My sense of it probably dates back to school days when the world was always new and there was the excitement of growing up. Remember when you couldn’t wait to grow up? (OK. Now whattaya think?)

Saturday was an especial beauty for me. It was overcast and windy – not breezy – and damp or drizzly. I was inside where it was warm and therefore cozy. But I was out on my terrace off and on to look at the avenue and see what was going on. About three in the afternoon I was surprised to walk out to the presence of a very strong wind that sounded it like it was vibrating off branches of the trees. A heavy vibration caused by the wind. I came inside and grabbed my camera, hoping maybe I could re-capture that sound on a video. This is the video:
On the video, the muffledness (or whatever the word is) sounds like it is video-oriented (distorted). It is not. It was this amazing whoosh, flap, and whistle; very dramatic yet not ominous, a definite moving forward. Just down the block were the tents set up for the annual Carl Schurz Park art fair. Dozens of artists – local and from out of state – take these tent-stalls and show their works. It’s a very popular idea, and draw a big crowd. Usually. The block is closed off to auto traffic and so you can mill about safely and casually to see a lot of beautiful work including sculpture and ceramics. Looking at it in the photos I took on Saturday was a sad commentary to an opening. The weather deterred people from getting out. However, Sunday’s sun brought them out. The artists were doing good business.
A closeup of the art stalls on Saturday afternoon. Not much.
These are my prized and cherished crotons. I've had them for three or four years. I take them in in the cold weather and keep them in as much light as possible until Springtime. They love the sun and their leaves turn these brilliant reds and yellows from the heat. They're my little prizes.
Artists/Business. I was reminded in this past FT Weekend and the FT Lunch interview this week with Marion Goodman, the gallerist who has galleries here and in London and Paris. Ms. Goodman is the other of eighty – or this side of, depending on your side – and is still expanding. But the interview covers many aspects of the gallerist’s experience in business, in life, in art. It was a perfect interview to read in a cozy and warm apartment on a grey  windy day in early October, out in the world with a woman of wisdom and common sense.

George Hearst, California Senator and father of William Randolph Hearst.
William Randolph Hearst.
Last week, the Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation held its annual Hearst Castle Preservation Weekend (#7) at the castle in San Simeon, California overlooking the mighty Pacific.

A little background if you didn’t know. Hearst Castle, often referred to as San Simeon, was built on the family ranch – 425,000 acres, 50 miles of oceanfront and something like 40 miles inland. It was property acquired by George Hearst, the father of William Randolph Hearst, the builder and chatelain of Hearst Castle.

George Hearst lived in the 19th century. He was a farmboy from Missouri who walked the almost 2000 miles to California during the era of the Gold Rush (19th  century) It was said that he was the greatest natural geologist who ever lived, that he could smell  the elements that were buried in the earth beneath his feet. True or false, he became very rich discovering and/or investing in gold mines, silver mines, gold mines, silver mines and probably every other valuable element in God’s earth. Land was another. After he was rich, he bought the ranch at San Simeon in San Luis Obispo County. He also had a million acre ranch in Mexico.

When he died he left his fortune to his wife who would one day leave it to their son and only child, William Randolph. William Randolph became one of the most famous men in the world (first half of the 20th century) through his newspaper empire – which cost him a fortune to create. He was also a man who liked, among other compelling avenues, to collect. He collected antiquities and properties, Old Masters and Renaissance sculpture, castles and massive, lavish residences.

Here in New York he installed his family – wife, five sons, father-in-law, sometimes sister-in-law in an apartment on West 86th Street and Riverside Drive that occupied the top five floors of the building. The fifth floor was devoted to his collection of armor. He also had another apartment in the (new at the time) Ritz Tower where his mistress Marion Davies, the famous movie star of her era, lived when she was in New York.
Ophir Mill ruins, Comstock Lode. The Ophir Mine is where George Hearst made his first fortune, in 1859.
The Castle at San Simeon, however is different. The time I visited there – as a tourist – in the mid-70s, the first thought that crossed my mind as I began to ascend the steps up to the guest houses was that ... men will always build monuments to themselves. Versailles. St. Petersburg. Buckingham Palace. Hearst Castle is astounding on many levels of beauty. The world, the mountains, the sea, the coastline surround this astounding palace, which is beautiful beyond words.

The Castle itself sits atop a mountain overlooking the entire fiefdom and the Pacific. It is indeed royal in flavor. George Bernard Shaw, one of hundreds or thousands of famous individuals who were guests (the main house has 53 guest bedrooms and bathrooms – all differently decorate and full of priceless objets, furniture and art), said to have quipped on leaving, “This is what God would have built for himself if he had the money.”
La Cuesta Encantada, Spanish for The Enchanted Hill.
Hearst’s mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, held the pursestrings. Hearst was 57 before he started seriously building his castle, after Phoebe Hearst died in 1919 -- because Mother never would have okayed that kind of expenditure, and Son was already expensive what with his large family, his nationwide newspaper and magazine empire, his mistress, his investment in film production (ensuring stardom for Miss Davies), as well as his intense collecting. He shopped in person, with agents and with mountains of catalogues made available to him by any who wanted his business. When he died there were  warehouses in Europe jammed with art and antiques that he had acquired, sight unseen, and never saw.
WR's mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst.
Once begun, the building of the castle, the never-ending expansion, the re-re-landscaping, the moving of mountains (literally, to “improve the view from the guest rooms) surrounding the castle, the acquisition of the zoo, the railroad sidings, the airport, the gardens, the farm fields, the grazing cattle, was an activity that continued for the rest of the man’s life (he died at 88 in 1951). Construction did taper off to nothing by the late 1940s when it seemed that Old WR had gone through most of the fortune that George Hearst had made (although, time and excellent management by others turned that one around), but for WR, it was  always a work in progress in his head and in his heart, and the progression was always to: More Fabulous.
William Randolph Hearst, age 63, abuilding with architect Julia Morgan in 1926.
The castle under construction.
In its heyday which was the late 1920s through the late 1940s, the Castle was abuzz with world famous guests and lots of them. Movie stars, legends and starlets, politicians, authors, artists, socialites, all gathered under one fabulous roof and dining together at the same monarchic table where WR sat in the center like the king. It was a fabulous life and replete with an abundance of tales of fame, fortune, politics and media.
Now. In 1957, six years after the death of WR, the Hearst Corporation which was mainly owned by the Family – Hearst’s five sons and their heirs – donated the castle and its surrounding grounds to the State of California to be used as a state park. Since then millions and millions of people have visited. Jack Paar once told me that of all the palaces he’d been to in his life, Nothing compared to Hearst Castle. Certainly there are European palaces that are beyond comparison, but Hearst Castle is just astounding, vast, eclectically dazzling, dramatic, attention-seeking and entirely mesmerizing. It’s a trip, as we Americans used to say. And with a solid dose of down-home. I think that’s what amazes people the most. That’s California, however.

As a state park today, it produces more revenues than any other in California because it is a sensational tourist attraction. It is maintained by the state, although, almost a century since its initial construction, and in spite of the revenue it produces, there is not enough to preserve and restore the Castle’s 25,000 artifacts. This is why The Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation was created.
The Gothic Study where WR conducted his business.
The Neptune Pool, which is currently undergoing restoration. The pool was initially drained because of leaks, but the action was also part of a larger water conservation effort at Hearst Castle during the current severe drought.
The Roman Pool.
On this 7th annual Weekend, Anne Hearst McInerney (WR's granddaughter) and Jay McInerney hosted an intimate group – mainly made up of childhood California friends of Anne’s, and a number of friends from the East and elsewhere. California was best represented, with Joe (Board Chair) and Edith Tobin, Kathy and Greg Hampton, Justine and Robert Bloomingdale, Katrina and Michael Berube and Paula and Anthony Peck.

Representing the East, were Robert Zimmerman, Elisabeth de Kergolay, Debbie Bancroft, Jamie Figg, Felicia Taylor, Zang Toi (resplendent in his signature white kilt), Patrick McMullan, who photographed the entire weekend, and Alison and Sylvia MazzolaRemar Sutton waved the Danish flag, and Pierre Legrangee and his son, Bernard came over from London (where his company, Huntsman is based).
Justine and Robert Bloomingdale on the bus en route to the Rat Pack-themed dinner ...
On the first night, as the tours were closing for the day, this lucky group gathered in WR’s private theater to watched rare footage of the Rat Pack performing, and a documentary about The Castle, by former SNL film maker, Jim Signorelli. Also, not on the program but during the screening, a  wayward bat which at first almost appeared to be part of the film, but was flying in front of the screen, suddenly made a nose dive into Anne Hearst McInerney’s Audrey Hepburn-esque up-do, sending her fleeing the room.

The group was re-united with her afterwards in the castle’s Renaissance refectory where they were served what one guest described as a “sumptuous dinner with Brewer Clifton and Melville wines and Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne flowing." Dinner was followed by dancing on the Neptune Terrace to the Royal Garden Swing Orchestra.
Guests arriving ...
Anne Hearst McInerney and Jay McInerney. Jennifer McCoy, Patrick McCoy, Shane McCoy Fermelia, and Louis Fermelia.
Alan Talansky and Michael Berube.
John Hampton and Kathy Hampton.
Anne Sides, Allen Sides, Karen Dexter, Tim McDermott, and Cornelia Bregman.
Sonja Magdevski, Greg Brewer, Mary Levkoff, Edith Tobin, and Rodney Cook.
Robert Bloomingdale, Justine Bloomingdale, Natalie Bloomingdale, and James Bloomingdale.
Felicia Taylor, Elisabeth de Kergorlay, Anne Hearst McInerney, and Debbie Bancroft . Sean Sullivan and Kate Kelly Smith.
Rodney Cook, Karim Aoussar, Remar Sutton, and Jamie Figg.
Anne Hearst McInerney and Zang Toi. Kate Kelly Smith and Clinton Smith.
En route to dinner in the Refectory.
Sylvia Mazzola, Remar Sutton, Cornelia Bregman, and Tim McDermott. Greg Brewer and Sonja Magdevski.
Allen and Anne Sides.
Ashley Kraus and Debbie Bancroft. Warren Balfour and Alison Mazzola.
Kathi Koll, Robert Zimmerman, and Cornelia Bregman.
Edith Tobin and Cary Hampton.
Checking the place settings.
Dinner in the Refectory.
Patrick McMullan and Katrina Berube.
Jennifer McCoy.
Karen Dexter, Elisabeth de Kergorlay, and Felicia Taylor.
Natalie Bloomingdale. Paula and Tony Peck.
Joseph Tobin and Michael Berube.
There was no sleeping in the next day. That was the schedule in WR’s day too. Guests played tennis, kayaked, walked under the Pergola, visited the elephant seals, dipped in the Neptune Pool, toured the Castle with Director Mary Levkoff, and met again for lunch at the Senator’s House (WR’s father’s home).
Sam Kraus, Louis Fermelia, , Justine Bloomingdale, Robert Bloomingdale, Patrick McCoy, Ashley Kraus, Shane McCoy Fermelia, James Bloomingdale, Natalie Bloomingdale, Jennifer McCoy, and Kathi Koll.
Debbie Bancroft, Jay McInerney, Felicia Taylor, Elisabeth de Kergorlay, and Paula Peck.
Then, everyone slipped into their jeans and cowboy boots and headed over to the Dairy Barn for the ‘Hearst Ranch Patron Cowboy Cookout’, which featured a rousing auction for such items as a dinner for 10 at The Castle, a week at a villa in Mustique, and a made-to-measure jacket, both courtesy of Huntsman, and several art conservation options. Tony Peck, incidentally, was sporting what I was told was perhaps the chicest dinner jacket of the weekend: made by Huntsman, the bespoke tailor who had also dressed his father Gregory Peck. And for the Rat Pack themed dinner, he wore a tie given to him by Ole Blue Eyes himself (Frank Sinatra).
Tony in his Huntsman dinner jacket and Frank Sinatra tie, with wife Paula.
The highlight of a weekend filled with highlights, was an extraordinary performance by Judy Collins, who touches everyone with her music. With tears in their eyes, and songs in their hearts, spats and boas packed, the lucky guests descended from Le Cuesta Encantada.
Judy Collins performing at the Cowboy Cookout.

Contact DPC here.