Just recently I did a short road trip along the PCH. First stop was to the sleepy little town of San Simeon, CA. The home of the famed Hearst Castel. A decadent display of the lifestyle of America’s Guilded Age. You know the time when all of America was struggling during the great depression, except for a few famed families’ whom had found a way to strike it rich. Built knowingly on a tall hilltop for all to see during those dark days of the depression.
To this day Hearst Corporation owns almost everything from publication’s, to networks, radio stations, pharmaceuticals, to chemical companies. They are also hard to track down exactly what they really do have a part in because they will own say 20% of one company while the other 80% is owned by another company they also own. Just consider they have part in it all so even if you wanted to boycott the Hearst Corporation it would not be easy. Therefore, no matter what your personal views on William R Hearst or any other part of there empire remain, if your interested in history, art ,design, leisure, and eccentric esthetic, then this is an amazing place to see. I also believe that this landmark gives an economy to this small community and also supports other national parks
I decided on the night tour which is a little more pricey. You will only get to see the main house and they will have actors acting out the lifestyle on the time. The grounds are well manicured, lit and looking beautiful against the moon lit sky. My only problem with the night tour was that the actors were all about in there mid 80’s, not exactly depicting the truth of that time of whom would be roaming around this palace of luxury of who’s who.
You will take a bus to the top of the hill top where the Castel is located. The waiting area for the bus is a modern building with a café, butcher shop, restaurant, gift shop, and attached art gallery. The art gallery seemed to be like any other with an array of rotating showings. Once on the bus you will spend the rocky winding ride to the top of the hilltop with a sound atmosphere of a vintage radio show and music from that Guilded Age.
Once you reach the top you will be separated into small tour groups. Mine was a little to quirky for my tastes, but all good. The first thing you will see will be the outdoor Roman Pool. It’s amazing! It may be the best part of the tour.
You will be rounded up by your tour guide from room to room on a select timing to discuss what the guest would likely be doing during that particular timing. There were many rooms in the main house. The Mr. and Mrs. had separate bedrooms. There was a gaming room with a pool table. There was a cocktail room, which they insisted drinks were kept to a minimum. Dinner was served on a large rustic table with “a ranch style rustic menu.” The main house included a kitchen, guest rooms, a private grand movie theater, and a very large and beautiful indoor pool.
In 1919, the location for the Castel was sought out for the climate and the view by the William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan. This collaboration lasted almost 30 years. The temperature is warmer as soon as you reach the top of the hill. The hill was renamed La Cuesta Encantada, “The Enchanted Hill” high above the ocean at San Simeon. Hearst Castle had a 115-room main house, guesthouses, pools, and 8 acres of cultivated gardens. The main house itself, “La Casa Grande,” is a grand setting for Hearst’s collection of European antiques and art pieces. The main house is where he would host his influential guests who stayed at Hearst’s San Simeon ranch. Guests included President Calvin Coolidge, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Charles Lindbergh, Charlie Chaplin, and a mix a of stars from show business and publishing industries.
Hearst was born in San Francisco on April, 29th into a wealthy family. The land that the Castel was built on land was originally owned by his father . His father was great businessman that became a multimillionaire when he struck in big the mining business. His mother was a school teacher and a very cultured women that inspired his love for art and design. She took him to Paris twice before the age of 16. They both made sure he had the best education possible starting at an early age. He had a really good set up for success.
Hearst had his first starts of journalism during his years at Harvard. He also was known as a prankster. ( That may be were he learned how to sensationalize) After school he insisted he take fathers paper the San Francisco Examiner, which he did graciously. William invested a lot of money and energy into the paper, upgrading the equipment and hiring the most talented writers of the time, including Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce and Jack London.
This was the beginning of “yellow journalism”. Sensationalized, slanted , manipulative, reporting for the benefit of one goal in mind. To make money! The paper would have eye catching banner headlines and grandiose stories, many based on speculation and half-truths. About one quarter of the page space was devoted to crime stories, but the paper also conducted investigative reports on government corruption and negligence by public institutions
He was accused of starting the Spanish-American war thru media manipulation. Scaring people against Communism, which effected the film industry poorly. He turned people against socialistic ideals. He could start or ruin people careers through slanted media. Pushing for the illegalizing of marijuana, because it was making him loose money because he had stock in wooden paper goods. He would write articles about how Mexicans are just lazy, pot smoking, criminal types, steeling our jobs. California was the first place to make marijuana illegal. Hemp is not only better for the environment for paper goods, pit’s seeds are far more essential than flax or fish oil for the brain. He was the master of propaganda. He was about survival of the fittest, and the fittest was Mr. Hearst himself.
His corporation owned 2o Century Fox. Every magazine, most major newspapers, publications, you name it. He truly had shameless power over the media.
He thought he could use his tactics to sly himself into the democratic party. He did make it to the Senate, but gave up when he lost to Howard Hughes as Mayor of New York.
After dropping a waitress that he supported and had a long courtship with while in Harvard. His wandering interest took to a 16 year old Vaudeville actress Millicent Willson. They also had a long courtship and went on chaperoned dates do to her young age. In 1903, Mr. Hearst married Millicent Willson in New York City. The couple had five sons together during their marriage: George, William Randolph Jr., John and twins Randolph and David. He later fell in love with a successful actress Marion Davies, whom was known for being an amazing host at the Castel. Mrs. Hearts would never get a divorce.
The Castel became an obsession, never was finished and nearly broke Hearst into bankruptcy. Marion Davies wrote him a rather large check to save the company. The company also hired Richard Berlin to take over control as Heart’s successor, a known Republican in 1941.
Hearst died on August 14, 1951, in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 88. Hearst was put to rest in the Hearst family mausoleum at the Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California. All of his sons followed their father into the media business and his namesake. There are Hearst properties everywhere. Hearst Castel when offered in the will was not taken do to the resentment of almost destroying the family financially and it being the meeting ground for his mistress Marion Davis. The estate is thus why donated to the State of California.
Hearts made a career out of scandal which he was no way free from. Orson Welles famed movie Citizen Cane is said to be a depiction of Hearst. Hearst tried every connection he had to shut it down. It’s still has credit today of being a genius in filmmaking. I’m sure it’s shown around the world in film schools today. Patty Hearts, the granddaughter of the legendary newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst was kidnapped while attending Berkley College. Two black men and a white woman had kidnapped her at gunpoint and beat up her fiancé from her apartment in Berkley on February 4th and taken her captive. She was kept in a dark room, beaten , and brainwashed. She was blindfolded and not even allowed to use the restroom alone. They identified themselves as the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). The political kidnapping of an heiress from a prominent family-was kept under wraps for until it began to generate sensational media coverage around the world. Despite national political rebellion among college students around the country, this young woman had never been a political activist or taken up a violent cause. I believed she was unfairly tried due to her being a Hearst. She was obviously being manipulated and brainwashed by her kidnappers. It has been proven that it is a symptom when abused and taken captive the victim often is brainwashed so badly they sympathies with there kidnappers. It is said she spent 22 months in in prison and was fully pardon By Clinton in 2001. Patty Hearst became an obsession of the filmmaker John Waters, who has used Hearst in numerous small roles in films including Cry-Baby, Serial Mom, Pecker, Cecil B. DeMented, and A Dirty Shame. John Waters also introduced her to the famed Andy Warhol misfit Brigit Berlin whom is actually the daughter of Richard Berlin the who took over for Hearst after he almost lost the company. They were both raised to hate each other. Now they are great friends.
Credit: Hearts Castle, Hearts’ Website, PBS, Wikipedia, Biography, The Castel Tour, John Waters. All Photo’s are by Sofia Vondell.