Excesses of the Rich and Wealthy William Randolph Hearst Part 2

About the excesses of the rich William Randolph Hearst, biography and history of his extravagent spending.



Hearst's mother had once said, "Every time Willie feels bad, he goes out and buys something." He must have felt bad quite often, then, because the accumulation of antiques and objets d'art was the ruling passion in Hearst's life, next to Marion Davies. He acquired Charles I's bed, deer antler chandeliers. German armor, mummy cases, prize paintings, and silver-you name it, he bought it. A creative buyer, he even bought a Spanish cloister, sight unseen, for $40,000 and had it dismantled and transported to a warehouse. Unfortunately, it didn't fit into St. Donat's. A Cistercian monastery from Guadalajara wound up being donated to a San Francisco museum because Hearst didn't know what to do with it. In 50 years he spent over $50 million on his art collection alone. If there was not enough room in his houses for some of his 20,000 acquisitions, he stored them in his Bronx warehouses. During his peak buying period of 40 or so years, his purchases represented one quarter of the entire sale of art objects in the world. Hearst also had a pair of plush Rolls-Royces. Each car possessed, proportionately, as many mirrors as Versailles. In the rear, for the passenger, were a duplicate dashboard inlaid in walnut, several built-in thermos bottles, gold vanity cases filled with compacts and combs, a tiny wooden rolltop desk, a miniature table to be pulled out at mealtime, and a portable bar.

But back to the castles. Wyntoon (which Marion disparagingly called Spitoon) was an estate 250 mi. north of San Francisco. Here Hearst built (twice, because once it burned down) a fantasy Bavarian village which could house 60 guests. He gave the chalets names like Bear House, Fairy House, Cinderella House, and Angel House. These he stuffed with cuckoo clocks and other Germanic things, and he strolled about the place in a Tyrolean hat. Marion had a nice little Santa Monica beach house of her own, with 110 rooms plus 55 bathrooms and a 110-ft.-long marble swimming pool.

Then there was San Simeon, which covered over 200,000 acres. Its private zoo housed more than a hundred kinds of animals, including 40 bison. The 6-mi. driveway was lined with signs which read: "Animals have the right-of-way." The Italian gardens were dotted with fountains and statuary. Any time a guest wandering the San Simeon acres wanted a drink, he or she had only to reach for one of the telephones hidden in rocks and trees and place an order. Two acres of cellar underneath the main building housed art objects.

Eventually Hearst fell on troubled times financially and sold nearly two thirds of his art collection. But he had enjoyed his money to the fullest, and had lived true to his motto: "Pleasure is what you can afford to pay for it."

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