William Randolph Hearst’s swimming pool

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I imagine Hearst in this water with his mistress Marion Davies. But no, that apparently did not happen. This pool at San Simeon, California, served his guests, as did the herd of zebra and the paintings and statues. However when I asked the tour guide if anyone swam in the pool these days, she said that Patty Hearst had flown in with Bill Murray and Sophia Coppola for a dip a few weeks earlier.

That took me back to 1972, when I had dinner with Patty and the Hearst family at their mansion in Hillsborough. Never mind how I got there. It was the first time I had seen how the really rich lived, and I was impressed by the understatement, the fact that William Jr. didn’t seem too stuffy – he attempted to make conversation with us hoi polloi — and William III (addressed as ‘Bill’ if memory serves) and Patty were regular kids. Patty had a smile on her face and was a bit flirty, but there was a substrate in her of judgement withheld. She was just 17 then.

Two years later, on February 4, 1974, she was kidnapped by the SLA. I expected the California Highway Patrol to swoop down on the kidnappers and leave them like dead squirrels in the street. But no, she became “Tania” due to Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe. She demanded that Papa give $6 million in food to the poor, and he did. She stayed on the loose for a year and a half. Her trial on bank robbery and other charges fascinated me, with its allegations of brain-washing, that she was faking it, that she had gone along with the SLA “of her free will.” Eventually she served 22 months in jail, receiving commutations and pardons and what-not. Carter let her out of prison and Clinton gave her a full pardon.

I had always remembered her as the girl who passed me the butter when I asked. She was alert. Now she is 58 years old, and she flies into the small landing strip below this swimming pool for a dip, with Bill and Sophia.

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