If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll recall that I have moved from my wintry collegiate home of Western New York to a new, far away land. A place where Subarus and Farmers Markets abound, and where the term “harvest” no longer refers to seasonal gourds or early 17th century Puritans. If you’re thinking Northern California, congratulations, you win a prize. It’s a gluten-free cupcake.
Although NoCal (makes it sound like it’s good for you) is now one of the crunchiest places on the planet, it didn’t used to be that way. In fact, back in the good ol’ days, it was just as swanky as the hanky pankiest of American cities. (Like Reno or Cleveland.)
And what made the land of vegans and gays and vegan gays so scandalous back then, you ask? Guys like William Randolph Hearst is what. You probably remember him from APUSH as the creator of “yellow journalism.” And as the leader of our country’s first media conglomerates, he bought dirt, spun it into scandal and sold it faster and harder than Taylor Swift could fall in love, break up with someone, and write a top 40 hit about it. He was THAT good.
So good that Bill found himself in the middle of a scandal or two himself, earning him early 20th century northern California’s most prestigious award: “most hanky in the panky.” This is not an award that will be given at tonight’s Golden Globes, although I think we all know who it would be be going to if it wasn’t a totally fictional thing that I just made up.
If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to just add another tier of Award Season relevance to the already decadent scandal cake we’re baking here. Mr. Hearst was known for throwing the best parties in California, and he partied mostly with a bunch of Hollywood moving picture actors and producers in a castle that he built about half way between LA and Frisco. It’s actually still standing and it’s called “Hearst Castle.” (I haven’t been there because it costs like $25 to get in, but supposedly it has like THE best private art collection in the world). The building was designed by architect Julia Morgan and has a pool that looks like it belongs at a Vegas hotel. But what’s really important about it is that A LOT of Hollywood big shots (who had a lot of awards probably — you’re welcome, relevance) went there to have orgies.
Yeah, you heard me. Orgies. Like the kind at, like, Bacchae temples in ancient Rome. Although probably instead of like pouring wine all over each other, it was like High Balls and G&Ts.
This was not particularly surprising considering the frivolity of Hearst’s early adulthood. He was born and raised in San Francisco but after prep school in New Hampshire, he attended Harvard, like any millionaire’s son. Even though he was in a fraternity and a Finals Club (JUST LIKE IN FACEBOOK THE MOVIE), he didn’t finish (ALSO JUST LIKE FACEBOOK THE MOVIE AARON SORKIN IS A COLOSSAL DOUCHEBAG) on account of being expelled for throwing beer parties in Harvard square and sending chamber pots to professors. (Kids! Amiright?)
Turns out though, Bill didn’t really need that education shit anyway. He just bought, like, all of the major newspapers in the country, made bank, and started partying with celebrities instead of college kids. Sounds good to me, amiright ladiezz?
I should also add that while doing all of the illicit party throwing and media moguling, when he was 40, he met and married Millicent Wilson, a 21 year old chorus girl who was the daughter of a brothel owner. HOTT. About 15 years and five sons later, Hearst started an affair with actress and comedienne Marion Davies. Hearst and his wife separated (she moved to Manhattan and founded the Milk Fund), and he shacked up with Davies until his death. He was super possessive of her supposedly (even though he was the one with a spouse on the other coast), especially since she used to go steady with none other than silent film star, Charlie Chaplin.
So possessive in fact, that he might have dialed M for MURDER ifyouknowwhatimsayinnnn. Allow me to elaborate. One fateful night in 1924, Hearst’s yacht was BUMPIN’. Among the guests were Davies (obvi, she was probably pouring the Jager bombs), Mr. Chaplin, and one Thomas Ince, noted film producer and screenwriter. Hearst, convinced that Davies was screwing around on him, invited his girlfriend’s ex just so he could keep tabs on them. Later in the evening, he caught Davies and Chaplin together and, enraged, went to find his pistol. He returned and shot his lover’s lover (ew) only to find out that it wasn’t that freak mime, Charlie, but his buddy, Tom Ince, who joined them on the yacht to celebrate his 42nd birthday and wasn’t actually doing anything compromising with the lady at all.
What actually happened is that after leaving the yacht because of a bad case of the acid reflux, he probably died of a heart attack. BUT the story of Hearst mistaking Ince for Chaplin is an old Hollywood legend and it’s so scandalous, I had to share it. And it’s so juicy it could have been a movie (so that ties nicely into the award season theme I’m awkwardly pushing). OH WAIT IT WAS A MOVIE. Starring Kirsten Dunst so it was probably terrible.
Speaking of movies based on the lives of real people: I’ve never seen it (don’t hate me JAF), but the “best movie of all time,” Citizen Kane is based loosely on the life of William Randolph Hearst. And, yes, you’re doing the math right, Hearst was still around when the film was released and he used a yacht-load of cash trying to prevent that from happening. While he failed, at that and at keeping it off of literally everyone’s “Best movies of all time” list, he and his muckity-muck friends were able to make sure it played at very few theatres. Fun fact, that’s why it kind of tanked in the box office.
I think what we’ve all learned here is that:
- I should probably get my act together and see Citizen Kane.
- JAF is going to kill me.
- No matter how much fun it looks like all those pretty people are having at the Globes tonight, none of them have ever partied as hard or as fabulously as media mogul and party god, William Randolph Hearst.
Except for Lindsay. But I doubt she’s invited to the Globes anymore.