Extracts from memoirs, letters and diaries on press baronsby Ian Irvine / August 24, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
The dining hall at San Simeon, William Randolph Hearst’s California estate
Journalist and spy Robert Bruce Lockhart records in his diary an account of a party given by Lord Beaverbrook at his Surrey country house, 25th May 1929:
Beaverbrook’s fiftieth birthday—he gave a large party to all his old friends of 15 years’ standing and a cheque for £250 [today worth around £12,000] to each guest. There was a lottery with numerous prizes amounting to £500 for the servants.
In a letter to a friend, PG Wodehouse, then a screenwriter in Hollywood, describes his stay at San Simeon, William Randolph Hearst’s vast estate in California, 25th February 1931:
The ranch—ranch, my foot; it’s a castle… Hearst collects everything, including animals, and has a zoo on the premises, and the specimens considered reasonably harmless are allowed to roam at large. You are apt to meet a bear or two before you get to the house, or an elephant, or even Sam Goldwyn. There are always at least fifty guests staying here… The train that takes guests away leaves after midnight, and the one that brings new guests arrives early in the morning, so you have dinner with one lot of people and come down to breakfast next morning and find an entirely fresh crowd…
Meals take place in an enormous room… served at a long table, with Hearst sitting in the middle on one side and Marion Davies [actress and Hearst’s mistress] in the middle on the other. The longer you’re there, the further you get from the middle. I sat on Marion’s right the first night, and then found myself getting edged further and further away, till I got to the extreme end, when I thought it time to leave. Another day and I should have been feeding on the floor. You don’t see Hearst till dinnertime… He’s a sinister old devil, not at all the sort I’d care to meet d…