I’ve been reading the fascinating memoirs of Carmel Snow, and I’ve noticed she does what every good writer does — she takes a core truth and fiddles with the details so they enhance the point like a smile lights up a face. In other words, she lies beautifully and to maximum effect…
When the December issue came out…I was summoned to Hearst’s fabulous retreat, “San Simeon,” to discuss Munkacsi’s work and because Munkacsi was also in California I arranged for him to meet me there. He was safely tucked away in Madame Récamier’s bed in one of the San Simeon guest rooms when, at two-thirty in the morning, I arrived at the entrance to the 275,000-acre “ranch.”
The first thing I was met by was herds of wild animals running across the road. When I finally reached my bed, which had belonged to Madame de Pompadour, I fell into a grateful sleep that was broken early the same morning by the roaring and howling of Mr. Hearst’s private zoo. What I wanted, and needed, was coffee. There was no bell in my room, so when I heard someone moving outside my door I asked a maid to bring me a breakfast tray. She replied that Mr. Hearst never allowed breakfast to be served in the bedrooms. I dressed and made my way into the Great Hall. I was about to try again for a cup of coffee when a little figure popped up from behind the huge sofa in front of the baronial fireplace. It was Charlie Chaplin, who had come down for the same purpose but hadn’t the nerve to brave the kitchen. I got us our coffee.
The World of Carmel Snow by Carmel Snow with Mary Louise Aswell
The truth is the furniture at the Castle was so far from the delicate sinuous lines of the Récamier and de Pompadour styles and eras as to be laughable.
Behold, a bedroom at Hearst Castle: