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The Planet of Pebble Beach

by Jacqueline Sewall Golden

There are five ways you can get into this place and all of them require money.  The gate entry fee takes dollars, of course, but if you want to enter and actually live there, be prepared to empty your wallet, bank, CD and Money Market accounts and all that money Aunt Ethel left you, plus what you can steal from the kids piggy bank.
     A few years ago, they built a house here, all by itself on a small rocky promontory jutting into Stillwater Cove, and the contractors asking price (he built the house on spec, meaning he didnt know anyone at the time who might be crazy enough to part with this kind of money) was over $12 million.  It is just around the corner from a large Moorish deranged dream on the market for $8.7 million.  And around the bend from that is a little fixer-upper offered for $1.5 million. Further up in the Del Monte Forest are 30-year-old ranches for $450,000.  They call those tear-downs.
     The place is Pebble Beach, California, locus of much natural beauty and scene of many exquisitely haute social events, like the annual Concours dElegance (if you cant pronounce it correctly, you cant attend).  Its about a five-hour drive north from Los Angeles on Highway 101, protected on the east by State Highway 68 and the Pacific Ocean on the west.  It truly differs from the Atlantic Coast closed enclaves because all you have to do to get into PB is to have the money.  On the other coast you have to have connections yourself or belong to a very old moneyed family with connections or be a Kennedy, something like that.  PB just requires that you own a huge business that employs lots of people, or act in movies or television that pay you many thousands or millions of dollars just to hit your marks.  It helps, too, that you play golf or tennis, preferably the former and just to make sure to keep out the non-expense-account people, a round at Pebble Beach will set you back $300.  There are other courses, extremely fine ones, like Spyglass, Spanish Bay and Poppy Hills.  If you have those connections we mentioned,  you could play the two private courses, Monterey Peninsula Golf Course or Cypress Point Club, also known as the golf course of Presidents. 
   Id like to pass along to you courtesy of Arthur M. Louis, a statistician and writer for the San Francisco Chronicle just what else $8.7 million will buy:
  • Dinner for four, including one drink per person and tips,  at Postrio Restaurant in San Francisco for 79 years.
  • 4,833 pairs of mens alligator shoes from Bally of Switzerland.
  • 440 top-of-the-line Rolex Yachtsman wristwatches, with 18-karat-yellow-gold case and bracelet.
  • 193 Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicles with sunroof, tinted windows, leather upholstery and six-disc CD system.
  • 107 nine-foot Steinway Model D Concert Grand pianos.
  • Round-trip tickets to Hawaii on United Airlines for 35 planeloads of jumbo-jet passengers.
  • A three-year stay in the 4,000-square-foot penthouse suite at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, meals not included.
  • One first-edition copy of Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. Or you can buy 1,215,083 copies of the Penguin paperback edition from Amazon.com.
  • Slightly less than 1/100th of one percent of the Microsoft stock owned by founder Bill Gates.
      It didnt use to be this way.  Back when Mr.Crosby and his gang of friends motored up from Hollywood for a round of golf, things were expensive, sure, but affordable.  Even back in 1970,  a room at Del Monte Lodge, as it was then called, could be had for as little as $75 a night.  Of course that room was next to the elevator on the second floor of the main building and could be a tad noisy, but you were there for the golf, and by the time you got to your room you had visited the Tap Room one too many times and didnt care. Now that colonial-styled building is called The Lodge at Pebble Beach you better have a lot of overtime banked to be able to stay in any one of the rooms, either in the Lodge or in one of the outbuildings. 
     The whole of the Del Monte Forest is a world unto itself. Large parts of it are truly forest and, although not huge in size, are probably smaller than Vatican City but larger than Monaco. It has its own zip code, market, gas station,  a real estatestand and a few luxury clothing stores to which you can send the maid to pick up a nice cashmere sweater for that cool evening.  The Lodge used to provide other entertainments for their guests,  like cookouts at the Indian Village for which the world-famed kitchen would prepare tasty barbecues.  If you wanted to stay for the summer, there were condos on site with the Lodge providing house cleaning staff and laundry services. 
     The cognoscenti, however, knew that to live near the Lodge was to be in the fog belt and that other properties in the forest were more desirable as the sun favored them a lot of the year.  Hardware stores in Carmel still keep an extravagant supply of ten-watt bulbs for closets in homes in the fog belt to delay the formation of mildew.  But just as Beverly Hills has some undesirable streets so does PB.  So madame, when giving directions, give the street address followed by the very necessary, right near the Lodge.
     When you drive up Carmel Hill to the gate at the top, you will see makes and models of cars different from those at the bottom of the hill behind you, which is actually in the town of Monterey.  Coming into view are Jaguars, Mercedes Benz and more Rolls Royces than youve probably seen in your whole life.  All of a sudden, your little rental car, which looked so spiffy on the Hertz lot when you picked it up at Monterey Airport, look pretty downscale.  Now you really wish you had the license plate holder that announces, My other car is a Rolls Royce.
     This is an absolutely true Only-In-Pebble Beach story:  a 90-year-old woman, Mrs. Judson Smythe III (name changed to prevent embarrassment) and her 70-year-old female driver presented themselves in their Mercedes to the dealer from whom it was purchased  some 23 years ago.  The car had just 19,000 miles on it but Mrs. Smythe III  wished for a new model.  The salesperson began showing her efficient and practical smaller cars.  But then, Mrs. Smythe saw the big S Class sedan, a brand-new year 2000 model, seating five with on-board navigation and all the bells and whistles.  It was the biggest car the dealership carries.  Mrs. Smythe purchased the luxury vehicle.  The car is so big that she had to fight her way up and into it but she and her driver left happily, saying they were going to take a few friends to dinner.   As for the older Mercedes, Mrs. Smythe plans on using that to transport her two dogs for their daily visits to the beach.
     Oh, yeah, the rich are different from you and me.  They are cleaner.  They smile more.  They have problems but there again is another difference.  Our problems concern payment of bills, car problems, job problems, weight problems, cosmetic problems.  Those are temporary situations at which the rich can throw their considerable bucks and they go away.  Their problems may consist of getting to another continent on time for that party and, well, oh, you know. 
     Why dont you, after taking the Seventeen Mile Drive and ogling all these grand, pretentious, gorgeous homes, leave Pebble Beach and Carmel, drive about 45 minutes down the coast to Big Sur and hang out on the beach.  Talk about culture shock. 

 

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