Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Neverland could be a boon

I was shocked to see The Tribune validate by re-printing the Los Angeles Times editorial concerning a possible state park contract for Neverland (“Neverland not for us,” July 20). The Los Angeles Times editors are obviously more concerned about their own backyards than the health of the state and the parks system.

Never has the need been so great or the decision so obvious. Why would Californians hold on to a black-and-white movie when a modern 3-D adventure is at their doorstep? Glorifying the heroes of the past has caused enough damage, let’s embrace the heroes of the 21st century.

Hearst Castle’s attendance numbers have been decreasing over the last ten years. Even when the economy was booming, it was on a fast downward trajectory.

As a tour guide for Hearst Castle, I know that the powers that be were advised to take the focus of the museum and its tours off of an aging publisher and the mistress/actress that brought him and his family shame.

The San Simeon State Historical Monument was dedicated in 1951 to William Randolph Hearst and his mother, Phoebe. Her legacy (as well as her husband’s) in California and the country are sorely underappreciated. The subject matter of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies is antique, boring and embarrassing.

The editorial mistakenly indicates that the state was “given” Hearst Castle. The parcel at the top of the hill, excluding the road, was part of a 300-plus-page contract, a portion of which gives the Hearsts full access to the house and property. That clause causes guides to refer to our “park maintenance” as an extension of the Hearst family’s household staff.

The state’s deal for the house also includes tax exemptions and water rights that affect every taxpaying, utility-paying citizen of the county and the state. None of this capitulation would be necessary to take over the house of the King of Pop.

The world is ready to forget Hearst, a man who is guilty of much and accused of more. The ideas for updating the tours at the castle have been constant, yet unheeded.

Museum and state administration believe that tawdry gossip is more profitable than art and history. The Los Angeles Times wouldn’t exist without celebrities and gossip. So the insinuation that Michael Jackson’s very public trial and the eventual verdict of innocent would in any way negatively effect the rate of visitors to his former estate is incredulous.

Why California cannot see the gold in the prospect to open his extravagant estate to the public is beyond me. Visitors from far and wide would pour money into state coffers to see the rooms where so much American culture transpired, as they used to pay to see at the Hearst Castle.

The castle was never finished and is now falling apart, yet guests still want to see where it all took place. Citizens of the world would shower attention on a home that was ingrained in the American imagination for fantastic extravagances, good and bad.

Visitors who were once interested in a Hollywood long past are not leaving their houses in droves anymore, but there are bus loads and plane loads from around the world waiting to visit the home of the eccentric James Dean of rock ’n’ roll, the Godfather of the 1980s, the real Thriller.

Recently, a Tribune Viewpoint touted the concept of referring to the vast central locale in tourism terms as the “greater San Luis Obispo area” in hopes of increasing visitors (“Lessons to be learned about local branding,” July 17).

Los Olivos, the location of the new Graceland/Disneyland, is only an hour away.

San Luis Obispo will have the airlines begging to come back when tourists are sold on a vacation destination where they can travel to two wine countries, two historical homes, etc.

Potentially, Neverland’s future would include a performing arts center that will attract the greatest musicians in the world. The surrounding area could see a boon in hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions. The answer to the county’s question of how to build tourism has just been handed to them on a silver platter engraved “Neverland.” Karen Harris has been a Hearst Castle tour guide since 2007. She is a Hearst researcher, castle trainer and writer and is the re-founder of the nonprofit Historical Guides Association.