It was a palace. At least a mansion. The home of the late Aaron Spelling, according to the New York Times, was really something. It was in the news because it had been purchased, for a cool $85 million, cash, by Petra Ecclestone, British “heiress about town,” as a honeymoon nest for her and her new husband.
I’ve got no quibble with that. If you’ve got it (and all your debts are paid, and you have six months’ worth of money squirreled away in some sort of bank account), spend it. No, what got me, what killed me, was the description of the home, if you can call a building measuring 65,000 square feet a “home” and not, say, a “mall.”
According to the Times, it has 123 rooms, including a bowling alley, gift-wrapping suites and a beauty salon and barbershop. Just think! You’d never need to leave home to have your hair done or knocking down a few pins with the gang, or just yourself. (This brings to mind a sociological study of a few years back about how Americans are being more isolated from one another. It’s title? “Bowling Alone.”)
The one that brought me up short was the gift-wrapping suites. More than one! And each is not just one room. A suite is a series of connected rooms, says the American Heritage Dictionary, used as a living unit. Good heavens. Can you imagine living in a gift-wrapping suite? I must say, it could come in handy during the holiday season, when most of us (the 99 percent) are forced to repurpose the dining table or bedroom floor to unroll the paper, center the present, and tape it all up with a bow.
That sort of thing is not for the Spellings, and now, not the Eccelstones, either. But I’m forgetting something important. The rich, as Fitzgerald said longingly, are different from you and me. Wrap their own presents? You’ve got to be kidding. Why, there’s probably a maid’s room off the main gift-wrapping chamber – part of the suite – where the woman hired solely to wrap gifts resides when she’s not wrapping up expensive presents for the head of Columbia Pictures or the friend who provided the name of the cocaine dealer down the block. And there’s probably a whole room designed to hold, in perfectly constructed cupboards and shelves, gifts for all occasions, just in case someone turns up at the gate deemed worthy of a gift.
It goes without saying that all these gifts, and the wrapping paper they will one day be disguised in, are dusted every day. In fact that same dictionary gives the first definition of “suite” as a retinue of servants. If you think Upstairs, Downstairs exists only in England, welcome to reality.
This reminds me of my college boyfriend, whose father’s law firm was high up in the World Trade Center. (He’d retired long before 2001, in case you were worried.) After a cross-country drive during summer break, we landed at his mansion in Larchmont, New York. The only thing I remember his mother saying was, “The cook just quit, so you’ll have to made do with my cooking.” Was I ever out of my league.
But it’s those rooms that have me in thrall. Let’s say, oh, maybe 10 of them are bedrooms. Bedroom suites, each complete with luxurious bathroom and sitting room. That leaves 111 to go, if you add in the two gift-wrapping suites. So then you’ve got a kitchen, probably more than one, because a person could starve to death going from one end of the house to the other in search of some milk and graham crackers at two in the morning. So: Two kitchens, one on each floor. And extra bathrooms, maybe, I don’t know, ten? And then dining rooms, both formal and less so, and maybe a library, as my boyfriend’s parents had, though the books didn’t look worn from wear. A place to sit down with the newspaper, then, while surrounded by the quiet company of patient, unread books.
There’s that bowling alley, and probably also a billiards room, not to mention – this being L.A., after all, and Spelling being a big-shot producer – one or more exquisitely equipped screening rooms. I like watching movies at home. On my TV. I have friends who’ve hooked up their TVs to stereo systems. But to have a bonafide, Dolby surround-sound, high def movie theater with stadium seating inside your own house? Cool.
Yet even with that, we’re still only up to 28 or so rooms. Does a garage count as a room? I figure they’ve got at least five of those, each one kept spotless by members of the retinue. But hey, I just checked the Internet. I was off on my count of bedrooms and bathrooms, which actually number 14 and 27. As for the rest, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe there’s a room for cleaning the fish tank. And one for clipping your nails. How about a place to make a private phone call on your cell phone? You know, like a phone booth.
That’s about the size of my own first married house, if you can call it that.It was an eight-wide mobile home, meaning the distance between two walls was the same as that between the ceiling and floor. I tried very hard not to let that drive me stark, raving mad. Yet these days, with climate change egging on storms that wipe out entire neighborhoods and small towns, we can’t afford to be smug. Enjoy your domicile now, before it’s rudely taken away. You never know where you’ll be forced to wrap your next present.