Huguette Clark’s Santa Barbara estate, Bellosguardo, circa 1940. It cost the reclusive heiress $40,000 a month to keep the 23 room mansion and grounds in shape, although she never visited. From the book Empty Mansions.
Huguette’s story is strange, but her brother William Andrews Clark Jr.’s is possibly stranger, and gets a lot less press.
New York: Silver Bow Press, 1941
It has always been easier to break the law in this country if you are rich. It’s possibly even easier today when the disparity between rich and poor has grown by such extraordinary leaps and bounds. Which is why, of course, we incarcerate so many more of the have-nots than the haves. The poor, you see, do not have the collateral with which to defend or bargain; they can not offer up a Philharmonic orchestra or a beautiful library in exchange for the freedom to continue to commit crimes.
That is why social justice is rare – the game is rigged. The rich get off and the poor go to jail. With a few exceptions, Oscar Wilde being a good example. He was famous, he had money, he had friends in high places, but they still threw him under the bus. Every once in a while, those in power let one of their own take a fall. Martha Stewart, who had to pay the price for insider trading and, of course, for being a woman. Ken Lay and Scooter Libby who were sacrificed as well, for the sins of their handlers.
But the truth gets lost sometimes. Even if the truth is a fabulous story it winds up suppressed and overlooked, even if it’s in a book. Take for instance a little-known book, The Clarks: An American Phenomenon, about William A. Clark, the Montana copper baron and his family. A phenomenal story, especially as concerns the Clark children. For the strange case of William Senior’s daughter, Huguette, you want to read Empty Mansions, but for Clark’s son and namesake Bill Jr., whose library with its wonderful collection of Oscar Wilde material (irony intended), you need go no further than this extraordinary book by William Mangam, published in 1941 and now largely forgotten, despite the many testimonials praising it when it was first published.
Clark Junior (1877-1934) married, interestingly enough, for the first time the same year his father was said to have married his second wife, (marriage certificate not found) in 1901. Junior’s wife died shortly afterward following the birth of their son, and in 1904 Junior took up briefly with a dancehall girl named Maudie Vanning. Then he abandoned Maudie and came to L.A. where he would marry again and at the same time pursue and enjoy relations with a number of boys and young men, some of whom are pictured above. If those images look like mug shots, well, see again the difference between the rich and the poor.
To my eye the best looking is Harrison Post, second row, right. Junior did not meet Harrison Post (then known as Albert Weiss) in Union Square, downtown Los Angeles, where he picked up some of the other boys, but in San Francisco when Post was a teenager. Junior brought him home to be one of a number of the young men upon whom Clark showered favors and gifts. “Post lived the life of a country squire – horseback riding, a box at the symphony with Clark, and trips to Europe.” Junior bought Post a ranch in Santa Monica Canyon (go Here for details on the property and how to find it today), and sponsored him for membership in the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the Riviera Country Club, the Jonathan Club, and others. With money from Clark, Post also bought property in Hollywood and at the beach. He was on the payroll as ‘secretary’ to Junior, although he never seems to have performed any duties one would call especially secretarial, and in addition he received an annual allowance (in the 1920s and 30s) of thirty thousand dollars. Awfully good money for taking dictation, if you know what I mean.
The lawn in front of the William Andrews Clark Library. “The scene of indescribable orgies.” Photo by the author.
Ceiling mural, interior, William Andrews Clark Jr. Library, photo by the author.
Junior built a residence for Post adjacent to his own home and gardens and library which “was the scene of indescribable orgies. Men dressed in female attrire frequented the place. It became a nuisance to the people in the neighborhood who complained to the office of the District Attorney.” (Mangam, page 207).
In January, 1926, the D.A.’s office served Junior’s attorney with notice that by reason of the conduct, the premises must be vacated. Junior was not pleased. He’d been holding “nude male parties” in the adjacent Italian gardens and at least one of his guests was a local judge who lived next door. But the authorities were getting uncomfortably close and his friends were getting nervous, so soon thereafter Clark announced his intention of donating the property, including his home and library and Post’s “party house” (not named as such, of course) to the University of California. Case dismissed and closed.
Money may not buy you everything, but in the old days if you played your cards right it could keep you out of jail.
How times have changed. Or not.