by C.W. Nevius)
Danielle Steel‘s hedge has become a thing. It’s been viewed, photographed and discussed to the point that, like the “Bridges of Madison County” and the snows of Kilimanjaro, it is on the way to becoming a literary meme.
It all began when The Chronicle’s architecture critic, John King, did a short piece for his “Cityscape” series that mentioned Steel’s Pacific Heights abode — better known as the Spreckels Mansion — was partially hidden by a hedge that is so large it is “comically off-putting.”
Steel subsequently told The Chronicle that she wanted to trim the oversize growth but her security people advised against it. So it isn’t her, she says. You hedge-haters will have to talk to her people.
To which we say, forget the security types, we want to talk to the gardener. Photos show a hedge so robust and uniform that it resembles a huge, green sponge cake. Honestly, it is epic. Our only concern is that it might be the result of the use of PEFs — performance enhancing fertilizer. Which is fine, although it could hurt any chance of getting voted into the Hall of Fame.
Anyhow, that’s where things stood — hedge blocking mansion, architectural critic tut-tutting — until The Chronicle’s Catherine Bigelow got in touch with Steel this week. The pot-boiler author discussed a recent literary award from the French government, the publication date of her newest book (March), her appreciation of “Downton Abbey.”
Then Bigelow asked a comically off-putting question about the hedge.
“Sometimes, I think San Francisco hates successful people,” Steel said. “No matter what I do, people say nasty stuff. I mean the world is falling apart and people complain about my hedge. It’s a mystery.”
Well, sort of. We’d never want to suggest that a mega-best-selling author doesn’t recognize a mystery when she sees one, but this seems pretty clear.
Unlike the city’s “Gold Coast,” a three-block row of billionaire mansions discreetly tucked into the Pacific Heights hillside, the Spreckels edifice — with a reported 55 rooms and a Louis XVI ballroom (whatever that is) — is as large and ornate as a baroque French chateau. In fact, that’s exactly what it is, a French chateau, plopped down in a remarkably large expanse of land fo the city. (Adolph Spreckels purchased eight lots when it was built so ensure prime views.)
Steel’s house is across the street from Lafayette Park, and she told Bigelow that she’s received threats and that “… people stand on the hill in the park and shoot photos of the interior. So unless the hill shrank during the park’s reconstruction, the hedge will maintain its current height.”
Logic would have us point out that if you don’t to have those experiences, maybe you shouldn’t live in a place that looks like a limestone wedding cake that is across the street from a large public park. It is such an authentic tourist attraction it has officially been named city landmark No. 197.
However, we doubt she’d pay much attention to what we might have to say. She’s already written most of us off as uncultured yobs. Interviewed in the Wall Street Journal in 2011, Steel explained why she was spending more time in France.
“San Francisco is a great city to raise children, but I was very happy to leave it,” she said. “There’s no style, nobody dresses up—you can’t be chic there. It’s all shorts and hiking boots and Tevas—it’s as if everyone is dressed to go on a camping trip. I don’t think people really care how they look there; and I look like a mess when I’m there, too.”
So not only are we failing to dress to Steel’s standards, we’re dragging down her sense of style too.
And that’s when we solve the mystery. It isn’t that San Francisco hates successful people.
It’s snobs we don’t like.