How would you like to have several hundred people trooping through your home, wanting to know what you do for a living, who all those people in your family photographs are and even what's inside the drawers of your mahogany sideboard?
Sometimes, they don't even hesitate to say what they don't like.
And your home isn't even for sale.
Well, some of the wealthiest people in the South Bay don't seem to mind. They freely throw their doors open to the masses in what has become a Palos Verdes Peninsula tradition: home tours that raise money--usually a lot of money--for community organizations ranging from church to arts groups.
The oldest, the Yule Parlor Parade of the Neighborhood Church in Palos Verdes Estates, took place for the 30th year last weekend. It attracted about 1,800 people and raised about $20,000 for church-supported charities in the South Bay.
Designers already are at work planning and buying for the most ambitious of all the Peninsula home tours, the Design House sponsored by the Sandpipers, a South Bay women's charitable group. Next year's house--the home of L.A. Raiders football star-turned-actor Lyle Alzado--will be open for a month in the spring. In this event, which started 13 years ago, each room is done from scratch by a different designer who foots the bill to show off his work.
About 13,000 people toured this year's house, raising $100,000 for the Sandpipers' charity fund. The group was founded 55 years ago and aids needy people, provides scholarships and supports a number of service agencies.
The ninth Miraleste High School PTSA tour was held in early November and other home tours this year benefitted the South Coast Choral Society--which performed music in every home--and the Palos Verdes Community Arts Assn., which focused on kitchens and food prepared from recipes in a cookbook published by the association.
Natural for Fund-Raisers
People who put on these tours say they are naturals as fund-raisers.
"Everybody who lives up here (on the Peninsula) is definitely interested in building, remodeling, adding on or learning how other people live," said Barbara Saunders of the Neighborhood Church Women's Fellowship, which puts on the annual yule tour. "All the homes every year offer a tremendous opportunity for ideas."
By the time Lila Moss of Torrance had walked through the final house on the yule tour, both sides of her program were filled with ideas: valences depicting toys in a child's room, sectioned storage bins above a washer, wallpapers and, for the holidays, a goblet containing a candle and greenery.
Those who open their homes say they do it partly because they are proud of the way they live and the things they have, which they want others to see. Helping a community cause also is a factor; in the case of the yule tour, two out of the four homeowners were church members.
"There is a little bit of wanting to show off," said Carol Cobabe, an interior designer who has been living for four years in a French Normandy home still under construction. Her kitchen was part of the recent arts association kitchen tour.
'It's Fun Showing It'
"We've traveled all over the world and bought antiques and architectural elements to put in the home," she said. "It's fun showing it to others."
Real estate broker Robert Wardell, whose home was on the yule tour, said people offer their homes out of "pride of home, pride in the community and, hopefully, being able to contribute to the community itself."
Wardell admitted that he was very reluctant to say yes at first because of the loss of privacy. "Gee, you open your kimono to everyone, baring everything, saying this is the way you live."
But Wardell's wife, Kay, who is an interior designer and has done her own decor based on antiques from the East Coast, said she did not have to be persuaded when the church asked her. "I thought California people would enjoy the furniture. We've done so much work."
Several people said they had to overcome their concern that a tour-taker might come back as a burglar. As a matter of routine, valuables are locked away on tour days.
Must Trust People
"The business of having people you don't know come in really sobers you," said Margaret Miller, whose English-style home was on the choral society tour. Ultimately, she said, you just have to decide to trust people.
Sheila Papayans, whose home was on the yule tour, said she had a few twinges about safety the day before the tour, but they faded when a real problem presented itself.
An animal got under her home early in the morning and the odor soon left no doubt that it was a skunk. Doors and windows were quickly opened and a bowl of aromatic spices boiled in the kitchen during the tour, just in case.
Curiosity clearly is what draws people to home tours and there are so many seasoned viewers that tour organizers have no trouble selling tickets.