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COLUMN RIGHT / JOSEPH FARAH : Oliver Stone: Far From the Malibu Crowd : The director's Santa Barbara retreat is not San Simeon. Yet.

March 07, 1993|JOSEPH FARAH | Joseph Farah is editor of the cultural watchdog biweekly Dispatches and the political newsletter Inside California

He makes anti-capitalist movies but is building a 16,000-square-foot mansion on 1,200 acres in Colorado.

He hates bourgeois America because it is against everything "progressive" but maintains four homes, all fully staffed and professionally decorated.

He doesn't feel any guilt about his opulent lifestyle because "that's a Western Christian trip."

You've heard of limousine liberals? Meet the first aristocratic anarchist--movie director Oliver Stone.

The unlikely source of the ultimate Oliver Stone expos is the March 1993 issue of Architectural Digest. Quite unintentionally, the softball interviewer allows Stone to do himself in through a shameless exhibition of vanity and hypocrisy.

The article is so full of rich, textual, psychoanalytical detail that it could be the subject of a doctoral thesis. Because of its inadvertently hilarious subtext, it could serve as the source of 1,001 "Saturday Night Live" skits. It must be read and reread, analyzed, discussed, debated and, most of all, ridiculed. So, here goes.

The setting is Stone's Spanish colonial-style "weekend retreat" in Santa Barbara--the kind of hillside estate 99.9% of Americans never even dream of visiting, let alone owning for getaways from the rat-race world of the Santa Monica beach.

To get a picture of the place, the Stones and their decorator say it reminds them simultaneously of upstate New York, Vermont, England, Connecticut and the Hamptons--but more lush. Does that help?

"For me," says Stone, "Santa Barbara's a perfect retreat . . . You can walk right in and walk right out. It's simple, it's easy and we didn't do anything to change it. Didn't put a pool in. Didn't put a tennis court in. We have our own well, which is lovely."

Make no mistake: This is no fixer-upper. The spacious home sits in a verdant park-like setting with upper and lower gardens. There's an easel displaying a self-portrait by convicted murderer and American Indian activist Leonard Peltier--the subject of a future Stone film. The living-dining area is so big it reminds Stone's wife, Elizabeth, of a Mexican cathedral. There's plenty of room for their two boys, guests and several housekeeper-nannies. (No word on whether the Stones are paying Social Security taxes.)

The Santa Barbara digs are done up in authentic Mexican motif. The interviewer was struck by three paintings of the same woman by Mexican artist Raul Guerrero.

"We call her Maria," explained Elizabeth, "because she looks like Maria, our Mexican housekeeper in Santa Barbara, who was actually there with the former owner--as were our two gardeners. We just walked into a ready-made situation!" Golly gee, what luck, huh?

"Ruben Blades lives next door, Michael Douglas lives not too far away--and we see them," said Stone, "but there is no social necessity, like there is in New York or Los Angeles . . . I'm one of those people who don't like Malibu because I feel I'm still in Los Angeles." Take that, Malibu. Take that, Los Angeles.

Stone has a knack for insulting people, places and ideas without even trying. Asked by interviewer Steven Aronson if he ever felt greedy with all this affluence and property in L.A., Palm Springs, Santa Barbara and Colorado, Stone scoffed. "That's a Western Christian trip," said the man who created "Wall Street" caricature Gordon "Greed is good" Gekko. As if to illustrate further his contempt for Western Christian civilization, Stone's houses all contain little Buddhist shrines where he retreats to contemplate his navel.

And what does the little woman think about her husband's regal tastes? Well, apparently it doesn't much matter. When asked if there are any areas of the decor that he lets his wife have control over, Stone responds ever so sensitively: "Kitchen implementation. Flowers. Bedding." What a '90s guy, huh?

Stone admits he has thought about trying to out-do William Randolph Hearst's castle at San Simeon some day. For now, he's content to have a crew finishing a mountaintop mansion in the chi-chi ski resort town of Telluride, Colo.

Get the picture? Here's a guy who is contemptuous of the system that not only allows him to make his well-crafted, America-bashing, anti-capitalist films, but also rewards him immensely for them. He doesn't let shame, hypocrisy or any other Western Christian hang-up rain on his parade. And he's symbolic of the entire entertainment industry.

Hollywood's nouveaux riches radical chic may give lip service to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless. But, folks, this is how they live.

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