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October 11, 2003|Rone Tempest | Times Staff Writer

Sacramento — Sacramento

So, you are moving to Sacramento. Willkommen!

You are a huge international superstar with a private jet, a fleet of outsized SUVs and a penchant for espresso and Cuban cigars.

You are relocating to a sleepy, mid-size agricultural center where rabid residents root for their city's only big league sports franchise, the Sacramento Kings, by maniacally clanging cowbells.

A major concern here is what color to paint the Tower Bridge. (After much debate, the citizens settled on something that might charitably be called "French's Mustard gold.")

This is a place about which Los Angeles Democratic Assemblyman Dario Frommer says: "If you want a good meal, you better get out before 10 p.m. or you are out of luck. Even the fast food places close early in Sacramento."

And did anyone mention the weather? It gets very hot. Writer Joan Didion, a Sacramento native, describes the August heat here as "an affliction." To put it in terms you'll easily understand: It's not the humid, clingy heat of Southeast Asia as in "Predator." It's more the dry, eye-bulging, skin-cracking heat of the airless planet in "Total Recall."

As the biggest celebrity ever to live here, you have special needs: spacious, secure housing; a place to pump iron; a cigar shop; tennis courts for your twice-weekly grudge matches with your wife; a tarmac for your Gulfstream G4 and somewhere to get your regular fix of Kaiserschmarrn mit Kompott -- those baked Austrian pancakes with plum jam you love so much.

This presents something of a Willkommenwagen nightmare, matching you, Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the California state capital.

Not that Sacramento is completely bereft of celebrity residents. Comedian Eddie Murphy maintains one of his homes here. Still, there is no one here with your combined political and artistic biceps.

When Ronald Reagan moved here in 1967, he was a Hollywood small fry, better known for his Twenty Mule Team Borax and GE refrigerator commercials than for his feature films. This allowed Ronald and Nancy Reagan to live a fairly quiet and normal existence that might be difficult for you to match.

After rejecting the historic, Victorian-Gothic state-owned mansion as a "fire trap," the Reagans moved to an elegant home in a tree-lined, old-money part of town. The Reagan home, although large, was open to the street and indistinguishable from others on the block except for a little CHP guardhouse adjacent to the driveway.

Making a political point, Gov. Jerry Brown, a childless bachelor, lived across the street from the Capitol in a tiny apartment that resembled one of the dorm cells from his days in a Jesuit seminary. That was OK for Gov. Moonbeam, but surely not for a founder of Planet Hollywood.

All post-Brown California governors have lived in an extremely modest three-bedroom, ranch-style home on Lake Wilhaggin Drive in Carmichael, an upper-middle-class suburb. Although located on a cul-de-sac with a CHP guardhouse, the home, supplied by a nonprofit foundation, does not come close to the security and privacy you have in your Brentwood compound.

Housing, in fact, is likely to be your biggest headache.

Sacramento lawyer Steve Merksamer thinks he has the solution: Take the never-used mansion created by Nancy Reagan for subsequent governors.

Place to call home

This structure, not to be confused with the house Nancy and Ron lived in, is the 12,000-square-foot, pretentiously dubbed Casa de los Gobernadores, chosen by Nancy from more than 80 design proposals. It sits commandingly on a bluff overlooking the American River not far from the current governor's home. Wild turkeys roam the five acres that include a swimming pool and a sweeping lawn that doubles as a helipad. It has a dining room that comfortably seats 22. The home, like the White House, is divided into private and public wings. It features a large, manly den, partly designed by Ronald Reagan himself, perfect for smoking cigars and drinking cognac after a hard day cutting the budget deficit.

Moreover, it's on the market for a mere $5.9 million. "It's the kind of house built with security in mind," said real estate agent Geoff Zimmerman, who conducted a tour for a reporter. "It has 2-foot thick walls gauged to withstand even an artillery barrage. It's perfect for a very high-profile person."

The mansion would solve the Schwarzenegger-Maria Shriver tennis problem. It's only blocks away from the Arden Hills Country Club and Spa, which has the area's best, if not most exclusive, tennis facility.

The Nancy Reagan dream mansion is also just a short drive from the area's only Hummer dealership, Hummer of Sacramento over on Fulton Avenue. "He can have a free oil change any time he comes here," bubbled Cindy Daugherty, wife of dealership owner Mike Daugherty. She even offers you the use of her miniature Hummer golf cart to drive around the Capitol.

Going down the Willkommenwagen list, that still leaves gym, tarmac, Kaiserschmarrn and cigars.

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