Curse of the Ambitious
On a brisk December morning in Los Angeles in 1941, Conrad Hilton stood on the outdoor patio of the master bedroom of his Spanish-style mansion on Bellagio Road in Beverly Hills. As was his morning routine, he gazed out into the distance at the lush landscape of the Bel-Air Country Club and took it all in. It had just stopped raining, the cloud cover having dispersed to reveal a vast, unblemished blue sky over a pristine eighteen-hole golf course. The air smelled fresh and clean. Gently sloping green hills for as far as the eye could see gave way to the skyscrapers of nearby Westwood, standing like sentinels against the horizon. A magnificent three-hundred-foot white suspension bridge that crossed the canyon between the tee and the green glistened in the golden glow of a new morning sun. Such a panoramic view could actually take a person's breath away, or at the very least pull him into reverie.
Conrad was a raconteur of the first order, and one of his favorite stories had to do with the time, back in October 1936, that billionaire Howard Hughes landed his airplane on the eighth fairway in order to impress Katherine Hepburn. "Kate was learning to golf right out there with an instructor," Conrad would say, pointing into the distance. "And sure enough, old Howard just landed his two-seater plane--a Sikorsky amphibian--right on the fairway. Then, as if this was the most normal thing in the world, he jumped from his plane with clubs in hand and walked up to Kate and her instructor and said, 'Mind a third?' Doggone if he didn't join her golf game right then and there for the back nine! How about that?" Conrad would ask, slapping his knee and laughing hard. "Now that's how you impress a lady!"
--J. Randy Taraborrelli
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