Privacy was only part of the package S.F.B. Morse envisioned for the rich and recluse, the wealthy and wild he would lure to the jewel of the Monterey Peninsula when he began developing and preserving the coastal splendor of the Del Monte Forest. Scenery and celebration, glamour and golf were the promise for those who could earn their way inside the gates of the enchanted forest by the sea.
The craggy coast of golden granite, guarded by the lone sentinel whose gnarled branches and windswept foliage against a Pacific blue backdrop, proved an ideal setting for golf courses and polo fields and created the ideal invitation for such Hollywood glitterati as Gable & Lombard, Gardner & Rooney, Hilton & Taylor, Fairbanks & Pickford.
It was an era of extreme entertaining a la Salvador Dali dinners and Crosby Clambakes. "It was a time when a black-tie event was available every night of the week," said the late Virginia Stanton who, with architect-husband Bob, made their home in Pebble Beach before venturing out into the Carmel Valley. "But not everyone could tolerate the weather or the social climate of the Forest. Eventually we began making our way into Carmel."
Today, while much of young Hollywood seems equally happy to bask in the glow of the spotlight as the flash on the street, seasoned celebrity residents come to Carmel to blend like a chameleon into community by the sea, going to great lengths to protect their investment and their privacy behind the gates and gardens that reveal only a peek of the ocean and a glimpse of the glamour. And it works, said Stanton, because here, everyone is special.
"People come here to relax, blend in and enjoy the fruits of their labor and the beautiful aspects of this area," said Judith Profeta, owner of Alain Pinel Realtors in Carmel. "Higher-end clients come here to entertain a sense of normalcy or what we envision that to be. We all have a fantasy of what life should be like, filled with flowers and trees, peace and tranquility, and beautiful views."
When the actress you enjoyed in last-night's film shows up in this morning's yoga class, you don't mention it. Either you didn't notice, you didn't care or you honored the code of Carmel anonymity. It's why movie stars can come to Carmel for a romantic getaway, talk-show hosts can join girlfriends at a spa, writers can hang out at a local pub and dignitaries can make reservations for dinner. In public.
In Carmel, anybody you pass on the street could be somebody. And once in awhile, it's Clint.