The Curse of Being a Hearst

Margarita Peces Collar

Artwork By Rusa Topuria

Our story starts with William Randolph Hearst, born in 1863 in San Francisco, California. Not only was he to become one of the most successful businessmen before the Great Depression, but he was also an individual of exquisite and demanding tastes. Some would argue he was a strange man, and if bizarreness runs through blood, maybe we could finally find an explanation for each of the scandals and rumours that have haunted this family for generations. If you are born a Hearst, it seems, the world will know in one way or another; it’s the curse that comes with the name.

Now let’s go back to the man that started it all.

William held immeasurable influence over the media during the first quarter of the 20th century, even when The Great Depression drastically weakened his financial situation and forced him to sell some of the newspapers he owned (Britannica, 2021). It can happen that, when you are the owner of more than 30 media outlets including several radio stations, news services, and film companies within your country, losing a few assets may only feel like a slightly disturbing breath of air ruffling your hair on a summer night. Yet for us, such a loss would feel like being trapped in the middle of a tornado.

Therefore, even after economically challenging times for W.R. Hearst, enormous fortunes – accompanied by almost as many rumors and scandals – would follow the Hearst surname decade after decade.  And maybe money doesn’t buy happiness, or at least that’s how the saying goes; however, it did buy William Randolph Hearst the cloisters and outbuildings of a Segovian monastery he transferred stone by stone to Florida for its reconstruction (The Ancient Spanish Monastery, n.d.).  So, if you are in North Miami Beach and something seems a bit too medieval to you, you may have found the famous cloisters of the ancient Spanish monastery. What had once been a part of the St. Bernard de Clairvaux Monastery in Sacramenia since its construction in 1133, was now faced with a stubborn W.R. Hearst of 1925, who made a jigsaw puzzle out of the attempt to take it with him. A jigsaw puzzle that only after his death would be solved and seen correctly arranged again.

So, money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can definitely buy a 12th-century monastery.

And sure, it may not buy happiness, but it can most definitely pay for a ransom; and everyone knew, back in the 1970s, which family had the means to do such a thing. Wealth makes celebrities and personalities rank among some of the most desired targets for cold-blooded kidnappers. The case of Patricia Hearst, granddaughter of the widely recognized William R. Hearst, was no exception. 

Patty Hearst, as everyone knows her, inherited not only fame and fortune but also bad luck from her family name. Her grandfather endured the consequences of the 30s’ Great Depression and although part of his monetary fortune was forever lost, his bad fortune endured and was passed on to the rest of his descendants. In February 1974, after being kidnapped by armed members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, William’s granddaughter unintentionally took the Hearst family name back to the headlines of every newspaper in the States again (Republic World, 2021). And this time, it was not because a Hearst controlled all the existing media in the country. 

But when you are a Hearst, things cannot just go as they would on an episode of CSI Vegas. 

Why would you just admire a monastery when you travel to Spain, taking home a magnet like the rest of us would do, if you can just buy every single stone that makes it up and have a real-life souvenir placed in the middle of Miami Beach?

The Hearst mentality might be transferred through genetics, because instead of simply being a victim of a kidnapping and having her family pay for her rescue so that everything could go back to normal, Patty Hearst chose to join the army that captured her, after indescribable abuse. She ended up receiving a sentence of no less than seven years in prison after being found guilty of armed bank robbery, among several other felonies as a member of the same group that once held her hostage (FBI, n.d.).

No one can blame the 19-year-old Patty for suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and feeling sorry for her kidnappers. However, one cannot help but wonder how it is that the same world that now dies to know about a Kardashian’s every step, just in case something juicy happens for Twitter to talk about for the next few hours, is probably far from aware of this woman’s story: The fact of the matter is that she exists, married a cop she met right after she was sentenced to spend the next seven years of her life in jail, and is the granddaughter of a man that left a Segovian town churchless in the 30s.

To Patricia Hearst, still alive today and out of prison after serving time for two years, receiving a presidential pardon and decades of calm: we truly hope the Hearst family name comes with a great deal of psychological resilience and not just money and renown. But if your children decide to use their father’s surname instead of yours, don’t take it personally.

It might be their only chance to break the curse that comes with being a Hearst.

Sources

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2021, April 25). William Randolph Hearst. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Randolph-Hearst 

FBI. (n.d.). Patty Hearst. FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved July 4, 2021, from https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/patty-hearst

Republic World. (2021, May 25). What Happened To Patty Hearst? Details About Her Kidnapping And Events That Followed. Republic World. https://www.republicworld.com/entertainment-news/hollywood-news/what-happened-to-patty-hearst-details-about-her-kidnapping-and-events-that-followed.html

The Ancient Spanish Monastery. (n.d.). History | Spanish Monastery. Spanish Monastery. Retrieved July 4, 2021, from https://www.spanishmonastery.com/history 

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