This installment of “Ben Stein’s Diary” appeared in the June issue of The American Spectator. To subscribe, please click here.
HERE I AM AT MY NEW HOME at Morningside Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California. Rancho Mirage is two towns east of Palm Springs in the desert about 110 miles east of Beverly Hills.
I have been wanting a house in the desert for a while now. I had one about 20 years ago but we never used it so I sold it. Anyway, it was not what I wanted. My idea was a house with a pool that lit up at night, palm trees all around the pool, a jacuzzi to sit in and watch the stars, and then stretching in front of it, a perfectly manicured golf course.
I looked for about two years, while the prices went up and up. I never really saw exactly what I wanted until just after New Year’s or maybe just before New Year’s, when I was visiting my pal, Peggy Morse, in the desert.
My two real estate brokers, Pat Bush Kruse and Alice Beckman Cannon, found me Morningside Country Club, a perfect little oasis of lovely modern homes with big windows facing the golf course, and after looking at maybe ten houses, I walked into this one, and it was love at first sight. Love, love, love.
The house has an immense living room, a huge breakfast room, well, I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say it was my dream house. It was way more than I can afford, but by insane overspending by me, I bought it, and I love it.
I have a fireplace in my bedroom and I turn it on and also open the windows and feel the breeze blowing in from the pool and the golf course. Then I go sit in my jacuzzi and watch the stars, then swim for a long, long time in my pool, while I stare at the stars. Then I take a long shower and then I lie in bed with my dogs and my wife and feel blessed.
This night, though, my wife is in the east visiting our son, so I am here just with my dogs. My pals Barron and Steve, world’s kindest and smartest humans, are visiting Palm Springs from Scottsdale, and have come to see me. I have a big thing in L.A. tomorrow and also it is the night of a big end of season fiesta in the Morningside Country Club clubhouse. So, Barron and Steve and I are going to the clubhouse and having a lavish dinner.
This clubhouse has to be seen to be believed. It is like a castle of light and greenery and glass perched above a lake and the golf course, with the Santa Rosa Mountains in the distance. Tonight, the food is superbly good and I am listening to a pianist playing old favorites by Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett as I eat my fish. (I eat a huge amount of fish, but then I eat a huge amount of everything when I am at the club here because it all tastes so damned good.)
At the table next to ours there are about 12 teenage girls visiting their well-heeled grandparents. They are all pretty, they are all giggling, and they all want their photos taken with me. I LOVE IT.
Plus the maitre d’ is endlessly asking if he can get me anything and the food comes out really, really fast. So, it’s great.
The club manager, Matt Gebel, former Navy F-14 pilot and superstar, endlessly comes over to me and asks what they can do to make me happy. “After all,” he says, “it’s your club.”
I love it. The pool, the golf course, the palm trees, the stars, the wind in the palms. It is like a magical bubble that I happened to find my way into. I like it and want to spend more time there inside my perfect little golf-swimming-pool-clubhouse globe. I like it a lot. I mean, a real, real lot. It was a lot of money, but not for paradise.
HERE I AM ONE A SET AT CBS at Beverly Drive and Fairfax in Los Angeles. This happens to be a famous set because Dallas was shot here for a time (I am told) and mostly now because American Idol is made here. Today, however, we are making a show for VH-1 about the history of game shows. I am the host of it. It is a five-hour or maybe five half-hour series and it’s pretty funny. But, wow, is it tiring. I have to shout over the noise of a large, cheering audience and my voice is getting hoarse. I wish I were back at Morningside Country Club having my picture taken with those cute girls at the next table.
I finished the shooting and dragged myself home in a near comatose condition. Now, here comes something interesting which is possibly useful.
On the way back from Rancho Mirage last night, I had an attack of colitis (probably because I did not want to leave) and I was desperately sick at many gas stations and restaurants and arrived home in a state of acute unhappiness. Then I had this long, maddening day today on the set, driven crazy by all the cheering that I had to shout over.
So, I was exhausted and in a very, very bad mood and my wife was not home to boot.
Twenty years ago, I would have become hysterical and probably taken powerful drugs (prescription drugs) and been really crazed.
Instead, I lay in bed with my dogs and I prayed. I thought, “Thank you, God, that you allow me to have a home in Rancho Mirage on a golf course. Thank you, God, that I have a house in Beverly Hills. Thank you, God, that I have interesting work to do. Thank you that I have a wife who will come home tomorrow. Thank you for my parents who taught me the value of hard work. Thank you for letting me be in America. My problems would be other peoples’ dreams.”
That helped. Then I thanked God for each and every man and woman who has fought and sacrificed, every mother and father who has lost a son on Iwo Jima or Bastogne or Vella Lavella or Monte Cassino or Pusan or Chosin Reservoir or the Ia Drang Valley or Ar-Ramadi or Najaf, for their sacrifice so we can live it up in the Morningside Clubhouse. Here is a simple truth: humanity has been far better to me than I have been to humanity. All this through the gifts of God. And if I talk about this endlessly it is because God and the angels He has sent to protect me merit endless praise and glory.
HERE I AM AT THE BREAKERS in Palm Beach, Florida. Wow, this is a fancy hotel and I have a room right on the water. Right now, I am watching the funeral of the Pope. Now, the greatest man of the 20th century was Winston Churchill. But I think the Pope might have been the greatest man of the last 50 years. Before Reagan, before Margaret Thatcher, he stood up to the Communists and offered hope for a life of the soul instead of just the machine. If anyone deserves credit for the breakup of the Eastern bloc, any one man, that man must be the Pope. He said that human life and the sacred human personality were worth more than any other doctrine, more worthy than the state or the system of production or the Red Army.
He said that human life was sacrosanct, at every stage, from conception to old age and infirmity. He said that no human power had the right to murder innocent life. How ironic and horrifying that he died within days of the judicial murder of the utterly innocent Terri Schiavo.
To take a stand for human life above political correctness, above feminism, above the tenor of the day that life is often an inconvenience — what a hero. The ocean is crashing against the breakers below my room, and I keep thinking that this Pope was as indomitable as the ocean. He could be called home, but he could not be broken.
He was the best friend the human spirit has had in a very long time.
Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer in Beverly Hills and Malibu. His “Diary” appears in every issue of The American Spectator. This installment ran in the June TAS. To subscribe, please click here.