Special to Page 2
On Sunday, May 15, a small crowd gathered at 15216 Antelo Road, the infamously oversized estate of the late Wilt Chamberlain. The occasion? The release party for "Wilt, 1962", a new book by Gary M. Pomerantz, which details one of sports' most enduring (and perhaps flat-out most unbreakable) records: Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points against the New York Knickerbockers on March 2, 1962.
It was a pivotal event in American sports, the beginning of the NBA's transformation from irrelevant laughingstock to home of arguably our nation's highest-profile athletes. Everyone in the audience was aware of the day's importance, as well as The Big Dipper's hand in the shaping of society, much less sports.
But as folks sipped mojitos, ate mushroom pesto mini-pizzas, and listened to Vaughn Taylor (Wilt's nephew), Joe Ruklick (the man who dished Wilt his 99th and 100th point) and Pomerantz wax beautifully on one of sports' greatest legends, a different buzz also permeated the room, as readily apparent as a gust of wind. We all felt it. The same thought probably raced through the back of every guest's mind as we honored the day Wilt scored triple digits.
"This is also where Wilt scored 20,000."
It might be slightly immature, but gimme a break. You're standing in the chateau of a dude who pulled more in a bad week than you and your most reliable wingman have managed in your lifetimes combined. It's the sexual equivalent of the "elephant in the room" syndrome. Even if nobody's talking about it, you've still got a pachyderm there, eating peanuts.
Thankfully, you didn't have to pretend Dumbo wasn't around. Everyone readily acknowledged his or her curiosity, exploring the confines with equal parts reverence and "Yeah, baby!" True, the new couple in residence, writer Maria Semple ("Beverly Hills 90210," "Mad About You") and George Meyer, executive producer of "The Simpsons," has done a terrific job remodeling the original home's flaws. The two have scaled down some of the excesses, covered the walls in new art and lent their own identity to the surroundings. But as Meyer put it, "The house, like Wilt, is a force of nature, and resists any meddling." Indeed, the ghosts of Wilt remain in that Santa Monica Hills paradise, even if some original touches have come and gone.
I was playing the role of Dr. Peter Venkman, ghostbusting all ectoplasmic remnants. The first place I headed was the notoriously nicknamed "Sex Room," which originally sported a mink-covered waterbed floor. (Remember the "Moon Room" where Louis scores Betty Childs in "Revenge of the Nerds"? Apparently, it's a similar concept.) I figured I was close when I spotted a nearby bathroom The Stilt decorated with wallpaper of five female silhouettes. Nice surroundings to wash up in, I thought. And then, three feet to the right, there it was.