In 2003, I was fortunate enough to meet the family of the late Alfred Hitchcock, possibly the best director in Hollywood history. Hitchcock was a cinematic genius and his films are still enjoyed and studied today. I met his daughter, Pat Hitchcock O’Connell and his granddaughter, Tere Carrubba. Together we explored Alfred Hitchcock’s mountain retreat, Heart of the Mountain, in Scotts Valley, California. Alfred and Alma Hitchcock owned an estate in Scotts Valley, California. Shortly before Mr. Hitchcock’s death in 1980, the estate was sold to a local artist, who in turn sold it to Bob and Judy Brassfield in 1979. The Brassfields have lived there ever since. In 2000, my son Sean married their daughter Jill.
For more background, you can read about the estate in the archives of the Scotts Valley Historical Society at this link. I recorded the Hitchcock’s 2003 visit in my personal journal, which is reproduced below.
Monday, November 10, 2003
Last Sunday, November 9, 2003, my wife Tess and I met Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter, Pat Hitchcock O’Connell and her daughter, Tere Carrubba. I arranged a meeting with them up at the old Hitchcock estate in Scotts Valley, now owned by my son Sean’s in laws. Also present were two authors, Aaron Leventhall and Jeff Kraft, of the recent book “Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco.” (They gave me an autographed copy.)
Bob and Judy Brassfield (current owners) gave a tour of the place to the Hitchcocks, telling them of what changes he had made since he bought the estate in 1979, and how it had been damaged by the 1989 earthquake and what he had to do to repair and retrofit it. We showed them Hitchcock’s old bedroom and his favorite place on the front porch, under a tiled mosaic of a religious scene built into the wall. They have a picture of Hitchcock sitting beneath that mosaic in the book “Footsteps in the Fog.” There is another one with Hitch, his wife Alma, and Grace Kelly and Prince Ranier sitting under that same mosaic too.
A year or so ago Bob told me he would really like Pat Hitchcock to come and visit the estate, and I told him I would look into it for him and see if I could arrange it. I had no idea how I was going to do it. I met a young guy on the internet (Joe Meduri) who is a big Hitchcock fan and we began trading emails, and he helped a lot, helping to put me in touch with the authors of the book and finding facts for me. The authors put me in touch with Hitchcock’s granddaughter, Tere Carrubba, and I called Tere and discussed the meeting. She was very down to earth.
When the big meeting finally took place, I invited Joe Meduri to come. He drove up with Tess and me, and as we were driving through the very narrow road to the estate, which is up in the mountains and surrounded by 150 acres of forest, we suddenly saw a shiny silver Mercedes behind us, lights aglow in the gathering darkness of a rainy Sunday afternoon. I wondered if that was the Hitchcocks. It was. They followed us in the main gate and parked their car directly behind us. As I got out of Tess’s SUV, I saw Tere Carrubba exit from the Mercedes, and I immediately knew the silver haired, petite lady in the passenger’s seat was Pat Hitchcock O’Connell. We introduced ourselves and I put my arms around Pat’s and Terre’s shoulders and said, “Welcome home.”
So Joe, Tess, Bob and Judy and I, as well as the authors Aaron and Jeff, spent a few hours with the Hitchcocks. I sat right next to Pat, Hitch’s only daughter, and chatted with her about a lot of things. I had read her recent book “Alma Hitchcock: the Woman Behind the Man” and I knew it cold and could almost quote from it. So Pat and I got along well. She was actually in some of Hitchcock’s movies; she played a charming younger sister in “Strangers on a Train” (1951) and also had parts on movies like “Psycho” where she was an office worker in the same office that Janet Leigh’s character worked and from which she stole the money, causing her to flee. Pat was also in several of the TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” She was not just the director’s brat — she was a fine actress in her own right. Last August, she appeared on Larry King Live with Tippi Hedrin and Kim Novak to discuss Hitchcock’s works.
Pat was a bit quiet during the tour, and didn’t seem to want to share her memories. But when we came to one quaint bedroom upstairs, she murmured, “This was my room.” Pat had chartered a plane from Thousand Oaks and had flown down just for this meeting. Bob and Judy were very warm and gracious hosts, putting the Hitchcocks completely at ease.
In another instance, we were walking through the house when we came to a common hall closet. Tere Carrubba told us that this was the closet where her grandfather kept his record player and his collection of classical records. Without her visit this small detail of Hitchcock history might have been lost. Bob and Judy were almost stunned that I pulled the whole thing off. It’s funny how the links all merged into a chain. The authors of Footsteps were very grateful to be able to tour Hitchcock’s old mansion, which has been closed to outsiders’ eyes for the past 30 years, and to see the house of which they had only previously read about. There’s a lot of legend about the house, like the famous Braques mosaic “Deux Oiseaux” that once hung on the garden wall; only a black mark is there now, where it used to hang. It might be worth millions if they still had it. Other legendary aspects include the door made of a wine cask, the Trellis Walkway, and the vineyard, recently replanted. Many famous people stayed overnight there, too, like Cary Grant, Kim Novak, Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Ingrid Bergman.
Aaron Leventhall and Jeff Kraft of “Footsteps in the Fog” have a website about the book. It’s at http://www.footstepsinthefog.com/index.html, and there is a section that discusses the Scotts Valley estate and has pictures of it. I always loved Alfred Hitchcock’s films, and today he is celebrated as a cinematic genius. I never imagined I would one day meet his daughter and granddaughter, and with them tour the retreat where the great director once lived, relaxed, entertained and brainstormed famous movie scripts.
Pictured: The Hitchcock’s Rose Garden looks just like it did when the Hitchcocks lived in Scotts Valley. Alma Hitchcock was fond of the white roses she grew there. The smudge on the wall (center) is where the famous Braque mosaic of “Deux Oiseaux” once hung.