But in the final hours,
"I have been informed of the turmoil with respect to the Lady Gaga shoot,"
While the stacks of emails that circulated around that event reveal the complexity and confusion the video shoot entailed, they do not reveal why Franco, who approved the event, was put on administrative time off with pay for two weeks -- or why he was not allowed to be on the set of the video shoot.
But sources close to the event said having Lady Gaga fill a half-empty pool for a video shoot contradicted a pledge State Parks had just made to empty the pool as an example of water conservation.
Until Hearst's last-minute offer to supply the Castle with water from his adjoining
The governor's office and higher-ups in State Parks'
"I believe I have the authority to make the decisions I did and I believe they are consistent with law and policy and in the best interest of State Parks and the castle," Franco wrote in a
Despite the confusion -- partly because of Lady Gaga's tight scheduling, which required unusually fast action from a state bureaucracy -- the video was filmed, giving the Castle massive exposure to younger audiences. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga's recently released public service announcement on water conservation has garnered more than 60,000 full plays.
"The bottom line is it ended up being a really positive thing," said
Behind the scenes
The Hearst family donated
While a commercial project had not been filmed there since the 1960 film "Spartacus," the idea to shoot a music video at the Castle originated with Lady Gaga (
The preservation foundation helps preserve the Castle's vast collection of artwork.
"Our board thought it was a great idea,"
The next day, McInerney wrote an email to Fields about Lady Gaga: "She is passionate about art and seems to be OK with doing something to help promote the Hearst Castle in the future ... FYI: The song is very sexy. There will be a big crew including professional dancers, a choreographer, extras and lord knows who else."
For the video, Lady Gaga's crew had asked to use the Castle's famous
While some State Parks employees in
"It was a miscommunication," Waters said.
In light of the news release, refilling the pool for a Lady Gaga video stood to present a public relations nightmare for the
At the same time, those involved with the Castle knew Lady Gaga -- with 42 million Twitter followers -- could help the landmark appeal to a younger generation.
"I have to tell you that everyone feels like it could be a stunning coup for the Castle, as long as the end video is appropriate," Sutton wrote to Fields on
Deal is reached
Negotiations began with Lady Gaga's production company the last week of January. While the singer and her parents would donate
"The donation from Lady Gaga and her parents, who personally gave
Terms of the shoot forbade any nudity, did not allow anyone to touch the marble statues on the property and prohibited music loud enough to disturb tours inside the Castle. Lady Gaga would stay at the
Lady Gaga would top off the pool, which was down about 160,000 gallons from its total of 350,000, and would participate in a public service announcement about water conservation, along with a video about Hearst Castle.
As plans were being negotiated, news of the shoot was reported by the media. One local radio show host sent an email to Franco on
In response, the parties involved planned to head off potential negative news by reaching out to local press. The foundation issued a fact sheet about the positive benefits of the shoot, noting that Lady Gaga would also pay
"There is a lot of sensitivity at the moment about the pool as it relates to the event," Franco wrote in one email, requesting no Facebook photos be posted of the pool.
The next morning, a Saturday, Franco and others received an email from
Sutton said recently, "The
With the shoot in jeopardy, Sutton called
Meanwhile, uncertainty reigned.
"I'm still waiting to hear if we have an official 'go' in this project," wrote
Hearst's idea would address the state's public relations problem -- namely, how the public would view bringing in water to fill a pool that was supposed to be emptied for water conservation: He would use water already on the
The ranch and the Castle share water rights to a spring that feeds three reservoirs. Water from one of those reservoirs would be transferred to the
"My understanding is that the shooting is occurring on Monday," Robertson responded to Lehman around
The only difference was Franco would no longer be involved with the shoot.
Franco in limbo
In an email sent to several parks employees, Waters, the parks public affairs director, wrote, "Nick is no longer the point of contact for the production company. ... Per agency's direction, all media needs to be directed to me. No local personnel should be answering media questions."
Waters also included a statement that Saturday for the media, approved by State Parks and the
Franco later sent an email, saying he would be at his office at the park's
"Would you prefer that I don't report to work at my office on Mon-Wed next week and work from home?" he wrote to his bosses the night before the shoot was to begin.
By 6:39 that evening, Franco still hadn't heard where he was supposed to be during the shoot.
"I never heard anything back, so I'll just go to my office and do my other work," he wrote. "If I start getting dragged into things I shouldn't be dragged into, I'll go somewhere else."
'No harm, no foul'
Lehman wrote, "I think they'd still be upset with the transfer of 160,000 gallons from the
Franco replied, "We can stop that if need be, but it's really the same water in the same system that can only be used on the ranch or in the park, so if we don't use it, the ranch will."
"I'm thinking we don't highlight it," Lehman responded.
"I've called on all Californians to conserve water in every way possible, and the assistance you are providing will aid in that effort," he wrote.
Shortly after the shoot, Franco was put on leave with pay.
Waters has declined to say why Franco was suspended, saying it was a personnel matter. But sources say the timing of the Lady Gaga approval -- just after the
"It is unfortunate that you got caught up in the politics," Hearst wrote to Franco the day before the shoot.
In an email to his staff after the suspension, Franco wrote about the exceptional event: "When you mix the state, Lady Gaga, the
The video for Lady Gaga's song "G.U.Y." -- prominently featuring Hearst Castle -- has garnered close to 70 million views on YouTube. Her
Funding was recently approved to repair the pool, which is now empty. And, State Parks said, Castle visitation was up 10 percent this year -- roughly 60,000 more visitors.
Franco typically is the spokesperson for the park, but calls to him were referred to Waters.
While Franco received what some have called a wrist slap for pursuing the video shoot in the wake of the governor's call for water conservation, others feel the district superintendent did the right thing.
"I've been there for 45 years," Fields said, speaking of Franco. "He's the best boss I've ever had. The man knows what he's doing."
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