It's a typical winter day at Lake Tahoe, with sub-freezing temperatures and fresh, blowing snow. Inside, it's like a tropical Hawaiian vacation.
What a shock to the senses. We walk through the entryway and-boom!-there's an indoor swimming pool. Maybe that's not so unusual for a multimillion-dollar Lake Tahoe mansion, but the shiny, copper-plated waterfall that consumes an entire wall is. From outlets at the ceiling, perhaps 25 feet high, ribbons of water cascade down the wall and into the pool.
Strategically located in a corner of the first floor, next to the pool, is the bar, where a keg is always tapped. You can't miss it: It is actually the hull of a 1949 Chris Craft woody, the kind that socialites once used for cruising on the lake.
Welcome to Bob's at the Beach, a three-story, 7,000-square-foot lakeside residence that is clearly an unconventional place to rent for a ski vacation at South Lake Tahoe. Granted, this luxurious abode, which has been featured on TV's Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, is not your typical mountain retreat. This is a contemporary glass palace, a square one at that, with an insistent nautical theme.
Settling in at Bob's takes a bit of adjustment, because the decadence is so, well, compelling. In the living room, overlooking both the swimming pool and the lake, there's a Yamaha baby grand piano.
Indeed, the options of what to do at Bob's are staggering. Our clan has just come from a day of skiing at Sierra-at-Tahoe, where we were up to our shins in fresh powder. Now we're ready to be up to our keisters in hot water. Not in the pool-that's for the kids-but in the hot tub outside, on the beach, which was bubbling and steaming when we walked into the house. Like kids in a candy store, everyone in our group makes a beeline for some indulgence. The small fry squeal with delight, clothes are tossed like confetti, beer is poured, and the party is on.
Two teenage nephews head for the Kohler Habitat, a lighted cubicle that is recessed into the rock wall at one end of the pool. Essentially it replicates your choice of tropical environments. Select your climate (sun, rain or wind), close the glass door, and relax while the internal music system plays Jimmy Buffet.
Whose fantasy is this, anyway? Give credit to the late Bob Lindner, a local diamond merchant who was known as "The Jeweler to the Stars." Lindner and his two sons, Bob Jr. and Chris, ran several jewelry stores and created one-of-a-kind objets d'art for notables such as pianist Liberace, torch singer Engelbert Humperdinck, comedian Rich Little and President Gerald Ford. Built in 1987, Bob's is located on a gated peninsula of a dozen multimillion-dollar lakefront homes in the Tahoe Keys. With privacy assured, the home is an ideal hideaway for celebrities who play the Stateline casino showrooms, or who just want to escape the travails of Tinseltown. But the place isn't off limits to mortals; in fact, it's available to anyone who can pony up the cover charge: $1,200 to $1,800 per night in winter.
Plenty of people do just that. With four bedrooms, three floors and 12 TV sets, there's enough room to accommodate extended families and several couples-at about the same cost per person as staying in a deluxe hotel.Bob's is also a walk down memory lane-a kind of living museum of Hollywood's most glamorous personalities. Every house has a story, and at Bob's the walls do the talking. Inside the front door, just beyond the foyer, are several unique paintings of Sammy Davis Jr., who performed frequently at South Shore and hung out with Lindner and his wife in the years before Davis' death in 1990. Photos of other talented guests include The Judds, Toni Tennille (The Captain must've felt right at home), Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme and actor Charlie Sheen, who spent his honeymoon here.
When you hear about the famous who have occupied these premises, you can get into some heavyweight fantasizing. What would Boyz II Men have done behind these glass walls? Or Barry Manilow? Or Martin Lawrence? Or Roseanne Barr, who honeymooned here with one of her three husbands? The mind boggles. Singer Dianna Ross, another guest, didn't know that Chris Lindner was one of the owners, since he keeps such a low, unassuming profile. "I think she thought I was the pool boy," he says.
With a place like this, the idea of going out for dinner and a show seems redundant, ridiculous even. Especially when you can fire up the kitchen and fry, steam, bake, barbecue, broil, smoke or microwave anything edible. As you sit at the huge dining room table, in cushy leather chairs, even a pizza seems like a gourmet repast. And after dinner, who can resist playing with the control console of the entertainment center? Flip one switch and the curtains close. Flip another and a 10-foot screen descends from a hidden recess in the ceiling.
Lindner, says son Chris, was a man of hearty appetites and mischievous humor. These traits are evident in the master bedroom, a boudoir that is without equal. The centerpiece is a huge circular bed, with an equally huge mirror on the ceiling above. The mirror has a phrase etched into it, which reads: "Objects may appear larger than they are."
After three days of sheer bliss, we regretfully have to pack up and leave. I thought of adding something to the guest log to describe the most memorable family ski trip of our lives. But someone else had already scrawled an entry that nicely summed up our experience: "Champagne wishes and caviar dreams."