By Andrew Kamenetzky
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.

Wilt: Past and Present
Wilt, 1962: The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era.

How would Wilt Chamberlain fare in today's NBA? Scoop Jackson imagines an NBA with the Big Dipper.

Listen to the broadcast of the fourth quarter of Wilt's 100-point game.

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.

Wilt Chamberlain's house
Looks like Wilt could certainly have done some entertaining out by the pool.

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.

Or there it wasn't, depending how you view things. I was now standing on a normal floor, as the lair has since been converted into an office. And I couldn't watch myself walk around, since the walls are no longer covered with mirrors. But the ceiling's still a silky, spongy pink material, with soft purple light bulbs – immediately sparking a "Bow-chika-bow-wow" guitar riff in my mind. You didn't need Ron Jeremy's imagination to picture Wilt opening the door for a happy couple, ushering them inside past a few scattered bodies and closing the door with a wink. Despite all the action afoot, he wouldn't have needed to stick around. After all, he had the only key to a love shack the B-52's couldn't have imagined. And likely had guests waiting. And from what we've come to know, Wilt was nothing if not a good host.

Then I found the only bedroom in America with a cachet greater than Lincoln's. I followed a few guests into the abode's legendary centerpiece, and immediately my jaw dropped. The infamous 18-karat-gold sunken bathtub has since been covered over. The master bathroom, once divided into "Wilt's" and "hers" sections merging at a common shower, is now an open-aired space. The original bed has (quite understandably) been replaced. But one need only gaze overhead at the mirrored triangle above the bed, which retracts to reveal a skylight, for a sense of the serious action going down back in the day. It was the '70s, before AIDS made folks think twice about a revolving door of partners. Even without the threat of disease, political correctness would have sucked the air out of this lifestyle.

Wilt Chamberlain's bedroom
Ah, the once-famous bedroom.

But the triangle remains. Along with a brief reassurance that even in the grimmest of times, you can always find a reminder of all that is groovy. That there could always be a special someone waiting for you, whether you've been lovers for 20 years or just met 30 seconds ago. Wilt might not have been specifically trying to set the world at ease. He might just have been looking for a bigger-than-life good time, and proved another point simply by doing his thing. But then again, when didn't Wilt bite off more than the rest of us could ever dream of chewing? (He might even have been looking down on everyone checking out his old digs, laughing at us marveling at what came so naturally to him.)

Which is why, in the end, it's fitting we'd celebrate the book commemorating one oversized achievement inside the walls boasting of quite another. Wilt proved on March 2, 1962, that he was capable of pulling off the seemingly impossible. Along these same lines, who else could have pulled off a house of this design? A lifestyle of this ferocity? A confidence of this magnitude? It wasn't enough for him to push the limits of what could be believed on the court. He pushed the limits of what was conceivable off the court, too. By Wilt setting his bar so high, we're sure never to forget either number he made famous.


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