'Dynasty' to diplomacy for Xi-Biden summit estate

The steps where Joe Biden greeted Xi Jinping feature in the TV soap opera Dynasty (Brendan SMIALOWSKI)
The steps where Joe Biden greeted Xi Jinping feature in the TV soap opera Dynasty (Brendan SMIALOWSKI)

Don't expect Joan Collins to show up, but the California estate where Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met Wednesday is perhaps best known as the setting of the 1980s soap opera "Dynasty".

Built in 1917, the Filoli Estate at Woodside near San Francisco played host to a landmark summit that aims to reduce the risk of conflict between the world's largest economies.

Every detail of the China-US talks at the brick mansion with its white porticos and lush gardens in the northern California foothills has been carefully choreographed for maximum diplomatic effect.

The 56-room house will, however, look very familiar to fans of a different kind of drama that featured bigger hair and shoulder pads than those on offer from Xi and Biden.

It formed the backdrop to the primetime 1980s series starring John Forsythe as ruthless oil magnate Blake Carrington and Joan Collins as his scheming ex-wife Alexis Colby which became the most watched widely watched series in television history.

The front steps where Biden shook hands with Xi can be seen in the swooping overhead aerial shot of the Carrington family's home in the opening titles of "Dynasty".

The gilt-edged, frescoed ballroom where the Chinese and American delegations met was where Blake Carrington married his innocent secretary Krystle in the series premiere.

Later series used a soundstage based on the interior of the Filoli estate.

Located about 26 miles (40 kilometers) south of San Francisco, the property built by the Borne goldmining family boasts sprawling grounds with English-style gardens, ornamental ponds, an orchard and a path.

- 'Catfights' -

These days the estate can also be booked for weddings, ranging from $4,000 for a smaller ceremony to $65,000 or more for a more luxurious reception, according to its website.

The estate, open to the public since 1975 and now managed by a non-profit organization, owes its name Filoli to the first syllables of the motto of a former owner -- "FIght for a just cause. LOve your fellow man. LIve a good life."

But it has also become something of a pilgrimage site for fans of "Dynasty", with a special video on the website aimed at fans.

"Over the years the house and gardens hosted many glittering events, although perhaps none as dramatic as those featured on 'Dynasty' -- at least no real-life catfights as far as we know," says the video.

For his part, Xi will be no stranger to luxurious locations belonging to scandal-hit American tycoons, having met then-president Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in 2017.

But Biden and Xi will be hoping on Wednesday that despite its television pedigree, the Filoli Estate will prove to be a calm setting for the two leaders -- with no cliffhangers and certainly no backstabbing.

Diplomatic negotiations have been going on for months to get the talks to happen, and to ensure that the even the most minute elements of protocol have been observed, US officials said.

The venue was kept secret even from members of the White House press corps traveling with Biden to San Francisco for the APEC summit until the morning of the talks.