Friday, November 16, 2012

A Fascinating Read

"Unreal Estate" by Michael Gross   Broadway Press   488 pages   $30

This book details the histories of some of the most famous homes in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby Hills and Beverly Park including the people who owned them and, more importantly, how they made the money to buy in any of those communities as well as the scandal's some of them created.   It's gossipy, but factual; Gross is very good at that.  It's a yenta's dream book!

As it happens, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment at 425 N. Oakhurst Drive, BH 90210 for 14 years.  My friend Berenice and I used to walk the residential streets or the walkway along Santa Monica for exercise  on most Saturday mornings.  So I've seen quite a few of them.  But, of course, never met the owners!

The history begins back in 1911 when Beverly Hills was pretty much just ranches and farms. 

One of the early residences was Greystone aka "The Dohney Mansion" and it's one of the most opulent homes with 45,054 sq. ft. and 67 rooms for cards,  linens,  sewing and gift wrapping!  Candy Spelling wasn't the first person to think of that.  The estate had its own telephone system with two switchboards. 

Today it can be rented out from the City of Beverly Hills and Richie's niece Kate did just that for her wedding reception.  We were not allowed inside of the house, but the spacious terrace that we were allowed to use ran along one, loooong wall of the house.  To use the facilities it was necessary to walk across a lot of lawn and skirt a couple of gardens to reach the park-maintained facilities.   

Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay bought Rudy Vallee's old house at 10100 Sunset in Holmby Hills.  Hargitay, formerly a carpenter and plumber painted the exterior of the house and the wall around it a bright pink and it glittered because he mixed in quartz dust with the paint.

As if that wasn't enough to make themselves noticeable, they furnished the house with such as a pink shag carpet, pink furniture, a paino painted with cupids, a heart-shaped pink bathtub.  Oh!  And a heart-shaped swimming pool. 

When we used to use Sunset to go to Malibu, we'd always look for it on the lefthand side of the street.  Incidentally, Mansfield was not beheaded in the car crash that killed her.

Random addresses to google - 10644 Bellagio Road, Bel Air aka "Casa Encantada" home for the Conrad Hilton clan.  10236 Charing Cross Road, Holmby Hills aka Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion. 

How the neighborhood has changed...

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