Issue: Summer 2016

Buy or Rent a Piece of Hollywood History

Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House had a staring role in Bladerunner.

                Lot by lot, house by house, apartment by apartment and you can even throw in a hotel here and there, there are few places on the planet that provide the abundance of opportunities to stay or live with history.

                Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Gable and Lombard and countless others stayed and played in the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Today, there isn't a week that goes by that the red carpet is out for a generation of new celebrities that enjoy the events and nightlife at this famous venue.

Argyle Hotel

                Along the famous Sunset Strip, the legends and lore at the Chateau Marmont Hotel and the Sunset Tower (now The Argyle) provide not only the wonderful atmosphere and excitement of that infamous piece of land that connected Hollywood and Beverly Hills before West Hollywood incorporated as a city and made it more, or less, legitimate.

                But it's in our residential properties where legend and lore meet and mingle up and down our hillsides and along such streets as Franklin, La Brea and Hollywood Boulevard. 

                Real estate buying and selling has been part of Hollywood's DNA almost since DeMille and Lasky arrived in 1912. In fact, it wasn't long after that the Cecil himself moved into a manse in what is now the Laughlin Park area of Los Feliz, now a gated compound where W. C. Fields, Deanna Durbin and even Charlie Chaplin lived for a while. In later years, Lily Tomlin and jazz artist Chic Corea were residents.

                If George Washington slept around the east coast, so did Charlie Chaplin in more ways than one here in Hollywood. Countless businesses and homes are credited with having once been owned by Charlie.

                Whitley Heights counted Rudolf Valentino, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell, Tyrone Power, Jean Harlow and William Powell among its residents was one of filmdom's early enclaves. Today remnants of stairs and passageways connecting the residences still exist. It was a much easier way to move between homes than exiting and using the winding streets. Designed in 1918, to resemble an Italian hill town, much of the area was developed by 1928. The romance and allure of that time still can be felt strolling the neighborhood. Whitley Heights has been designed a Preservation Historic Overlay Zone.

                Even if a home or apartment wasn't that of a noted celebrity, past or present, many were bought by directors, set designers, property managers, screen writers, the countless behind the scenes or those actors and actresses who were among the hundreds of supporting cast members whose names we may not recognize as the credits roll.

Castillo Del Lago formerly owned and restored by Madonna. Photo-Paul Jonason

                In some cases, it might not be the person, but the property that's the star such as the house off El Contento Drive that was featured in the classic film noire "Double Indemnity" or the Lido Apartments on Wilcox featured on the Eagles' "Hotel California" album cover. Part of the game of living here is recognizing buildings and streets in scenes from scores of movies filmed here.

                The Alto Nido was immortalized in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard as the home of down-on-his-luck writer Joe Gillis played by William Holden. Its actual residents included Fatty Arbuckle, Claudet Colbert and George Cukor. Nearby the Montecito Apartments, now affordable housing for seniors, claims such notables as Ronald Reagan, Mickey Rooney, James Cagney, George C. Schott, Geraldine Page and Ben Vereen as tenants.      

If celebrity digs aren't your thing, homes by noted "starchitects" Wright, both Frank and son, Lloyd, Schlinder and Neutra range from see through glass hillside perches to Mayan inspired concrete block wonders.  

                A quick search of L.A. Times Hot Properties' archives reads like a who's who of movie, TV and music with Chris Brown, Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, Aziz Ansari, Jodie Foster, Michael C. Hall, Hale Berry, Esai Moralis, Tim Allen, Tim Parsons and Kristen Stewart among the many "names in the news, buying or selling homes in the Hollywood Hills and Los Feliz.

Lloyd Wright's Samuel-Navarro House was one of Diane Keaton's restoration projects.

                In 1993, it was Madonna who was the head of the pack as she purchased and renovated Castillo Del Lago, a hill top estate that had been owner by the gangster Bugsy Siegel during the prohibition years. She directed attention to the values to be had in the hills to the east. Following that acquisition, she looked even further east to Los Feliz where she once again purchased a hilltop manse and went to work. That house was bought by Katherine Heigl and others since, but the move was on. Others had lived quietly enjoying the real life of the community far above, yet with easy access to the studios and nightlife. Annie Potts was a Los Feliz Resident as was Michael C. Hall, Tim Parsons and, maybe, when legal details are resolved, Katy Perry as well.

                So, in Hollywood our houses and apartments have provenance and the hills are alive with the stories. How much is rumor, legend or lore? Who knows and really who cares. For those of us who live in an apartment that was once Charlton Heston's in the very beginning of this career or in a villa owned by a gangster or "Evita," it's all part of the glamour, the mystique and allure. We're living in Hollywood.

Sheryl Crow recently sold her compund that included this impeccably restored Craftsman home.