Realtors reveal how they sell Hollywood homes with sleazy stories – The Hollywood Reporter
On August 14, 1951, William Randolph Hearst, 88, lay dying in a gilded Mediterranean-style mansion in Beverly Hills. Five years earlier – in poor health and with his reputation hurt by Citizen Kane – he agreed to move from his beloved castle of Hearst to San Simeon in Los Angeles to be closer to the doctors.
Hearst’s longtime mistress, movie star Marion Davies, lost in a haze of alcoholism and sedatives, woke up that day to find her dead body had been unwittingly removed. “Do you realize what they did?” She asked later. âThey stole one of my possessions. It was mine.
Today Beverly Hills’ 1927 Hearst Estate (a location for The Godfather) is on the market for $ 89.75 million, listed with Gary Gold of Hilton & Hyland, Anthony Marguleas of Amalfi Estates and Zizi Pak of Rodeo Realty. This is one of the many black-tinted Hollywood homes currently on the market. These include the legendary 1923 Paramour Estate in Silver Lake, sold by restaurateur Dana Hollister for $ 39.9 million. The Mediterranean Revival-style mansion was designed in 1923 by Robert D. Farquhar for oil heiress Daisy Canfield.
Canfield’s mother Chloe, a renowned beauty and philanthropist, was sensational murdered by a deranged employee in 1906, and Canfield herself would tragically die in 1933 in a car crash on Mulholland Drive after a night of partying. She lived in Paramour in the 1920s with her husband, movie star Antonio Moreno. âEveryone loves history; it really fires their imaginations, âsays Compass real estate agent Sally Forster Jones.
Notes Gold – who sold the Playboy Mansion in 2016 for $ 100 million – the infamy of a former resident or a compelling story may get great press, but when it comes to heritage estates first-rate, that is not enough. âI won’t rely on that to sell a house because at the end of the day there is some interest in it, but there is a very specific group of people who buy such an animal,â he says.
Simply put: Looky-loos are not welcome. âI’m not a tour guide, am I? Gold said to sell the Playboy Mansion. “I’m sure there were people who would like to see it, but we showed it to people who were prequalified.”
While subtle notoriety and scandal can be tantalizing, agents say, some fields’ past is better untapped. In 2019, Phil Spector’s ex-wife Rachelle listed Pyrenees Castle in the Alhambra, where Spector murdered Lana Clarkson in 2003, for $ 5.5 million, before taking it off the market. The property was ultimately sold for $ 3.3 million in May by Douglas Elliman’s Tim Durkovic, who focused on the property’s amazing amenities, unique architecture and secluded landscape.
Currently on the market are two other notoriety houses. For horror movie buffs, there’s the 1926 Villa Sophia in Los Feliz, listed at $ 5.77 million, which is the former home of the tortured. Frankenstein director James Whale (played by Ian McKellen in Gods and monsters). Then there’s the $ 13 million Pasadena Estate designed by Myron Hunt. Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Erika Jayne and her lawyer husband, Tom Girardi (whose case was an inspiration to Erin Brockovitch and who, more recently, has been accused of defrauding customers of millions of dollars).
It’s not just the sprawling estates that can have scandalous pasts. Three years ago, documentary filmmaker Adam Irving found himself trying to sell a Spanish Revival-style bungalow in the Hancock Park area. While the house was unoccupied, a homeless woman broke in and died in the guesthouse. Her body was discovered two weeks later when officers arrived for an open house.
Responsible for cleaning up a horrific mess after the body was removed, Irving was forced to lower the price of the house as the death must be disclosed to potential buyers within two years of the incident. Not only did he lose thousands of dollars on the sale of the property, he suffered emotional trauma. âI actually had to go to therapy. I’ve seen things that I can’t forget, âhe says. âI kept getting triggered every time I saw a real estate sign. “
As long as human nature remains as it is, realtors will have stories – some dark, others outrageous – to exploit or ignore. âWhat the story gives me is an ability to market in an invaluable way,â Gold said. âNotoriety brings people inâ¦ but the house has to deliver. “
This story first appeared in the June 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.