Sharon Knolle Freelance Writer

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Published in Variety March 19, 2004

Spring Open House


Residential Close-Ups:

Legendary manse

Beverly Hills, CA
Broker: Ron de Salvo, Coldwell Banker
Hollywood connection: Douglas Fairbanks & Mary Pickford, Meshulan Riklis & Pia Zadora, Jerry Buss
Price: $39 million for 26K square feet, 10 BR, 13 BA
Wow factor: A discotheque complete with DJ area, dance floor, and full bar

Silent-screen stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford paid approximately $37,000 for this 16-acre hilltop property in the 1920s; it's now worth 100 times that, if its acreage is down to a mere three.

Architect Wallace Neff renovated the one-time hunting lodge into a five-bedroom mansion for the Fairbanks; there they entertained guests from Lord Mountbatten to Will Rogers. A rose-colored bedroom was permanently reserved for neighbor Charlie Chaplin. Pickfair's kidney-shaped pool was the first private pool in Los Angeles, and the pair were memorably photographed on it in a canoe.

After their divorce in 1935, Pickford lived on at Pickfair until her death in 1979. Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss then bought the house for close to $5.4 million. He sold it to Riklis and Zadora in 1987 for $7 million. Riklis tore Pickfair down to the ground, keeping only the pool, the wrought-iron gate with its "P" insignia, and a two-bedroom guest house that was designed for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's visit.

"They spent millions redoing the house as if it really were old Hollywood," says de Salvo. "Inside it has a very Versaille elegance," including handpainted frescoes on the ceilings.

"Outside it's very South of France with a facade of limestone. It's a very aristocratic piece of architecture."

Gotham Stunner

Murray Hill, New York City, NY
Broker: Judi Drogin-Feldman, The Corcoran Group
Hollywood connection: Lenny Kravitz, Pearl S. Buck
Price: $7.695 million for 8K square feet, 4 BR, 5BA
Wow factor: The terraced rooftop garden with a view of Sniffen Court and the Chrysler Building

This stunning 100-year-old townhouse with its multiple terraces, double-height ceilings, and own garage is "the eighth wonder of the world," according to real estate agent Judi Drogin-Feldman of Gotham's Corcoran Group. Part of historic Sniffen Court, its owners have included "The Good Earth" author Pearl S. Buck. Her bestselling tome was adapted in to the 1937 double Oscar© winner. Rocker Lenny Kravitz bought the manse in 1996 and recorded his 1999 album 'Five,' here.

After Kravitz sold the townhouse, the new owner gut-renovated it and added three stories and an elevator. "No expense was spared," says Drogin-Feldman of the renovatation, which includes finishes done in a style consistent with the original period, such as maple and walnut trim and inlays. Where Kravitz's former music control room stood is now a large kitchen stocked with a Sub-Zero refrigerator and Miele appliances. Skylights provide abundant natural light.

Rat Pack Playpens

Palm Springs, CA
Broker: Ron de Salvo, Coldwell Banker
Hollywood connection: Frank Sinatra
Price: $1.95 million for 4K square feet, 3 BR
Wow factor: The pool in the shape of a baby grand piano

In early 1946, Sinatra gave architect Stewart Williams a check for the full amount and said, "I'm giving a Christmas party and this needs to be completed and furnished in time." And it was. The singer lived in this, his first California home, with both first wife Nancy and second wife Ava Gardner and daughters Nancy and Tina. It's named Twin Palms, after two towering trees in the backyard.

"It's been restored to the way it was when Sinatra lived there," says de Salvo, including much of the legend's own furniture. The house has four fireplaces, and sits on a nearly 1-acre lot. There's also an outside bar and double cabanas. "It's a true movie colony house," says de Salvo of the classic midcentury design.

Palm Springs, CA
Broker: Ron de Salvo, Coldwell Banker
Hollywood connection: Peter Lawford
Price: $1.495 million for 4.3K square feet, 3BR, 3BA
Wow factor: The master bathroom has a "disappearing" wall of glass that opens onto the garden.

Lawford reportedly lent this "Rat Pack hangout" to brother-in-law John F. Kennedy for the president's trysts with Marilyn Monroe. The 1958 home by Palmer & Kreisel is in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood and was recently restored by designer Stephen Turner of Continental Architectural Properties.

"Turner incorporated an outdoor breezeway into the entrance. It's now this huge entry with a fountain and a bar. It's very nightclub-like," says de Salvo. "It's a really sexy house."

The House of Price

Holmby Hills, CA
Broker: June Scott, Coldwell Banker
Hollywood connection: Vincent Price
Price: $16.5 million for 10.65K square feet, 7 BR, 10.5 BA
Wow factor: The theatrical dining room always draws gasps

You'd be forgiven of thinking of "House of Usher" or "The Raven," as you approach the former home of horror star Vincent Price. On a stormy night, the sprawling, Spanish-style house, with its long driveway, private setting on a 71,000 square foot lot and castle-like interior might possibly be mistaken for one of the actor's movie sets.

The home, now owned by a TV network executive, "has the largest living room in town," according to Scott. "It seats 16." And that's after the original room was cut in half.

Price was a well-known connoisseur who penned several cookbooks and loved to entertain. It's not hard to picture the elegant actor regaling his guests with colorful tales under the original beamed ceiling and candelabra.

The home did fall into disrepair late in Price's life, but "it still had that creative flavor that attracts people in the industry," says Scott. The actor lived there until his death in 1993.

The current owner renovated the home extensively, adding a gym and projection room. Like Price, he is an avid art collector and enjoys displaying his collection throughout the house.

© 2004 Reed Business Information © 2004 Variety, Inc.