First photo on right via MLS; all others via Popular Mechanics In 1953, contractor Hal B. Hayes built a swank bachelor pad in the western part of the Hollywood Hills. It had an artificial beach, an orchid grotto, and parking on steel tracks that cantilevered out past a retaining wall. It also had what a 1960 Time article called "a figure 6-shaped swimming pool half inside the living room" that flowed outside to the lanai. In a nuclear attack, Hayes thought he could decontaminate in the pool and swim through "an underwater tunnel leading to a sealed, underground cave aerated with oxygen tanks," as described by the LA Times this past weekend. Hayes was a paranoid. He was also a one-time fiancé of Zsa Zsa Gabor and a cheat who eventually fled to Mexico. And his house's life story is almost as good.
The Time article called Hayes "the founder and sole proprietor of what he claims is the world's largest individually owned construction company, which is building about $60 million in housing projects at U.S. military bases." He held several patents, including one on collapsible steel forms that helped him put up houses at gimmicky-fast speeds (one in 34 minutes).
Hayes spent $600,000 building the six-level house on Sierra Alta Way. Besides the pool and the beach and the precarious parking, the house had voice-activated lighting, Scotch/Bourbon/Champagne faucets, a circular fireplace, a mirrored master suite, and a television set built into an indoor tree. It had that underground cave, plus also an in-house bomb shelter with sitting room and bathroom, and "a heavy green living-room rug that climbs up a glass wall at the press of a button," said Time. He told the magazine "Since the rug is so heavy, it stops gamma rays and neutrons as well."
According to a 1953 article in Popular Mechanics, the walls "have a fluted design to resist shock wave and a fireproof exterior surface of Gunite." A garden on the roof "provides insulation against extreme heat or shock." (Getty has more photos of the house in its original state, and a good look at those booze faucets.)
Supposedly, Hayes' undoing was a 45 carat blue-white diamond engagement ring he gave to Zsa Zsa Gabor, which Time said was so heavy that she "could only gesticulate with her right, or free, hand." Hayes made Gabor a vice president at his company, but the feds were more interested in how he paid for the ring, according to the LAT, particularly since he wasn't paying back the millions in low-interest government loans he'd taken out. After what Time describes as a pretty thorough meltdown ("At one point Hayes stopped reading his press handout to blurt to reporters, 'Boy, I sure didn't write this myself.' Then he went off to a Hollywood nightclub."), Hayes paid a fine and left for Mexico in 1962.
The house stuck around and spread and mutated and became a 14,000 square foot mansion with marble floors, a proper motor court, and an all-new grotto. (It's tough to see the resemblance, but a source who has seen the building records tells us that Hayes is listed as the original builder, and the dates and details match up.) It's rumored that Elizabeth Taylor lived there, and that Mike Tyson was in contract to buy the house right around the time he bit off Evander Holyfield's ear. But it's been most recently notorious as the house Prince rented. In 2006 his landlord, Utah Jazz player Carlos Boozer, filed suit claiming Prince had violated his lease by painting the house with purple stripes, installing purple monogrammed carpet, and adding plumbing and piping "for water transfer for beauty salon chairs," as quoted on the Smoking Gun.
Boozer ended up dropping the suit and sold to Rockstar Energy Drink creator Russ Weiner. According to Redfin, Weiner's been trying to unload since 2007, and the house has been in contract since May (it was most recently listed at $8.995 million). Any potential buyer better have something strange to bring to the property; we'd hate to see it get boring now.
· Lost L.A.: A Cold War bachelor pad that really knew how to swing [LAT]
· BUILDING: End of the Party? [Time]
· House for the Atomic Age [Popular Mechanics]
· 1235 SIERRA ALTA Way [Redfin]