If you throw a Saudi prince into a fancy LA neighborhood and shake things up a bit, a few fabulous tales and ridiculous details are sure to fall out, and that's what's happening in Benedict Canyon, where Prince Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz al Saud has been terrifying rich neighbors with plans to build a 60,000 square foot mega-compound on three parcels totaling 5.2 acres at the end of Tower Lane (that's downsized from 85,000 square feet). Neighbors led by Martha Karsh (whose husband is the cofounder of Oaktree Capital Management and a billionaire) have fought the mega-compound and most recently, the LA Planning Department has said the prince will need a full environmental review before he can start building. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair picks up some of those tales and details, dusts them off, and shares them with us. Here are a few:
-- The property the prince wants to build on was once home to a Wallace Neff-designed Spanish Colonial built by War and Peace director King Vidor--Rain Man producer Jon Peters tore it down in a fit of pique during his nasty divorce.
-- A 2005 ordinance limits the height of retaining walls to 12 feet. The day before it went into effect, Peters got a permit to build a retaining wall that was more than 20 feet tall. Once it was built, neighbors saw that it had a polygonal pattern "that struck one resident as resembling a giraffe's skin." Oh, also it was green.
-- Before he tore the house down, Peters built a giant below-ground showroom to house his Ferrari collection. According to the old listing for the property, it fits 14 cars.
-- Before he lived at the old Vidor estate, Peters had a house in Beverly Park, where he says "We had 100 animals--llamas, bulls, goats, pigs... You'd see four or five Mexicans walking the animals. If you want to see a lot of rich people get mad, try having your emus shit on their sidewalk."
-- After he moved to Benedict Canyon, Peters made friends with Martha Karsh "and she asked him to let her do some work that required equipment to be run through his driveway." He says he came home one day to find 20 trucks in his frontyard and that "From that day on, it was war." He claims he ended up selling because she was "busting my balls on anything else she could find." He also says the Karshes tried to buy his property, but he wouldn't sell to them.
-- It was Peters who commissioned plans for a mega-compound from one of LA's most prolific mansion architects, Richard Landry (they included a two-story Mediterranean house with three guesthouses originally). The prince bought the plans with the land.
-- And we haven't even gotten to the prince yet! Jarrett Hedborg was the prince's long-time interior designer until they had a falling out recently over payment--Hedborg decorated the prince's 30,000 square foot house in Beverly Park.
-- It actually was superagent Michael Ovitz who got the prince to downsize his plans: "According to a source involved in the talks, Ovitz pointed out that the sons' villa would overlook his compound, as would some of the servants' quarters. Ovitz, it would seem, was not keen on having people peering down into his yard." In April, the prince announced he was nixing the sons' villa and staff quarters.
· There Goes the Neighborhood [Vanity Fair]
· Michael Ovitz vs. Saudi Royal in BHPO Mega-Compound Fight [Curbed LA]