Unreal Estate by Michael Gross came out Tuesday, dishing all the dirt on the births (and coming of ages) of Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and Holmby Hills. To celebrate, we'll be sharing some of the most fun and juicy stories all this week. Here's Tuesday's story about how developers tricked the UC regents into moving UCLA to Westwood; and yesterday's story about the odd suicide of the man who built the Beverly Hillbillies house.
Sonny and Cher were mysteriously invited to Tony Curtis's house for a birthday party in 1967 (Cher said they'd never met and didn't have any mutual friends) and Cher fell right in love with Curtis's house, 141 S. Carolwood Drive in Holmby Hills. Curtis wasn't ready to give it up, so instead he sold them his nearby house on St. Cloud Rd. in Bel Air. Their kitchen there was featured in Home & Garden and Architectural Digest complimented them for having "an appreciation of this way of living...when many of their contemporaries have little feeling for most things that are representative of the period and the social structure that produced this kind of house." Eventually Curtis got a job in London and, as he'd previously promised, let Cher know the Carolwood house (now called Owlwood) was up for sale. He was asking $1 million and ended up selling it to Sonny and Cher for $750,000. However, the couple's relationship was already on the skids; they broke up but stayed together at Carolwood so they could keep their Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Meanwhile, Cher met and fell in love with record David Geffen (he wasn't sure yet if he was gay) and left for a rented house on Carbon Beach. During their messy divorce, she decided she wanted to move back into Carolwood:
She thought the house was so big, they could cohabit without seeing each other. Sonny protested to their divorce judge that her refusal to abide by her contracts and do their TV show meant he would be unable to "amicably live under the same roof" with her. In court, Cher said she'd moved out because Sonny had moved his girlfriend in. A month later, Sonny was given sole occupancy of the house and Cher was ordered to steer clear. Sonny agreed to sell it to Cher for half its value, but when she didn't pay him, he remained in residence with his girlfriend. So, late in the evening of July 8, when Sonny was at a recording session, Cher, her lawyer, Geffen, and two security guards moved her back in and threw all of Sonny's things and his girlfriend out of the house. The girlfriend called Sonny and when he called the house to protest, Geffen got on the phone, telling him armed guards had been posted and adding, "Go do whatever the fuck you want to do about it."
After Cher and Geffen broke up, Time magazine reported that "she'd installed a big neon sign reading Cher over her Carolwood fireplace and invited four hundred people to a party there." And eventually Cher became a powerhouse real estate investor.
· The Trick That Landed UCLA in Westwood in the 1920s [Curbed LA]
· Beverly Hillbillies House Builder's Strange Smog Suicide [Curbed LA]