12/2/15

MINNELLI MANOR: AN ARCHITECTURAL CREEPFEST


Above I've posted an incredibly creepy video. It's a tour of Vincent Minnelli's abandoned and vandalized home on Sunset Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Truly a case of Hollywood Gothic, the video is all the more creepy given the circumstances it was made under; whoever our hosts are trespassed on the property to shoot the video. I don't know about you but one of my worst nightmares is the one where I realize that the house I'm walking around in doesn't belong to me and I've broken into somebody else's home. I both admire the commitment of the videographer who captured the Minelli disaster and am appalled by his nerve. Below I've reprinted a post I did a couple of years ago about the house and its sad journey:

For many years I would drive by a large, dilapidated house that sits on the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Drive--the house is angled so as to be literally facing the Beverly Hills Hotel across the street--and wonder why the hell somebody didn't buy it and fix it up. Deep research on my part (in other words, screwing around on-line one afternoon) revealed to me that it was Minnelli's home, purchased by the director in 1956. He died there in 1986 of emphysema (a very popular disease for old directors--think of John Huston, William Wyler etc.) and willed the house to his then wife Lee Minelli. But Liza with a Z was in charge of the estate and after Lee continued to live on past her natural expiration date, Liza apparently grew frustrated and wanted to sell the place. She offered her step-mother a condo. Step-mother passed. Liza turned off the electricity. Stepmother stayed there in the dark and sued Liza's ass, saying: " "While defendant is honeymooning all over the world, having fed 850 of her closest friends a 12-foot cake, plaintiff is alone in a cold, dark house, at age 94."

After Lee died in 2002 (age 137?) Liza sold the place to some people who planned to pull it down and put up what would have no doubt been a large, Persian-esque palace, the kind of house that has been gradually de-charmifying the so-called 'flats' of Beverly Hills over the last twenty years.

But issues arose with the Beverly Hills authorities and the property languished, gradually turning into the overgrown, broken-down decaying mess that it currently is. According to this account from Curbed LA,  squatters moved in and substantially disimproved things. The Curbed LA photos lovingly document a Beverly Hills squalor unlike any you've ever seen--the picture on the left is just the beginning. The amusingly named blog "I Am Not A Stalker" also stalked the joint, coming up with these titillating views of the wreckage.

The house was built in the 1920s but remodeled along so-called "neo-Regency" lines sometime in the 50s by John Elgin Wolf, (pictured right), the architect du jour of that time who specialized in this strange hybrid design. Usually featuring tall double "pullman" front doors, lots of terrazzo floors, large strange sculpted walls, the then-new and elegant sliding glass doors (now old and ratty and never really able to be opened easily) and fussy non-French French details, the houses once littered Beverly Hills but are now, alas, a dying breed. Ira Gershwin's very Regency-ish house on Roxbury Drive was recently demolished in favor of a "Persian Solution" (here are some photos of the horrors).  Composer Harry Warren's Sunset Blvd. estate (which I went to a number of times whilst a youth) was purchased by Madonna, of all people, and given the "grand go-by" in favor of a steroidal, lot-filling contemporary. Perhaps the truth is that Woolf's moldy but charming notion of "chic" simply hasn't aged well (when does what's 'chic' ever age well?) but one assumes they could be dressed up in a charming, period way and given new life...sort of like getting an aging actor out of the Motion Picture Country Home, dressing him in his old Sy Devore suit, and taking him to lunch at Musso and Frank. It might not be hip, but charm can trump hip if handled correctly. And whats hip about Persian architecture, anyway?

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