Tuesday, September 9, 2008

PickFair Hits the Market at a High Price

SELLER: Corry Hong
LOCATION: Summit Drive, Beverly Hills, CA
PRICE: $60,000,000
SIZE: 25,243 square feet, 17 bedrooms, 30 bathrooms
DESCRIPTION: An opportunity to own an important piece of real estate in the history of Beverly Hills, and the most famous home in America of the 1920s. The legendary estate, known worldwide as PickFair was once the home of Mary Pickford & Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., The Wallace Neff Georgian manor design now awaits your restoration to a 21st century masterpiece.

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Well children, it looks like yet another exuberantly pricey property has hit the market in Los Angeles' Platinum Triangle. The historically significant estate known as PickFair, currently owned by Korean-born bizness man Corry Hong, has just popped up on the MLS with a sensational $60,000,000 asking price that is just begging and pleading for the attention of all the real estate gossips.

Your Mama, noted snark and cynic smells a publicity rat. However, before we get to the deets of Mister Hong's hugh-mon-gus house, let's see if Your Mama can manage to swing through the history of the fabled property without putting the children to sleep. Okay then, hold on to your seat belts my puppies, because brevity is, unfortunately, not one of our alleged talents.

Back in the 1920s, silent film super star Mary Pickford and her dee-voonly mustachioed huzband Douglas Fairbanks forked over a reported $35,000 for this hilltop property on swanky Summit Drive the Hills of Beverly. The newly acquired Pickford/Fairbanks property spread over (approx.) 15 acres of what was then, of course, just a Beverly Hills backwood and included only a small hunting cabin.

Mister and Missus Fairbanks, perhaps the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of their time, spent a small fortune transforming the cabin into a magnificent mansion with (approx.) 22 rooms, a copper roof and scads of green gables. The couple dubbed their impressive new crib PickFair and famously entertained a long list of the Hollywood who's who as well as any number of international society folks and royal types. In the early 1930s, legendary architect Wallace Neff designed two new wings which brought the room count to around 42, including 8 staff rooms. The couple reportedly occupied opposite wings of the manse until 1936 when they had a dee-vorce. Miss Pickford remained at PickFair with her new huzband Buddy Rogers where she ran a white glove household and later came to live like a virtual recluse famously "visiting" with her big name guests by telephone...she upstairs in her bedroom, they downstairs.

After Miss Pickford died in the house in 1979, the property was sold in 1980 to Los Angeles Laker's owner Jerry Buss for $5,362,500. Mister Buss made some updates and restorations but decided not to stay long and sold the house in 1988 to Israeli multi-millionaire biznessman Meshulam Riklis and his wifey, the campy sex kitten pseudo-ack-tress Pia Zadora. The couple paid a reported $6,675,000 for the estate that now measured just 2.7 acres. In the course of making renovations and adding such celebrity necessities as a massage room and a beauty parlor, the splashy pair discovered the guts of the big house were riddled and ruined with termites.

So they tore PickFair down. Yes, they did. Some say the couple committed an architectural crime of the highest magnitude by destroying a prime piece of Hollywood history while others agree that the house was simply beyond repair and razing the residence was their only real option. Whatever the case, high-toned architect Peter Marino was hired to design the new house. If anyone were to ask Your Mama, which of course no one did, Pia's new and not necessarily improved PickFair came out looking like a heavily dee-tailed and over wrought faux Georgian/Venetian/Italianate architectural hot mess. But then again, what do we know?

Anyhoo, as so few do in tawdry world of Tinseltown, the Zadora/Riklis marriage didn't last. Miss Pia remained at her precious faux-PickFair until sometime in late 2005 or early 2006 when she sold the high maintenance monster manse to Korean-born biznessman Corry Hong for $17,650,000, which is a lot of damn money, but a far cry from than the $39,500,000 she originally asked for her little slice of Bev Hills real estate history.

According to property records and listing information, the hotel sized house now measures 25,243 square feet and while the main house has only 4 principal bedrooms the total number of bedrooms comes to 17, a number which we presume includes those in guest and staff quarters. All those many sleeping chambers are, natch, complemented by a shocking and upsetting number of bathrooms...thirty according to listing information. Yes children, thirty! Your Mama just hopes the terlit gurls get worker's compensation as part of their pay package, because you know those poor bee-hawtchas are going to wind up with some serious Carpal Tunnel from all that swirling and scrubbing every damn day of their life.

In addition to the many vast and ornately detailed public rooms–many of which can be seen here–interior amenities include a den, library/study, office, lanai, a home gym (people this rich do not go to Crunch), a private projection room for 12 or more, an indoor spa with a glass dome ceiling, a wine cellar and a disco, because every private home needs a damn disco. Other multi-millionaire necessities include gated drive ways, all manner of security, subterranean parking for 18 fancy automobiles, at least 4 fireplaces and an elevator. Your Mama wonders if Mister Hong left Miss Pia's beauty parlor in place so that he and his family would not have to bear the indignity of being seen in the waiting area of Beverly Hills hair guru Federic Fekkai.

The grounds include plenty of large and flat lawn areas perfect for gin fueled games of late night Bocci, several play structures for the kiddies, the original and gigantic swimming pool with cabana, terraced gardens and several fountains and outdoor sculptures which according to the listing can be negotiated as part of the sale price.

Your Mama remembers hearing or reading somewhere in the depths of our gin soaked mind that at the time of the renovation/re-build Miss Pia demanded the exquisite free-form swimming pool be surrounded in black granite...a costly and feet searing mistake that had to be corrected as soon as it was completed. Does anyone else remember that bit of real estate rumor and gossip or did we just make it up?

Now then, let's whip out or trusty bejeweled abacus and run some numbers. In late 2005 or early 2006, Mister Hong paid $17,650,000 for the estate that now passes for PickFair. Given that the property listing states that the property "awaits your restoration to a 21st century masterpiece," we gather that the house is a long way from perfection and may require the new owner take on renovation projects that could include the massive expense and high-drama of renovating 30 bathrooms.

So then, with all due respect to those who determine these things, just where does this $60,000,000 asking price come from? Has this property really more than tripled in value in just two or three short years?

Could Mister Hong and his advisers be hoping and praying that with the Widow Spelling's rumored to be $125,000,000 asking price for her 56,000 square foot Holmby Hills behemoth, that this fixer upper will not only look cozy at half the size but also a bargain at less than half the price? Could be. Who knows? What is clear is that Mister Hong and his fat asking price will get heaps and loads of attention from all the real estate gossips around the world...or at least we'd bet our long bodied bitches Linda and Beverly he will.

As far as we know, Miss Pia remains in the 7 bedroom and 9 bathroom Pacific Palisades mansion she purchased on San Remo Drive in 2005 for $8,300,000.

23 comments:

Joey said...

wow! i can remember seeing this listing online a while ago (a few years)

pch said...

Unless the tennis court beneath the swimming pool were now part of another property, I think Pickfair recently suffered yet another subdivision. If so, it means this buyer will get less land/amenities than the last.

The original house, even with Neff's remodel, wasn't a stellar architectural specimen. (He wanted to pull it down and start over.) But it had huge historical value and should have been restored and/or expanded in a sympathetic way. Not obliterated, save for the general footprint, which apes that of the original. (This shot is pre-Neff.)

Interesting that they're marketing it, sort of, as a restoration opportunity for a "Wallace Neff Georgian manor."

E.J. said...

When Riklis bought the house it was basically in total disrepair. I'd been in it before they purchased it and can tell you it was a mess. The walls surrounding the estate were falling apart, the grounds were a mess, and the house itself was a wreck. Apparently they inherited a huge termite problem too, which led to the ultimate decision to raze the house. Given the apparent design preferences of the Riklis couple they probably would have ended up with this behemoth anyway. The only part of the original estate the remained and still stands is what was an original guest house around the corner that Buddy Rogers lived in for years. And even that was redone in the 1960s.

E.J. said...

Oh yeah, the only thing remaining from the original estate other than the guest house were some cherub ornaments on top of the gates. Those are still there I'm pretty sure.

E.J. said...

Oh yeah, the only thing remaining from the original estate other than the guest house were some cherub ornaments on top of the gates. Those are still there I'm pretty sure.

StPaulSnowman said...

Another high-priced charmless industrial complex with the soul of a Ramada. Absolutely no "sense of place"........which is probably why no one stays very long. The local preservationists should raze this one. On the positive side, the winters are probably very comfortable there.

Anonymous said...

Unbeknownst to me, Denver Nuggets guard Allen Iverson has been looking to sell his 14,000 square foot home in Villanova, Pennsylvania for over a year now. (A.I. usually calls me about such matters. I thought I had his financial ear.)

According to the Wall Street Journal's Private Properties column, Iverson has dropped the price to a "desperation deal" of $3.999 million — a million less than he paid for it in 2003. (/crunches numbers on calculator watch.) Yep. That's not good business. The details, via Luxist:

Anonymous said...

In it's golden years, Pickfair was what the Playboy Mansion is today.
Party Central........

30 bathrooms=full-time plumber on staff.......

Way over-priced....

Alessandra said...

I'm not one to cry "over-priced", but this? Is too much damn money.

And they should NOT be marketing it as a Wallace Neff restoration if everything Neff got bulldozed twenty years ago. That's rich, as my mother would say.

Hippie Canyon said...

Like, EJ, I was also in the house before Pia and her arms dealing husband went crazy, 90210 style. And I was also allowed through part of the house shortly after it was "rebuilt." The only remaining room was the entrance hall with a very modest circular stair case. Everything else was, sadly, very new. Very posh but ostensibly lacking in the wonderful history of the original home. I remember meeting one of the workers in the maintenance room for a little, shall we say tete a tete, amazed at how big it was. No, not Jimmy. I mean the maintenance room! It was about the size of a three car garage. Anyway, another ridiculous digression aside - the new home was and is spectular, that is if you like spectacles. But I'm not sure if I would call it a "fixer" per se. Now, about the price... If young Hollywood types are buying 1960s crap off the strip for $8M, and they are (!), then yes, this estate is worth $60M. Not that I would pay $60M for it, even if I had it.

lil' gay boy said...

Rumor has it that when the structural problems were found, several parties interested in preserving the Neff interiors from the 1935 remodel approached Riklis & Zadora to propose dismantling them for posterity, with an eye to later re-assembly.

But as I recall, the ink was barely dry on the permits before R & Z brought in the demo crew in the wee hours of the morning; by day's end, it was gone, stunning the residents and many fans.

Now it resembles, on a lesser scale, that vulgar East Coast monstrosity, Fair Field, the Ira Rennert Estate in Sagaponack.

Tracy said...

Thanks for the history lesson Mama, I had no idea that this PickFair is not the mansion that Pickford and Fairbanks built. And that Fair Field estate reminds me of the unappealing Blenheim Palace without its beautiful landscaping.

Chris said...

For this kind of money wouldn't any sensible person prefer some 1000 acre estate in the green gorgeous English countryside? Without "neighbors" right next to you?

Anonymous said...

don't forget the sightseeing buses that drive right by there (and they still do)

suzy creamcheese said...

Per the listing agent's bio: "I will implement a cutting edge strategy ... via a specialized tailored marketing and advertising campaign...I treat all of my listings as if I were selling my own home"

Yah. Sure. Fine. But may we please back up to the Wallace Neff attribution? You forgot to mention his work was torn down.

Anonymous said...

So very sad they demolished without preserving what they could esp. as they had been approached too. I am glad I have my pictures of the original (although no interiors) with the Mr & Mrs insitue!
But what a crying shame.
HEATHENS!

Sandpiper said...

Hi PCH,

I found what I think is a post-Neff shot of the property with the wings, before the entire structure was torn down. Found some lot info, too. If I'm right (and/or the info is good), this property is a half-acre less than the last time it sold (2.2 acres vs. 2.7). Records show it as a new build in 1991. Neff passed away in (?) 1989.

Stretching the truth is an understatement. The agent is being very careless to say it's a Neff. Too bad.

Sandpiper said...

Correction - Wallace Neff d. 1982.

Anonymous said...

I have recently been in this house. All I can say is GAUDY!!

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that part of the Neff designed north wing remained after the demolition, along with some other part of a room--perhaps the entrance hall mentioned earlier? If that is true then the agent isn't entirely making it up, but is certainly stretching the truth by wording the listing in a way that makes people think the house is an old Neff, and therefore in need of a 21st century renovation. Cheeky.

Anonymous said...

10:29, I read that too. Then read that the only thing still standing from original estate is the main gate.

Cheeky in deed.

Anonymous said...

It still makes me furious when I think what that talentless, classless C*#T did to the history of Hollywood royalty. Termites or not, you don't rip down a home like PickFair.

darlen said...

I can't believe anyone anywhere calls this Pickfair. It's not. Pickfair is gone. I worked there in the early 70's as Miss Pickford's nurses aid; worked with Tony and Miss Helms. Still daydream about the layout of it. I am so sorry to learn that it is gone. If it was about termites, I guess I understand. But...damn, to put it mildly.