...From an informant we'll call Buhneeda Beansouttathebag that the whispers and murmurs that have been circulating and slipping down the real estate grapevine for many months about decorator du jour Kelly Wearstler and her property developer huzband Brad Korzen wanting to sell their recently rehabbed Beverly Hills house are true.
After Buhneeda gave us the deets we immediately got on the horn to another of our Bev Hills real estate insider pals–this one we'll call Candy Canconfirmit–who quickly corroborated Buhneeda's not entirely unexpected scuttlebutt.
Now children, this is where you should probably do what Your Mama did when we first heard about this: Brace yourself with a stiff gin & tonic and a nerve pill because according to Buhneeda, La Wearstler and Mister Korzen have quietly floated the legendary estate on the market with an asking price of somewhere near–are you ready for this lads and lassies?–fifty million dollars. That's right, 50,000,000 biggins.
It seems to Your Mama's pea brain that there's a bit of a trend developing in the recent listing and "listing" of major estates in Lala Land with fifty million dollar asking prices. In the last week alone we saw the Yorkin estate on Delfern Drive get hoisted up at $49,500,000 and, on the very same damn day, recently widowed rich gal Bren Simon heaved her behemoth Bellagio Road beast onto the market with an asking price of exactly $50,000,000. The fifty million dollar fad (allegedly) continues with La Wearstler and Mister Korzen unofficially goosing their big ol' Bev Hills estate on to the market.
Your Mama can't help but wonder if this spreading rash of fifty million dollar listings (and "listings") has something to do with a kind of reflected real estate optimism due to Dreamworks' Jeffrey Katzenberg recently laying out $35,000,000 for his new spread on Loma Vista Drive, just a few blocks away from La Wearstler and Mister Korzen and around the corner from Jennifer Aniston's recently completed Hal Leavitt overhaul on N. Hillcrest Road. It could be. Or it might be that these people have their heads in the financial clouds and need what MadTVs Tovah McQueen and Velma Buttons would call a real estate reality check.
Whatever the case, the estate of La Wearstler and Mister Korzen has a storied past. The Georgian meets Hollywood Regency style house, completed in 1934, was designed by oft over looked architect James Dolena. There are several versions of who owned the property and when, but the following is the one that seems most plausible. The property was once owned by insanely prolific actor and director Hobart Bosworth. In the early 1930s the property was purchased by mustachioed actor William Powell who, at the time, was married to legendary film actress Carole Lombard. The couple commissioned Mister Dolena to build them a significant house commensurate with the vaunted position they held in the Hollywood lexicon. But alas, as is, has always been and will always be on the romantically fickle streets of Tinseltown, their love quickly faded and the couple decamped to the court of dee-vorce in 1933 before the mansion was completed.
At some point–we don't know exactly when but guesstimate it was in the 1950s–the estate was purchased by Albert "Cubby" Broccoli whose claim to Hollywood fame and fortune was his role as the mastermind behind the James Bond film franchise. Cubby produced 17 James Bond movies including Dr. No, Goldfinger, Your Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, and Octopussy. Cubby also produced a large number of non-James Bond films, a list that includes Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Trials of Oscar Wilde, and the kinda creepy sounding How to Marry a Rich Uncle. The prolific and powerful producer owned the estate for around 40 years until he passed on to meet the big producer in sky in 1996 at the ripe old age of 87. After Cubby's death, according to the folks at the Movieland Directory, the estate was leased for a number of years to actress and architectural fanatic Diane Keaton.
Are y'all keeping with Your Mama?
That brings us up to the mid-2000s when in walks hot hot hot decorator and notorious fashion daredevil Kelly Wearstler and her hotelier/property developer huzband Brad Korzen who were 19 kinds of flush with cheddar from a number of whirlwind years of scorching and seemingly endless success. The mid-2000s were the salad years for design-minded folks like Mister Korzen and La Wearstler. The impressively ambitious pair capitalized on an insatiable market driven by post-mid-century modernist 20- and 30-something year old style mavens armed with pocketfuls of money and who, in response to a decade of mid-century-inspired decorative minimalism, craved a more eclectic lifestyle wrapped in buttery soft leather sofas, golf ball sized cocktail rings, and a lot of 1970s retro-chic chrome things. These were the years that made celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe rich and almost as famous as her clientele who at that time included gossip glossy publicity magnets like toothpick thin Nicole Richie, tabloid train wreck Lindsay Lohan, troubled actress Mischa Barton and hates being famous Keira Knightley.
But we digress. We're not here to speak on Miss Zoe and her wild and wooly fashion ways but the stylist to the star's reference ought to provide the children with some informative background noise that illustrates the time period and social orbit in which La Wearstler and Mister Korzen became so successful they could afford to spend well into 8 figures on the fabled Brocoli estate in Bev Hills.
Mister Korzen, who owns the privately held hotel and property development company The Kor Group, is the man responsible for all the intensely stylized Viceroy hotels located in chic (and "chic") hot spots like Palm Springs, Miami, Santa Monica, Snowmass (CO), and Anguilla. In addition to his hotel ventures, Mister Korzen spearheaded a number of high-profile condo conversions in Los Angeles including the Eastern Columbia in downtown L.A. and The Broadway Hollywood on the famed corner of Sunset and Vine.
La Wearstler, who once bared her boobs as a Playboy playmate of the month, is the ladee decorator responsible for doing up the interiors and lobbies of most if not all of Mister Korzen's projects. Ain't nuthin' like a little mutually symbiotic professional nepotism to ensure the money stays in the family.
Anyhoo, whether y'all love or hate their much ballyhooed and prodigiously publicized projects–and people do seem to either adore or loathe them–La Wearstler and Mister Korzen became–and still are–one of the west coast's most successful power couples in the harsh and often unforgiving worlds of real estate and interior design.
Property records show that La Wearstler and Mister Korzen scooped up the Cubby Brocoli estate in July of 2005 for the not exactly bargain basement price of $25,000,000. Some will scream and shout and snicker and state with self-imbued real estate authority that the dee-ziney duo over-paid for the property by many millions. We don't know about that. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. Remember puppies, although they were not everyday occurrences, $25,000,000 for a potential fabulous fixer weren't exactly unheard of at that time either.
What we do know–well, okay, we don't know, but we imagine–is that after closing on the property these big livin' bizzy beavers spent years and a major mound of money making updates, upgrades, redos, renovations, and restorations to the 3.91 acre property. Add in the property taxes, which the tax man says are in the neighborhood of $300,000 per year, the upkeep and repair costs, insurance, and mortgage servicing–public records show the Wearstler/Korzen couple carry a titanic mortgage on the property–and Your Mama needs another damn nerve pill just to think about thinking about the size of their monthly nut. We don't, of course, have any idea what their actual monthly nut is, but extrapolating from what's freely available in public property records, Your Mama thinks it's safe to say the high hoggers hemorrhage more moo-lah every single month than most of the children make in an entire damn year.
Current property records show the house measures in at a massive but not overly bloated 11,371 square feet and includes 8 bedrooms and 10 poopers. We are pretty sure that the eleven and some thousand square feet does not include the interior of the rather large pool house, but we don't know if bedroom and pooper count is still accurate. It's entirely possible the couple re-purposed a bedroom, combined 2 into 1, added a pooper or all of the above. We just don't know.
La Wearstler and Mister Korzen have had their house photographed for about 49,000 publications and other things including Hue, La Wearstler's newest, high-lariously serious and seriously camp coffee table tome that celebrates her own passion for her own wildly exuberant taste and style. Therefore, it's not hard to find bazillions of photos of the house both online and in bookstores. Your Mama, thanks to Buhneeda Beansouttathebag, came across a considerable online cache–a virtual tour by one of Los Angeles' busiest real estate listing photographers Everett Fenton Gidley–that presents the property in a most magnificently vivid and mesmerizing manner.
As one glides through the pillared gates, ascends the gently curving drive with the chunky and intricately articulated residence sitting high on a knoll to the right, and swoops into the massive motor court there is nearly no indication of the brazen and brassy extravaganza of saturnalia behind the giddily ornate but still dignified facade. The only hint, perhaps, is the inverted shell motif above the glossy black front doors. However, it only takes passing across the traditional threshold to discover that the interior rooms are done over in Kelly Wearstler's special brand of decorative ka-ray-zee.
Much of the manse appears to retain its original architectural detailing, which La Wearstler has used to great effect as a major player in her luridly dramatic, mixy but rarely matchy, and fearlessly excessive day-core that exudes a kind of shameless confidence few people have–bully for her–and many might find off-putting, even egregious to the nth degree.
La Wearstler has did up and worked the house over in her signature style of funkified, 1970s disco-chic super-abundance. She is hardly the first or only big name decorator of note who pushes the edges of decorative abandon–think Jonathan Adler and Miles Redd–but our Kelly...well, our Kelly goes much further and quite simply ignores and obliterates many and most of the rules and regulations adhered to by less courageous interior designers. She is however, arguably, the one who gets the most pages in the glossy shelter magazines whose editors bow and scrape the bottom of her feet with smoke and praise hoping to catch a few shards of her reflected glory in the form of an agreement to feature one of her many projects.
It does not take a decorating historian–which Your Mama is certainly not–to see that Miz Wearstler has mined–some might even say strip-mined–the iconic and idiosyncratic decorative milieu of iconoclast decorators such as David Hicks, Billy Haines and, most notably, the dee-voon Tony Duquette, the man who pretty much trademarked the more is more style of day-core. In fact, Tony Duquette was so famous for his bawdy and baroque designs that a man named Hutton Wilkinson produced a sumptuous book on Miss Duquette titled, More Is More. We'd bet everything we have that La Wearstler's copy of the book is as worn out and dog-earred as a southern preacher's bible.
Your Mama knows at this point we've likely worn out our welcome with the childrens' attentions so we won't trouble y'all with detailed descriptions of every single aspect, corner, delight and nightmare of La Weastler's abode. We will simply hit on a few of the highlights that we can't seem to shake from our inner eye despite an early morning cocktail meant to soothe our awe and flabbergast.
Let's begin where the house begins, at the entrance foyer. La Wearstler sets the stage here in the petite and sky lit ten-sided room where a faboo custom commissioned glass topped hands table by Mexican born Dadaist artist and furniture maker Pedro Friedeberg sits squarely in the center of the star burst patterned and visually arresting but utterly dignified marble floor. We don't hate it–in fact we l.o.v.e. the table– but it's all so so brazenly madcap and such self-consciously bizarre combination with the inlaid marble floor that it makes Your Mama a wee bit woozy and we've barely taken two steps into the house.
Moving deeper into the bowels of La Wearstler's Bev Hills beast we arrive at an essentially circular space where a sensually curving staircase with spiral iron work was paired with walls painted in an abstract tangle of coral squiggles and swoops in what looks to Your Mama like a not particularly subtle homage to pop artist Keith Haring. All that would be far more than most might be able to endure in their own homes but because this is Kelly Wearstler's house we get more more more starting with a couple of mis-matched chairs–one of which looks like an early version of an electric chair–and a whimsical, bulbous bronze statue of a horse. She then goes even further off the decorative deep end with the staircase where in an already intensely challenging room she slathered the treads in an eye crossing and complex pattern of black and white carpeting. To her credit, La Wearstler manages to take some of the rough edge off the searing and wildly incongruous space with the black and white zebra skin rug laid out on the dark stained hardwood floor that provides just enough continuity and similarity with the carpeting on the stairs that the room stops a heensy-teensy bit shy of causing anyone with a weak decorative stomach to pass out from over-stimulation.
The complex abstract patterning on the walls of the stair hall are repeated with a different but no less aggressive wallpaper treatment on the ceiling of the "formal" living room. La Wearstler has set the random, pick-up-sticks like arrangement of black lines against the white background in a tray surrounded by over-sized dentil molding that together give the room a tension that Your Mama can only describe as not entirely unpleasantly schizophrenic. Most decorators would probably stop there even if they had the balls to go there which almost none to. Not La Wearstler, bee-hawtcha is just getting started up in here where she added a 18th-century crystal chandelier, did the herringbone patterned hardwood floors in a shiny but somber gray, lacquered the walls with an even more somber, almost tomb-like gray, and then she recklessly plopped a massive bronze head on a black and white checkerboard chunk of a coffee table. Finally, like icing on an already heavily frosted cake, she installed a couple of organically shaped and tufted sofas covered in rich blue leather that look like something out of the pool house at Robert Evans' John Woolf designed estate in Beverly Hills, circa 1973.
Nowhere in this huge house is La Wearstler's brave decorative shamelessness and unrestrained obsession with over-blown tableau more evident than in the room that is supposed to be the dining room. The dee-lishusly capacious room has multi-paned windows and French doors on opposing walls and in between a surfboard shaped table surrounded by 12 or 14 three-legged chairs. The table is stacked and cluttered with innumerable objet, busts, statues and statuettes, most of which appear to be body parts: heads, hands, feet, and nekkid torsos with a few horns and plant shapes for variety. It's astonishing, really, and perfectly interesting to look at for a few minutes but, have mercy Kelly hunny, you must have to keep a couple of minimum wage gurls on retainer who can clear that damn table iffin you ever want to use it for something so novel as eating dinner. Remember eating dinner, dearie?
In addition to her compulsion to decorate with the implicit intention to overwhelm and her deep seated need to distort perception through mis-matched proportions, the children will note another of La Wearstler's signature trick o' her stock in trade in the dining room. While La Wearstler has the gutsy color sense of The Madwoman of Chaillot and just about every room in her house looks like a fancy auction house exploded, she typically maintains a rigorous and often monochromatic palette that not only creates an optical juxtaposition between the many (things) and the one (color) but also tends to tone down her playfully riotous and wonderfully whackadoodle day-core.
In the pickled oak den/family room that sits next to and is open to the very glossy stainless steel and brass accented kitchen, La Wearstler went for a darker, more cocaine-friendly environment. We're not saying the ladee does lines in this room or anywhere else for that matter. We do not purport to know a single damn thing about her entertainment proclivities or lack thereof. We're saying that should there actually be a flat surface in the room that is not chock-a-block full of tchotchke, this room looks like the sort place one might be expected to snort a few lines of devil's dust. The burnt orange, black and ecru carpet–which has an ethnic, kente cloth sort of thing going on–provides a complicated base on which to place all that black leather, black lacquer and brass that might otherwise get lost in a room that is almost all black and reflective surfaces that, natch reflect all the black back on itself.
The Wearstler/Korzen boo-dwar is a sexy, paneled affair on the second floor where a cone shaped and amber colored chandelier casts a wickedly cool pattern on the surprisingly plain white ceiling and casts a soft glow over the marital bed dressed with some sort of (possibly faux, possibly real) animal pelt. The deep chocolate hardwood floors are partially covered by a silky looking rug that gives a distinct snake skin vibe. A similar rug covers the floor in the suite's window wrapped sun/sitting room where a couple of curvy swervy pale tan colored leather couches with zebra striped throws casually tossed across the backs are having a Mexican standoff with a (possibly onyx, maybe marble) coffee table in between. This show down of identical davenports has an audience comprised of couple of massive but severely gaunt busts that lord over the room's corners and two, gilded bergere chairs upholstered in black leather judge the decorative death match. Because La Wearstler is a lot like the Winchester Mystery House ladee and just does not know–or care–to stop, she's had a very 1970s black and white rainbow pattern put on the few portions of the walls that are not windows. This patten not only plays with the zebra throws and the snake skin-y rug it obviates any need for costly artwork that no one besides the family and domestic staff will ever see or be suitably impressed by.
We read with relief in a recent article in Vogue magazine written by the extraordinary Hamish Bowles that La Wearstler and Mister Korzen opted to preserve what he called "the elegant Art Moderne bathrooms with their spindly pilasters and exotic marbles, and the dainty Directoire and Carolean paneling that Dolena installed." Your Mama has no idea what "Directoire" or "Carolean" paneling is, but we're thrilled they chose to keep these things as well as all the dizzying and visually combative marble because the bathrooms–while definitely not a place we'd feel very comfortable doing our dirty bizness nor rooms in which a naked body would look anything but freaky–are examples of exquisite little jewel boxes that perfectly depict how a good thing (the unusually veined and colored marble) can become deranged in the most wonderful and brilliant manner in the deft hands of an architect like James Dolena.
The lavishly landscaped and meticulously maintained grounds include boxwood gardens, rolling lawns, a myriad of terraces, fountains, massive, mature and well-laced trees, a few out buildings of unknown uses, a well groomed and lighted tennis court, and a lavishly long, rectangular swimming pool with a protruding half circle of shallow water, and an adjacent pool house that looks to Your Mama like it's larger than the average American home. But let's be honest chickens, do we really think that La Wearstler actually sweats or gets wet? What happens to a vintage Balmain bikini when it gets dunked in chlorinated or salted water? Nothing, because you don't wear a vintage Balmain bikini into the swimming pool.
Listen chickens, we know this house is about as far from a Calabasas tract mansion as it gets and the demanding day-core could very easily swallow up a person without the towering gumption and deep inner-strength of a person like La Wearstler. However, before you go pointing the ugly stick at the house, Your Mama asks that you have a good, long and hard look at it. We're not saying we'd want to live in a menagerie of mostly useless things and lord knows we wouldn't and couldn't come within 3 feet of those upsetting five-legged goose chairs in the library/office/whatever room with the arching bay window. However, we can appreciate and, yes, we respect its unapologetically garish audacity and we have no trouble finding a number of very appealing and interesting decorative moments throughout the house and even some real pearls here and there. Only time will tell if La Wearstler's knee deep in decorative debauchery style of day-core will endure and say what y'all will–and y'all will say–but people, look at the chandeliers. If nothing else, look at the chandeliers. Gurl knows a good damn chandelier when she sees one.
And, of course, do keep in mind that unless a buyer negotiates for it, La Wearstler's demonically profligate day-core will all be removed at the time of a sale, which will leave a perfectly elegant if not quite so quirky house that the new owner can do up in his or her own version of fifty million dollar mansion that will not likely have the joi de vivre and in your face personality of La Wearstler's day-core. It's like art, kids. You're not meant to like everything but if it gets your attention and gets you talking and makes you feel something–desire, revulsion, envy, hatred, anything–then it's done at least part of its job.
Now children, if any of you have reached this point, Your Mama wants to remind y'all that the alleged off-market listing of La Wearstler and Mister Korzen's Bev Hills estate is still, at this point, just rumor and gossip. Rumor and gossip that has landed in Your Mama's laps from two well-connected sources, but rumor and gossip none the less. Even more of a mystery, of course, is the actual asking price. We heard $50,000,000–and in our gut we do think it's fifty million–but that does not mean it is fifty million. We won't know that until we hear from La Wearstler on the matter and coax the actual number–and a private tour–out of her.
listing images (from February 2010): Everett Fenton Gidley for Westside Estate Agency