Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gore Vidal Lists Hollywood Hills Hideaway

SELLER: Gore Vidal
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $3,495,000
SIZE: 4,782 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: While poking around the internets in an unsuccessful attempt to locate an online listing for a property that recently popped up for sale in Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter's 'hood, we ran across a little celebrity real estate surprise in the form of Gore Vidal's house in the Hollywood Hills recently listed with an asking price of $3,495,000.

The octogenarian essayist, activist, playwright, novelist and all around rabble rouser is a member of an an illustrious American family. His mother Nina's second huzband was Hugh Auchincloss, the step-father of Jackie-O. He's a fifth cousin to Jimmy Carter and is said to be distantly related to former vice-president and global warming do-gooder Al Gore.

In 1948 Mister Vidal's novel The City and The Pillar worked the nerves mainstream society due to its frank portrayal of homosexuals. In 1968 he published the racy Myra Breckinridge, which in 1970 was reworked into a cinematic flop about a sexpot tranny played by Raquel Welch. Along with his wonderfully smutty books Mister Vidal published a number of less controversial historical novels including Lincoln and Hollywood.

While working as a political commentator covering the 1968 Republican and Democratic national presidential conventions the lefty-liberal Mister Vidal had a heated, fascinating and televised exchange with conservative intellectual William F. Buckley. Vidal called Buckley a "pro-crypto-Nazi" and Buckley called Vidal a "queer." Their famous feud continued long after their on air-smack down. Buckley called Vidal "an evangelist for bisexuality" and Vidal called Buckley "anti-semitic." Buckley sued Vidal (for libel) and Vidal counter-sued (also for libel). It's sort of like what Your Mama images might happen if right-wing harridan Ann Coulter and left-side blowhard Bill Maher got put into a locked and over-heated room with just one tiny glass of water and told to come to a consensus on illegal immigration and "Obamacare."

Anyhoo, property records indicate that Mister Vidal bought his house in the Outpost Estates neighborhood of the Hollywood Hills in March of 1977 for an unbelievable $149,500. Imagine, children, the days of real estate yore when a person could buy a vintage Mediterranean mini-mansion in Los Angeles for well under two hundred grand. It boggles and bedevils the brain.

Mister Vidal's spread spans nearly half an acre an includes a 4,782 square foot Mediterranean built in 1929. Listing information shows the main house has 4 bedrooms and 4 poopers and a guest house offers another bedroom with private terliting facilities.

Mister Vidal's eclectic and haphazard day-core that positively reeks of an educated and intellectual homosexual of a certain age manifests itself immediately in the foyer where rustic carved wood beams on the ceiling create a palpable tension with a florid (and kinda fab) and gilded Rococo console.

The formal living room has distressed wide-plank wood floors, a massive carved stone fireplace and a couple of huge paintings mounted on the ceiling like it was the Sistine damn Chapel. The formal dining room has a vaulted ceiling and wide-plank wood floors. An adjacent nook with groin vault ceiling is done up in a vaguely Chinoiserie style with antique trunk and red and gold brocade banquette, velvet balloon shades and some sort of wall carving that looks to Your Mama like something Thailand-ish.

Other interior spaces include a library, bookshelf lined office, music room, and a meditation room while exterior amenities of the gated property include extensive parking, secluded gardens, large tile terraces and a tree-shaded rectangular-shaped swimming pool tucked up into the hillside behind the house.

For many years Mister Vidal and his long-time man-friend Howard Austen lived on a 6-acre cliff-top estate called La Rondinaia (Swallow's Nest), a spectacular 5,000 square foot villa in Ravello, Italy that he bought in 1972. Rich and famous folks flocked to the Ravello residence where Mister Vidal entertained the likes of Lauren Bacall, Tennessee Williams, Princess Margaret, Brad Pitt and Greta Garbo. A New York Times article from 2004 stated that the house has "six bedrooms, two studies and five fireplaces." There is also a swimming pool, pool house and sauna. The house was featured in the quirky 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Bill Murray.

Mister Vidal sold the dramatically sited digs in 2006 for a reported $17,870,000. The property was sold to a European hotelier who planned to open the residence as an intimate 7-room boo-teek hotel that can also be rented in its entirety for use as a single house.

Mister Vidal's nearby neighbors in the Outpost Estates include Charlize Theron, Desperate Housewives' Felicity Huffman, Matthew Perry, Kyle MacLachlan, Ben Stiller, and, until recently, Orlando Bloom who recently put his black house in the Outpost Estates up for lease at $18,000 per month.

listing photos: Coldwell Banker Previews International


Anonymous said...

Oh dear. My first reaction was "Gore Vidal! Is he still alive?"

Mamma is no doubt too young to remember this but Mr. Vidal had this house decorated by Diana Phipps and it was featured in her 1983 book 'Affordable Splendor'. It looks – as best I can remember – that some of her doings remain in place. I seem to remember those banquettes. I believe Ms Phipps was much into banquettes.

If one wishes to google 'Diana Phipps Sternberg' one can read about her later adventures in reclaiming her family's ancestral castle in the Czech Republic which is a pretty interesting story by itself.

StPaulSnowman said...

Stellar post Mama! I am now suspicious that you have a cadre of research assistants toiling away at jewelless Dell computers in your Jame Gummesque basement. One person, no matter how talented or industrious, could keep churning out such scholarly endeavors. I was happy to learn that I am not the only one who thinks that Bill Maher is a blowhard.

Anonymous said...

I can't agree with the Buckley/Gore and Coulter/Maher analogy since Buckley was, albeit rightwingish, bright and quite sensible while Coulter is simply not. As for the house, I find it a bit too knick-knackish for my taste, but I do simply adore a house with a library filled with books that the owner obviously reads. How rare that must be in Hollyweird. One also must applaud Vidal's sour honesty about what has happened to the USA. He sees things clearly in spite of his age.

Anonymous said...

PS: You couldn't refute anybody these days by calling them a "queer" as Buckley did, so I would say Gore has won that contest, hands down. Vidal has stood the test of time; Buckley has not.

The Devoted Classicist said...

The Gore Vidal residence is exactly what I would hope for when imagining a house in the Hollywood Hills.

Anonymous said...

Well, I always thought that Buckley was as "queer" as Vidal, a real closet case, but yes I am aware of the theory of the effeminate/affected heterosexual.
He did manage to produce one child and stay married to Pat, who was a real piece of work, best described by the needlepoint cushion inscribed with "If you have anything nice to say, then don't come sit here next to me."
Btw, after the Buckleys died, their son listed their maisonette at 778 Park (same building as the Brooke Astor ph, which I believe still lingers on the market) at an ambitious price just as the financial meltdown
was happening. Nothing happened, hence ultimately de-listed. Re-listed more recently at a much reduced price, and apparently sold to the son of Happy and Nelson Rockefeller and wife.

lil' gay boy said...

Now this is what I call "Absolutely Fabulous!" Oodles of medieval art to keep the hubby happy, with just a soupçon of Asian & Mideastern art for moi. Throw in a lush lot with a hillside pool & I'm already shaking the piggy bank & checking the couch cushions.

Ann Coulter? The only reason I get down on my knees at night (to pray, you filthy beasts) and ask God to make retroactive abortion, or at least compulsory ECT mandatory for a select few...

"...but I do simply adore a house with a library filled with books that the owner obviously reads."

Or has written himself, for that matter; well said, Anon 8:08

shame on you! Surely you must know our Mama is a Mac user, and would not allow one of those jewel-less Dells within the confines of her manse.

They simply don't make them like Vidal anymore; who else would have the chutzpah to have a full-size blackamoor in the foyer, or a life-size cutout of Lincoln in his office? Wonderfully, quirkily over-the-top. Too bad the listing doesn't indicate if the furnishings are available separately... Like the icon himself, jauntily parked at the dining table.


I remember him doing political commentary on BBC during the last presidential campaign; tanked to the gills on what seemed to be a handful of Oxy washed down liberally (pun intended) with Scotch, it was the only time in my life where I witnessed erudite slurring...

Carla Ridge said...

This thread of comments is among the worthiest I've ever seen here, and entirely befits the subject (both the Author AND the Architecture). For me to add anything, I fear, would be like Snooki sounding off at the Algonquin Round Table. But I WILL slip into a dry martini, all the same.

CHEERS, all round!

Anonymous said...

We rented this house in the late 80's for Ken Russell, who was in town to direct a Vestron pic. Unfortunately, the film was never made and the company is no more.

I do remember laughing at the parade of celebrities coming through the house to audition, with Ken yelling "can't ANYONE act?" as each one left.

Great house, good times.

StPaulSnowman said...

LGB, you have a point. Mama is so Mac-whipped that after a night of gin and tonic, she probably uses astringent Ipads.

Aunt Gina said...

according to a 2008 interview: "Vidal moved here, to this mansion in the Hollywood Hills, in 2003, because of its proximity to the Cedars-Sinai hospital. Howard Austen, his companion of 53 years, died of cancer in the same year. The two men had spent the previous 25 years in Ravello, near Naples, at Vidal's spectacular villa, La Rondinaia (The Swallow's Nest.)

interview is here:

beautiful home.
kudos Mama.

Anonymous said...

Maybe some big news!
Just checked Streeteasy to see what was going on at 778 Park Ave. and they are reporting the Brooke Astor apartment, after much time and more drama, is in fact in contract. However, when one clicks through to the actual listing at Stribling that isn't noted. Maybe Mama can make some phone calls and get to the bottom of this. . .
Apparently, a lot of work will have to be done in there, but I do hope that they have the good sense to restore the famous red lacquered library that was designed by Albert Hadley, who did the other rooms as well.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, a lot of work will have to be done in there...

Well, at least, remove the urine-stained lounge on which she reclined being fed her peas and porridge until wafted away to Holly Hill.

Anonymous said...

Stribling listing now says 'contract signed'.

Anonymous said...

love everything about it since it looks so lived in and not decorated to try to impress.

Anonymous said...

Do famous literary aesthetes have bedbugs? Do they check the pool water? Do they shop at Costco? Do they own a Swiffer? Do they buy Hefty bags and have them break when taking out the garbage? Do they stress out like the average housewife, mired in useless and mundane domestic chores, while in the middle of a writing a brilliant political diatribe or agonizing over the elegant construction of a sentence?

Jeannified said...

Beautiful home! I feel like Carla, I feel like Snooki! ;-)