BUYER: Jeff Probst
SELLER: Estate of Gene Autry
LOCATION: Studio City, CA
SIZE: 7,983 square feet, 5 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms
YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Singing cowboy Gene Autry–a chaps-wearing Tinseltown legend of epic proportions who also owned the California Angels professional baseball team from 1961 until 1997–went to meet The Great Wrangler in the sky in October of 1998 at the ripe old age of 91. His longtime residence in the rustic Fryman Canyon area of Studio City, CA passed on to he second wife Jackie who in turn donated the property to the Autry National Center of the American West (ANCAW). The ANCAW was unable to have the estate re-zones for use as a museum and put the property up for sale until August 2010 when it appeared on the open market with a decidedly optimistic asking price of $6,900,000.
Since Your Mama doesn't really know a iPod from an eyelash we really can't say with any authority whatsoever if the bloated asking price was merely the peeps at ANCAW testing the real estate waters or if someone grossly miscalculated comparable sales listings and arrived at a lofty number that, in the end, simply made no sense. Whatever the case, three months after the Autry estate was first listed for $6,900,000 the asking price was aggressively and dramatically decreased by a one million clams.
The new and lower price attracted at least one potential buyer: Jeff Probst, the 4-time Emmy-winning host and producer of Survivor who, according to property records, snatched up the Autry property for an even-steven $5,000,000 in early April 2011. A few quick flicks of the well-worn beads on Your Mama's bejeweled abacus shows Mister Probst's five million smacker purchase price was a whopping 28% less than the original asking price. Either Mister Probst got a great deal or ANCAW and its Real Estates were–with all due respect–smoking some serious real estate crack when it came to the pricing of the property.
Anyhoo, listing information shows that Mister Autry's immensely private but far from isolated Monterey Colonial-style residence sits on a thickly-wooded 3.68 acre lot that's just a quick trot to Studio City's shopping strip on Ventura Boulevard. The house was custom built for Mister Autry and his first Missus–Ina Autry–in 1948-49. The mixy-matchy Monterey Colonial vernacular was first developed in the mid-19th century in Monterey, CA, as opposed to "Monterrey," as it was spelled in the listing text, which is a large city in Meh-hee-co. A Monterey Colonial crib incorporates various elements of Mexican hacienda style buildings and classic East Coast Colonials that together create a uniquely Californian architectural style. Features specific to and/or typical of a Monterey Colonial include a low-slung tile (or shake) roof, white plaster (or adobe) walls, tall shuttered windows, over-hanging second floor balconies with wood railings and wide porches on the ground floor perfect for settin' in the summer shade reading all the tabs and sucking on gin flavored Popsicles.
The sprawling two-story main house sits at the end of a long gated drive, measures in at a considerable 7,983 square feet and includes 5 bedrooms and 7 poopers, including a master suite with fireplace, dual facilities and–as per the listing–"major closets." A guest house/casita down below the swimming pool provides additional living space for those sorts of high-maintenance guests who tend to tax a host's hospitality or perhaps for a persnickety house gurl such as our Svetlana who would sooner peel the skin right off her body than live up in the same house as Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter. A patio in front of the guest casita has the letters G and A inlaid with brick, a sort of silly thing that we hope Mister Probst will maintain as a tie to the estate's iconic previous owner.
Thankfully, the residence's cowboy motif stops shy of looking like one of those ludicrous too-western, millionaire-goes-to-a-hoe-down themed monstrosities seen in far too many multi-million dollar mansions in places like Aspen, CA. None-the-less there is a thick vein of cowboy that runs through the residence and presents itself to residents and guest just as soon as they swing around into the motor court where a pair of spikey-looking horse and rider statuettes sit menacingly atop brick plinths that flank the front walk.
Inside, along with books–real books that probably actually got read–and chess boards and a big ol' built-in bar that Your Mama wouldn't mind sidling up to, we find paintings of rodeo events–the one over the fireplace in the formal living room is sort of amazing–more bronze sculptures of horses and cowboys, earthenware pottery clusters, Southwestern-y dhurrie rugs, several ornate saddles propped like sentries in various corners and a pair of bull horns mounted over the television in the walnut paneled library/media room. Although the dining room lacks a chandelier, someone who's hand we'd like to shake thought better of mounting a wagon wheel chandelier over the dining room table.
The cowboy look isn't exactly Your Mama's cup of decoratin' tea, but we do freely confess to a partiality towards the Ikat print arm chairs in in the family-room–love love love those buggers–and we're beside ourselves with desire for the even more magnificent and kooky arm chairs in the library/media room upholstered in the most amazing toile-inspired print that depicts horses grazing and frolicking in a meadow. The frilly, pleated skirt around the bottom of the chairs is, quite simply, icing on this deliciously campy decorative cake. Your Mama really has no place to put a pair of lounging apparatuses such as these wonderfully wacky winners but we'd gleefully make room for them should we ever have the opportunity to purchase them at a reasonable price.
The expansive, serene and blessedly under-manicured grounds–something too fussy with the landscaping would just be a cryin' shame–include a vast brick terrace with curvilinear edge off the rear of the house that looks over the terraced back yard, a sizable swimming pool surrounded by more brick terracing, winding paths, flower gardens and an outdoor entertainment center with fireplace.
Your Mama expects that Mister Probst and his team of historically-minded architects and nice gay decorators will tear this place up to make way for a more modern day-core that befits a Hollywood bachelor. Out will go–we hope–the cream wall-to-wall carpeting in the formal living room, the wine-colored carpeting in the library/media room and every bit of the out-dated kitchen that, while commodious with vaulted ceiling, butler's pantry and peg and groove hardwood floors, looks like the sort of kitchen mullet-haired Carol Brady might have coveted back in 1976.
The well-located and semi-rural-feeling Fryman Canyon area of Studio City has long attracted celebs and Industry types including Teri Hatcher, Leah Remini, George Clooney, and actor/director Lea Thompson (Caroline in the City) and her hubby director Howard Deutch (My Best Friend's Girl, Pretty in Pink). Fryman Canyon, where nature-loving Angelenos can hike right in the center of the city seems to popular amongst game show hosts as well. Not only does Mister Probst now called Fryman Canyon home but so do Richard Karn (Family Feud, Bingo America) and Alex Trebek who hosts the extraordinarily long-running Jeopardy!. For what it's worth, in the early naughts Mister Probst appeared on Celebrity Jeopardy! a couple of times.
Your Mama's brief and entirely unscientific research and perusal through property records indicates that Mister Probst has owned a small and secluded home off of Beverly Glen Boulevard in the upper reaches of Bel Air that he acquired in May of 2002 for an unknown purchase price. Prior to that he and his ex-wife Shelley owned a 2,032 square foot crib tucked into a hairy hairpin curve in the still sort of boho Laurel Canyon area of L.A. that they purchased in May of 2000 for $600,000. A few months later with their marriage in the skids Mister Probst deeded the property over to (Ex) Missus Probst who in turn sold the the house in May 2001 for $710,000.
listing photos: Hilton & Hyland