Friday, November 20, 2009

Michael Kilroy's Great Palm Springs Sell Off

Listen children, we know we are tardy for the party today but now that we are here, buckle your seat belts because Your Mama is really gonna give it to y'all today with a triple whammy of architecturally significant properties in Palm Springs, CA. Grab yerselves a snack, pour a tall glass of whatever fortifying liquid it is that gets you through the day and let's get on out to Palm Springs, the scenic and hot, hot, hot promised land of gays, greys and grey gays.

Some people collect stamps, art, or maybe kooky salt and pepper shakers. Others, like our concupiscent confrere Fiona Trambeau, collect notches on their bedposts. And still others, those with deep pockets and enviable credit lines, collect architecturally significant houses. One of those property collecting people is California-based bizness man Michael J. Kilroy who has amassed an undeniably impressive collection of iconic properties in Southern California. Please note that Your Mama does not have any idea how Mister Kilroy made his moo-lah, so don't bother asking. What we do know is that Mister Kilroy's father is an aeronautical engineer from Palos Verdes, CA whose name appears on a multitude of patents for toys manufactured by Mattel, which may or may not explain a few things about the younger Mister Kilroy's finances.

Anyhoo, property records show that Mister Kilroy, a forty something year old trophy property pack rat if there ever was one, owns a good number of prime properties including an ocean front doo-plex on The Strand in Hermosa Beach, CA designed by legendary architect Richard Neutra in 1938 as well as a magnificent Hollywood Regency style compound on N. Flores Street in West Hollywood, CA that was created and owned by Oscar winning actress Loretta Young who, it might please some of y'all to know, leased part of the property to hunky Hollywood homo Rock Hudson back in the day.

But it's not Mister Kilroy's West Hollywood or Hermosa Beach properties Your Mama wants to dish and discuss today, it's his Palm Springs properties. In addition to the former Jack Benny estate on W. Vista Chino that prop records show the architectural connoisseur scooped up in March of 2001 for $1,775,000, the prolific property collector owns a trio of notable residences on swank Southridge Drive, all three of which he recently hoisted on to the market for a quite substantial combined total of $20,250,000.

SELLER: Michael Kilroy
LOCATION: Southridge Drive, Palm Springs, CA
PRICE: $13,890,000
SIZE: 8,901 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms
DESCRIPTION: Literally one of THE most architecturally significant homes in all the wold. Known as The Elrod House, this John Lautner-designed home was commissioned by designer Arthur Elrod in 1968 and has been featured in numerous books, magazines and museum exhibitions. It is the iconic home perched at the very tip of the Southridge enclave, easily viewable throughout Palm Springs. Organic shapes, monumental construction and world class design create and extraordinary experience of space that Lautner himself described as "timeless" architecture.

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: By far the most expensive of the three Southridge Drive domiciles that Mister Kilroy heaved on to the market a few days ago, listed with an eye-popping asking price of $13,890,000, is the monumental Elrod House designed in 1968 by superstar architect John Lautner for interior designer Arthur Elrod. Iffin any of the children do not know who John Lautner is, we suggest you get in your hoopdies and head on down to your local library or bookstore and start reading up on the iconoclast who not only pushed the boundaries of residential architecture way out of its comfort zone, but re-imagined the very notion of how private residences should look, function and feel.

Property records show that Mister Kilroy purchased the wonderfully weird and wacky and Elrod House on gated Southridge Drive from supermarket mogul Ron Burkle in November of 2003 for $5,500,000. As best as Your Mama can surmise from peep and a poke around the property records, when Mister Kilroy purchased the property from Mister Burkle it encompassed 5 lots totaling 22.25 acres. However, listing information indicates the 8,901 square foot architectural rara avis is being offered with just two lots that total 6.5 acres. We don't know why that discrepancy. Although The Elrod House was originally built with only 2 bedrooms, a large Lautner-designed extension containing a guest house and staff quarters was added in 1970 or 71 which increased the bedrooms to 5 and pushed the pooper count to 5.5.

The front door of the sleek, sexy and powerfully organic Elrod House, featured in the 1971 James Bond flick Diamonds Are Forever and–as y'all might imagine–used for a number of Playboy shoots of boobie baring babes, is approached along a curving path of bewitching, herringbone patterned black slate that continues right into the voluminous and intoxicating main space of the residence. The Elrod House is perhaps best known and most easily recognized by its epic, dome-like concrete roof, perforated by nine angled, triangular sections fitted with skylights that allow indirect light to seep into the soaring and circular two level living room area which has an astonishing 60-foot diameter. Two 25-foot wide glass curtains on the lower level of the living room slide open at the touch of a button obliterating any difference between indoors and outdoors and transforming the living room into the most decadent and dee-voon covered porch on which Your Mama has ever had the pleasure to focus our blurry eyeballs. Mister Kilroy has smartly and sparsely furnished the space with several sofas that follow the gentle curve of the architecture and lay low enough so as not to interfere with the glittery view of Palm Springs below and craggy Mount San Jacinto in the distance.

The long and narrow galley style kitchen is separated from the main living space by a long, curving wall and appears to have a number of yellow, flower-like Dale Chihuly glass sculptures affixed to the wall near the ceiling. Listen babies, Your Mama is definitely not a Chihuly hater. In fact, we often enjoy the obvious spectacle of his Medusa like glass chandeliers and sculptures. However, it gets Your Mama's blood up to think of one of those yellow glass flowers detaching itself from the wall while we're fixing the Dr. Cooter a bowl of ice cream and going all Edward Scissorhands on our face.

The massive master bedroom is defined and even dominated by by a monstrous boulder with custom fitted, seamless glass that follows the contours of the top of the boulder and allows the scorching light of the harsh desert sun to be gently filtered into the space. According to a recent article in Palm Springs Life–which has some a-may-zing photographs of the property, in addition to seating, sleeping and dressing areas, the master bedroom includes a bar and refrigerator hidden behind walls of meticulously matched exotic woods, numerous closets lined with cork and a bazillion pull out Lucite drawers, and a luxuriously appointed pooper with a gigantic sunken, T-shaped bathtub that sits in front of a wall of glass but is protected from view by a stand of bamboo and another big ol' boulder.

The free-form shaped, infinity edged swimming pool sits off the lower level of the living room space. When the gigantic glass curtain walls are opened up, the pool is outside and when the windows are closed, part of the pool is indoors. What Your Mama has always wondered about this type of indoor/outdoor pool situation is can someone just swim under the wall and into the house? That would scare the bejeezis right out of us to know that we could be sitting in the living room enjoying the soothing effects of a nerve pill mixed with a gin and tonic only to have a Speedo or wetsuit wearing intruder rise up out the indoor part of the swimming pool like the damn Loch Ness Monster and ruin our substance induced bliss.

The guest house and staff quarters are accessed via a spiral staircase from the pool deck that leads down to a concrete and glass lined space that looks to Your Mama like to most glammy bunker or bomb shelter we've ever seen. Although we would not recommend anyone follow suit, Mister Kilroy has used at least part of this section of the house to house his gym equipment. Surely there is a better location on the property for all these torture machines, like the garage. The lower level has a herringbone patterned floor similar to that in much of the house, a fireplace and yet another curving wall of floor to ceiling glass, Lo-ward children, just imagine the monthly budget for window cleaner in this house. Mister Kilroy must have a full time minimum wage gurl who does nuthin' but wipe the damn windows all day long.

While there certainly would seem no shortage of architecturally minded individuals who would happily pee their pants in public in order to own this house, it'll be interesting to see what prospective buyers might be willing to pay. Remember chickens, not only has the eternally young Suzanne Somers had to hack the asking price of her Palm Springs hideaway from $35,000,000 to a significantly lower $12,900,000, The Kaufmann House, another legendary and architecturally significant residence in Palm Springs, failed to bring in anywhere near as much as the $25,000,000 that was hoped for when it was put up for auction in the spring of 2008. Although a $19,000,000 contract was drawn up, the buyers backed out and the near mythic modern manse was later put on the open market for just $12,900,000. The pristine property is currently still for sale with an undisclosed asking price.

Your Mama's point is that there just don't seem to be that many buyers in the $10,000,000+ range who want to own high maintenance properties in Palm Springs regardless of their impressive provenances which means that real estate lightening is going to need to strike for Mister Kilroy to sell The Elrod House for more than ten million clams in an economy and property market that is, at best, still limping.

LOCATION: Southridge Drive, Palm Springs, CA
PRICE: $3,470,000
SIZE: 4,493 square feet, 4 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms
DESCRIPTION: Previously owned by the famous actor, Steve McQueen, this home is a mid-century time-capsule of Palm Springs' past. Located high on the ridge above Palm Springs in the prestigious Southridge community, it has the seclusion, glamour, history and mystic of the 60s and 70s Hollywood elite. A double door front entrance with brass lion head doorknobs soars two stories. Inside, the split-level terrazzo foyer is adorned with hand carved, braided wooden and metal railings. The living room is a steel I-beam and glass Modernist box projected into the magnificent city and mountain views and is surrounded by a cantilevered wrap-around balcony with sliding glass door entries to the pool & private yard....

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Sometime in 2005, the property immediately next door to Mister Michael Kilroy's beloved Elrod House became available for purchase and records reveal that in October of 2005 he forked over $2,500,000 for the glassy mid-century modern house. It's unclear what, if anything, has been done to the property since it was purchased by Mister Kilroy, but Your Mama hopes that at least some improvements were made because it has hit the market with a substantially higher asking price of $3,470,000.

The property, perched atop a ridge overlooking Palm Springs on gated Southridge Drive, was once owned by Steve McQueen, the studly actor sometimes referred to as 'The King of Cool.' Mister McQueen, himself a devastatingly handsome specimen of masculinity, often played almost stereotypically manly parts in films like The Sand Pebbles, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, as well as The Magnificent Seven, The Thomas Crown Affair–the original one, not that silly remake with squinty eyed Pierce Brosnan, Papillon, and The Towering Inferno.

Listing information shows the boxy house was built in 1964 by Palm Springs architect Hugh M. Kaptur for someone with the last name Griffing, whom we can't identify as anyone other than a guy with a thing for modern architecture. Property records show that when Mister Kilroy purchased the property, it encompassed two parcels totaling 1.98 acres and included a 4,493 square foot house with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Listing information, however, shows a 4 bedroom and 5 pooper house that sits on a 1 acre parcel. We're absolutely certain there is a simple explanation for these discrepancies, Your Mama just does not know what it is.

Listing information states the property is a "time capsule" with all the "seclusion, glamour, history, and mystic" of Palm Springs' heydays when the sleepy desert communities of the Coachella Valley attracted visitors and property owners like Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Christina Onassis and the lovingly flamboyant Liberace. And a damn time capsule it is children, with dark paneling and brown wall to wall shag carpeting in the family room, white laminate counters and an intricately patterned linoleum floor in the kitchen, and some freaky-ass carpeting in the master bathroom which is also, sadly, being punished with woven window treatments that Your Mama has quite happily not seen since sometime in the mid 1970s.

Listing information indicates the hillside house is entered through two-story tall double doors with brass lion doorknobs that open to a split level foyer with terrazzo floors and a spectacular towering wall of glass. We don't know about the children, but those front doors with those ka-razy lion doorknobs sound dee-voonly campy and very Palm Springs, a look that uber-decorator Kelly Wearstler might have "borrowed" for the Viceroy Hotel.

The fabulosity of the foyer is carried through the formal living room which is surrounded by a wide, cantilevered balcony and floor to ceiling glass on three sides. Like the rest of the day-core, the furniture in the living room isn't doing the space any favors, partick that putrid Holiday Inn-ish table and chairs. However, in the deft hands of a nice, gay decorator smart enough not to do up the house with as a silly, retro-vintage cliché of Palm Springs circa 1962, this living room could be the sort of space Your Mama would never want to leave except to eat and use the damn terlit.

Each of the bedrooms, according to listing information, has the luxury of its own private pooper, a situation that pleases both Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter immensely for obvious reason. Listing information also indicates there is a separate guest unit with a full bathroom, a situation we like even more than secondary bedrooms with private poopers. The master bedroom, which is, quite frankly, not done justice by the listing photographs nor the upsetting, hodge-podge and unsophisticated vintage day-core, stretches along the second floor with a long wall of floor to ceiling glass that looks down on the swimming pool below and out over the lights of Palm Springs.

The backyard, large enough to comfortably entertain a few friends and sunbathe in the buff but no so large as to require a full staff and landscapers be on the property day in and day out, has the customary swimming pool. At first we were a mite disappointed not to see a kidney shaped number, but upon second thought we realized that would be mid-century modern overkill or, as our good friend Virginia Slim so succinctly and cleverly says, flooding the car. Not that it matters because Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter ain't moving to Palm Springs a minute before we turn 70, but we really do think we'd expire from heat stroke iffin we didn't hire our volatile house gurl Svetlana a good looking assistant whose only job during the murderously hot summer months was to make ice cubes and dump them into the swimming pool to cool the water.

Obviously whomever buys this house will either need to go weak in the knees for faux-wood paneling from the 1970s or have enough money left over to strip the house of it's bad elements, modernize it and over-haul it with enough sensitivity and sensibility to leave the bones alone because, as fer as Your Mama is concerned, this place has all the makings of a wickedly sexy yet perfectly cozy winter getaway for someone with a few million to spare for desert digs.

LOCATION: Southridge Drive, Palm Springs, CA
PRICE: $2,890,000
SIZE: 4,400 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms
DESCRIPTION: Truly a spectacular piece of contemporary architecture, located in the premiere Southridge community, and affording a magnificent 270 degree view overlooking all the Coachella Valley and the mountains around it. Commissioned by race car driver James Jeffords and designed by architect Michael P. Johnson, this architectural marvel is symbolically named The Boat House both for its shape and the way it creates the illusion that your are emerging from the hillside on a voyage across the valley floor below. From the infinity pool deck and inside the home, with its soaring 24 foot ceilings and high glass walls, the house appears to be projecting into the view....

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: According to property records, the third property that completes Michael Kilroy's real estate triple whammy along Palm Springs' gated Southridge Drive was purchased by the real estate maven and another gentleman with the last name Bishop in August of 2005 for $3,100,000. A couple of years later, in late 2006 or early 2007, it appears that Mister Kilroy bought out Mister Bishops stake in the property. At least that what it looks like to Your Mama. Or it's possible, given the records, that Mister Kilroy bought the house from Mister Bishop in January of 2007 for $2,300,000. Whatever the details and dates of the purchase, Mister Kilroy has listed the property with an asking price of $2,890,000.

The Boat House, as the aggressively geometric residence is commonly called, sits just inside the gates and directly across the street from Mister Kilroy's other two architecturally significant houses on Southridge Drive, the John Lautner designed tour de force known as The Elrod House and the linear mid-century moder formerly owned by actor Steven McQueen.

Listing information and property records show the triangular and difficult to develop parcel measures 1 acre. The 4,493 square foot modern masterpiece was commissioned by contemporary architecture buff and race car driver James Jeffords and designed by soo-blimely smart and accomplished architect Michael P. Johnson who, some of the children might like to know, has created a fair number of mouth watering architectural morsels including the Ellsworth Residence in Arizona and the Parr Residence on Shelter Island, NY.

Anyhoo, listing information indicates that The Boat House contains 4 bedrooms and 5 poopers including a lofty, mezzanine-style master suite on the second floor that has a hearth-less and mantel-less fireplace with a flat scree tee-vee mounted to it, a private patio, and a humongous hexagonal skylight, which glides open at the flick of a switch so that the owner need never leave their bed in order to search the sky for comets and falling stars. The master pooper is a serene–if unexpectedly ordinary–space with pink veined marble counter tops and a seamless corner window above a jetted bathtub that looks like it might be large enough to accommodate two good sized people. That is iffin yer into sitting in a giant vat of filthy water with another person, which of course Your Mama is not. Listing information and a 2008 article in Palm Springs Life indicate that the guest rooms are well separated for seclusion and each contains a private pooper. A first floor guest room also offers a sitting area and private terrace while the upstairs bedrooms have office and lounging areas which means house guests need never actually spend time in the rest of the house if they so choose.

The unusually shaped house is not a result of the architect trying to be clever or coy, but rather an solution to a problematic and queerly shaped lot. The odd lot defined the configuration and flow of the house, pushing and forcing the dramatic–or perhaps even melodramatic–24-foot high living room into a wedge shaped space to the front of the property where it can take advantage of its elevated perch high above Palm Springs. The living room, which has a glass fireplace, a sunken wet bar, a built-in modular sofa and tall walls of glass that are seamless at the corners, spills out onto the terrace where an infinity edged pool has been fitted into the tip of prow-like triangular space. Because of siting, the narrowing shape of the house and the continued narrowing of the terrace, an thrilling bit of eye trickery takes place that creates the dee-lishusly disorienting sense that the house is plowing, ship-like, across the the desert floor below. If listing photos are to be believed, the optical hocus-pocus is even more convincing and more theatrical at night as the glistening lights of the streets and houses below mimics moonlight on water.

Behind the living room and slightly elevated so as to share in the same ship-like view as the living room are the dining room and kitchen. The dining room, unusually shaped like the rest of the rooms in the house, has a terrifically tactile and organic stone floor, built in cabinetry and is open to the galley style kitchen which has rich, caramel colored cabinetry and a black porcelain sink that Your Mama finds to be sinister, uninviting and way to early 1990s for our delicate decorative sensibilities. Large sliding panels can be used to close off the kitchen from the dining room and rest of the house, which is nice because who wants the dirty dishes–or their glowering, temperamental house gurl Svetlana–staring them down while trying to enjoy a nice dinner. An adjacent family room offers a less dramatic and more cozy spot to wind down and watch the boob-toob.

Interestingly, each of Mister Kilroy's Palm Spring properties up on Southridge Drive–as well as those in West Hollywood and Hermosa Beach–are available for leased short term through Pure LA Villas. Although prices for Mister Kilroy's Palm Springs properties are not revealed, his Neutra designed doo-plex in Hermosa Beach is listed at $11,800-$14,900 per week and the the 6 bedroom and 8 pooper former Loretta Young house–which is really in West Hollywood and not Beverly Hills as it's listed–can be had for just $32,500...per week. Rent them while you can children because who knows if the new owner of Mister Kilroy's trio of posh properties in Palm Springs will be so generous–or, as one old Palm Springs queen told Your Mama, desperate–as to let virtual strangers bunk down in the houses.

Phew! That concludes our lengthy and exhausting spin through Mister Kilroy's real estate extravaganza. We suggest the children unbuckle their seat belts and get thee to the liquor cabinet.


Anonymous said...

It's all fun and games until the Ponzi scheme's over. Desperation isn't pretty, is it Momma? Who dumps high-end properties in a down market???

Anonymous said...

interesting read....

Anonymous said...

Honestly, if I had the money to choose? The Steve McQueen house hands-down. The Elrod House, and to a lesser degree, the Boat House are interesting architectural statements, but I'm not sure I would want to live in an architectural statement. The Steve McQueen house, aside from the obvious provenance of being a famous movie icon's one time abode, could, with the shrewd eye of the right gay decorator and a quarter of million dollars or so for a gut renovation, be a stunning dessert show place that also works as comfortable mid-century weekend home.

Anonymous said...

This dude is broke and or crazy.

Rebecca said...


How much did you have to drink before you wrote this post? Did you seriously use your internet website to tell people,

"...head on down to your local library or bookstore and start reading up on..."?

Seriously, who would waste the time, energy or money to go anywhere or buy anything just for a little info. Hello? Search engine?

Gurl, you best be keeping a tighter lid on the gin and nerve pill bottles. We don't want to have to do without our real estate fix for 28 days...unless...wait...they probably have free wifi in rehab these days, right?

Okay, then, whatever. Still very ironic tho.

Anonymous said...

" That is iffin yer into sitting in a giant vat of filthy water with another person, which of course Your Mama is not."

Oh AMEN to that Mama and really, one of your funniest lines yet... and that's sayin sumpin!!!

Love ya, mean it! Stay pretty, Mama.

Anonymous said...

Momma, if you ever met Mister Kilroy you'd know that he doesn't furnish any of his homes with gym equipment. Those musta come from the supermarket mogul cuz she's a fat "gray gay" Palm Springs-ite as you say.

Anonymous said...

Mama this is one of your bestest ever. The children haven't had a lashin like this in awhile, and we needed it. But mama you's gonna get the carpel tunnel if you keep this up.

Love the Elrod house, the texture and color of the concrete matches the boulders.....lovely.

Absolutely love the ex-McQueen house, but I'm having flash-backs of It's a very Brady christmas.
"ALICE!!!! - get my pills.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to send Mama a tip. Your email isn't working. Says it's invalid. Help.

Your Mama said...

Hi Darlin'

Love the tips. I tested my email and it seems to be receiving fine.

Try again?

lil' gay boy said...

Oooo, Mama!

An MCM triple threat –––– to evoke our beloved Bette again, this time from Now, Voyager:

"I could cry with pride..."

Very Bond, very Brady, very umm, Boat?

Ah hell, so much for alliteration...

Given my druthers, I'd have to go for the largest of the three, Elrod House; after all, who could resist the opportunity of living in a stunning, tour-de-force trophy house?

Besides, you know what they say; when it comes right down to it, there are only two kinds of gays...

Size queens and liars.

chris said...

Like #3 better than #2 and #2 better than #1. Can't afford any of them however. Too bad. I concur that he must be in some crisis to have to put all these up for sale in a down market. I think PS is simply awash with unsold real estate.

Anonymous said...

Good lord, will people ever learn where NOT to stick up their oversized Chihuly collections? Its not the damn Bellagio lobby! Having those shards looming over one's head in a kitchen would be far more distressing than a pot-rack. Its almost a relief to get to house #2, although it does feel like Robert Evans and Ali MacGraw are going to pop 'round the corner at any moment.

Anonymous said...

13 million really?? No one will pay that much to live in Palm Springs.

Belvoir said...

"That would scare the bejeezis right out of us to know that we could be sitting in the living room enjoying the soothing effects of a nerve pill mixed with a gin and tonic only to have a Speedo or wetsuit wearing intruder rise up out the indoor part of the swimming pool like the damn Loch Ness Monster and ruin our substance induced bliss."

Thank you for this hilarious, unsettling scenario. I'm laughing and cryin' here..

Eric@URP said...

Belvoir-I agree...that line had me cracking up!
Well done Mama, and for the record, I'll take #1, hands down.

Anonymous said...

looking at those homes, I think I just had a wet dream

Anonymous said...

Beautiful architecture-- I thank you, Mama.
Dont'cha think the description writer of #2 house meant "mystique" rather than "mystic"?

Jimmy said...

As they used to say back in the day:
"Kilroy Was Here."

Anonymous said...

Forgive my pedestrian ways, but neither Palm Springs in general nor these examples of [I am sure very inspired] archtecture are doing anything for me. The write up is a lot of fun, though, I really enjoyed it. Living in a convention center or public library is not for me.

Anonymous said...


I need a valium.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:41, If you knew Mr. Kilroy, you'd know he is only in his forties, hardly a "gray gay".

Bitter much?

Anonymous said...

In case anyone wants to see the Elrod House, there is a Retro Martini Party on February 19, 2010 to benefit the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation.

Funonline said...

Actually Mr. Kilroy is a very decent individual! Personally, I like the "Diamonds are forever" Elrod home for the desert place. But if you get a personal tour of the Lorreta Young home, its history and restoration of original architectural materials is impressive. Mike is doing the restore very accurately...its great, to walk through history with him...

Anonymous said...

@Funonline: thank you for your defense of Mr. Kilroy. I happen to have had the pleasure of knowing him for 4 years now, and can honestly state that he is one of the most generous and humble persons I've met, so any negative comments directed towards him MUST come from a bitter place. He IS a collector of exquisite architectural properties, and takes GREAT PRIDE in preserving each property's timeless designs. Really bummed the PS properties are on the market though. Hope the next owners take as much effort in keeping the integrity of the homes as Mr. Kilroy has...

Anonymous said...

Well, I am very frustrated by the fact that I was a life-long friend, and I am now having to take him to court for refusing to repay a six-figure loan, and I'm not the only person he owes. The suit is filed in Torrance.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I shot all those Palm Springs properties for Mr. Kilroy and my favorite was the Boat House.