Thursday, June 16, 2011
bel air memories - 1961

It's amazing how the mind works. Reading about Zsa Zsa Gabor's current home, (above) being put up for sale for $28 Million in January and now, here in June, being reduced to $15 Million---and thinking about what a 'will-to-live' this woman has---like, Incredible! I was reminded of a few things regarding the Gabors. I actually met Zsa Zsa and her sister Magda, and their mother Jolie, back in the summer of 1951, because their younger sister Eva was starring in a play called "Her Cardboard Lover", at The Sea Cliff Summer Theatre, where I was an apprentice and for that week I had been elected by the Producers to be Eva Gabor's "dresser" while she was there at Sea Cliff.That was 60 years ago. Eva's sisters and mother came to see her in this light 'drawing room comedy' one evening there at Sea Cliff, and that is how I happened to meet Mama Jolie and Magda, and Zsa Zsa.....I wrote a couple of posts all about my summers at Sea Cliff---and you can read the one about Eva Gabor, (and a few other 'stars'), here.Then, that led my mind back to ten years later, in 1961, when my father was visiting Los Angeles and he wanted to see some of the residential Hill Areas because he was considering buying a house here.... I'm not really sure how serious he was but it was kind of fun to drive him around and then later to go with him and a Real Estate person when he began actually looking at houses in what seemed like a more serious way. Oddly enough, one of the houses the Real Estate person took us to was Zsa Zsa Gabor's home at that time---not the one for sale right now, but another house---not at all right in any way, for my father. But before any Real Estate person got involved...we just drove around to a lot of very nice Residential Areas. Bel Air was one of the places we looked. As we drove around, we came upon a house that was set way back from the street---a BIG House with a rather impressive entry-way.There were 'privacy' gates but they were open. My father wanted me to drive in and see who lived there. I was not completely comfortable doing that but he was 'the boss', so to speak, so we drove in and pulled up to the front door and Daddy Joe got out of my little Comet, and rang the doorbell. (That is not my car below, but something I found on the Internet that fit perfectly with what we were doing---and it is the front door of The Kirkeby Mansion, and the right 'period', too).........A Butler answered the door and my father asked him who lived there. The Butler was so taken a-back that he actually answered him and said "Mr. Arnold Kirkeby". DJ said, "Oh I know Mr. Kirkeby. Tell him Joe Hirshhorn would like to speak to him about possibly buying his house and he can reach me at The Beverly Wilshire Hotel." Ballsy, to say the! As an aside, Arnold Kirkeby once owned the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where my father always stayed when he came to Los Angeles....But Mr. Kirkeby had sold all of his Hotel interests (The Kirkeby Hotel Chain) by 1958 and they were very extensive interests to say the least---to name just a few, The Drake Hotel and The Blackstone Hotel in Chicago; The Sherry-Netherland, The Hampshire House and The Warwick in New York, and the Sunset Towers West, in Los Angeles....After selling his Hotel interests, he became involved in building The Kirkeby Center here in Westwood, but died, tragically, in a plane accident which killed all 95 people aboard. It was American Airlines, Flight #1, which crashed right after taking off from New York's La Guardia Airport. That was in March of 1962. Little did any of us know that day in 1961 that Arnold Kirkeby would be dead in a few short months. On top of everything else---this very interesting man, Arnold Kirkeby, was an Art collector and I believe that was how my father knew him.....Anyway, Mr. Kirkeby did call my father that very same afternoon and said that his house was definitely not for sale but he invited us to come back for Tea, and see the house anyway.
(This is not how the property looked back in 1961.....there have been many changes over the years, including the gated entrance disappearing, completely...but this picture gives you some idea of the hugeness of the house and property.......) So, we did go back for a spot of Tea and to take a tour of the house and the property. I just couldn't get over the fact that D.J. was still bound and determined to get some kind of a price out of Mr. K...... "But, Daddy, he said the house isn't for sale...!", I said...Daddy answered, "Anything is for sale at the right price!" Wall Street savvy? I don't know. The house was huge and very beautiful and had very beautiful grounds----perfect for large Sculptures, though none were anywhere to be seen that day. Daddy was pretty relentless, though quite charming, about asking how much Kirkeby would want for this lovely property......So, finally, worn down, Mr. K. said, "Well, if I were to sell this house I would want $700,000." Amazing! That was an enormous price back in 1961-62. And as Daddy was to discover when we went to see other houses with the Realtor, all of the prices of homes in these areas--Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Holmbly Hills, etc., were very very very expensive. I remember Daddy saying to the Realtor..."These prices are like telephone numbers...!", as most of them were seven figures....! And incidentally, The Kirkeby house later became the "Beverly Hillbilly's" house---well, the outside of it was used to signify the house that the Clampett Family bought and moved into when they got to Beverly Hills from the backwoods----And, for those who may not know or remember, "The Beverly Hillbilly's" was a huge "hit" Television Series. DJ never did buy a house here in Los Angeles.......Below, the Home and Property he did buy in early 1962........This home was in Greenwich, Conn. and in truth was so much better suited to his needs---particularly the grounds where he could display some of his great sculpture collection, in a truly exquisite way....And, though "Round Hill" was bigger than any house and grounds he saw in Los Angeles, it was waaaay waaaaay less in price. Real Estate here in Los Angeles has always been off the charts and pretty much out of whack with the rest of the country. When I read what people are asking for their homes here now today in 2011---Well, I don't get it, at all....! If you want to see what I'm talking about, go here and here.....Astounding! The second link is even more jaw dropping than the first......And, going back to Zsa Zsa Gabor and her present home which is up for sale, and which started this whole trip down 'memory lane'----Asking Price: $15 Million! I wonder what Daddy Joe would think of these numbers if he were alive today..........And this just in, fresh off the news cycle:The Aaron & Candy Spelling House which had been on the market since 2009, for $150 Million. (What?) Well, it finally sold at a greatly reduced price: $85 Million. Almost a 'fire sale'! Like I said.....What would Daddy Joe think about these incredible prices if he were alive today?

More To Come...........

NOTE: The picture of that rather pretty house, just after the picture of the young Gabor sisters, was Judy Garland's home on Mapleton Drive....One day I was passing by there and there was Ms. Garland, saying goodbye to someone who had been visiting and was now driving off of that half circle driveway. It was quite thrilling, I must say....That house was torn down by whomever and some uninteresting boring house built in it's place.....We have no sense of history here---even short-term history......And this is called progress.

Links to this post:


had this to say:

I don't see them as homes.. to me they just look like investments. most of us can't even imagine having so much money that nothing is too expensive. My mind says, "wouldn't that be nice!" followed by "money can't buy you health and happiness" (but of course we all know it helps! lol)

...your dads home was much prettier then the one he wanted to buy in CA!

Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 2:02:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

That real estate story had so many additional stories! What an amazing life you have had! Your experiences and the people you've met are simply fascinating.

The minute I saw the front of the Kirkeby Mansion I knew it had to be the "home" of the Clampetts!

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era and should have arrived about 10 years earlier. So much to appreciate about the 60's and I was just a kid then and I missed a lot. Guess this is one of the reasons I love watching films from the past. It allows me to be there.

Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 3:44:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

And I just wish I could own a 3-bedroom ranch in a nicer neighborhood. Thanks for the glimpses of grandeur.

Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 9:04:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, there seems to be no end to your amazing and interesting stories (and Thanks God for that!!)

It must have been great fun to get to see some of those homes with a realtor!

Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 9:29:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I recognized the "Beverly Hillbillies" home immediately.

Can you imagine if you left your keys or glasses in a room on one end of Spelling's house, and you were on the other end when you remembered?...Oy! I guess that's what servants are

Fun story!

Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 10:09:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

"Ballsy" about covers it. Wow. How wonderful that you got to go back and get the real tour.
Those prices are mind boggling to someone not from there.
Judy is right. You have had such a facinating life and I am so glad you choose to let us in on it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 10:56:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Amazing ! I love all the stuff you show us and learn about. Thank you so much for keeping and sharing all these mmoments of your life! Love you xoxo,

Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 10:46:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I recognized the Clampett house right away. In fact the car in that one picture looks like Miss Jane's car.
The good news about the housing prices there is that if you ever need money, you can always sell your house. Hopefully that won't happen!

Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 11:48:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I'm not even sure how to read a number with that many zeros! (the links). I enjoyed this bit of fascinating history for the history and for the insight into human nature (how people act) and your personal recounting of it. I agree the Connecticut house was a great place to show off the sculpture in a more natural setting.

Friday, June 17, 2011 at 10:05:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a fascinating story and all those connections. It's a small world. The homes are all beautiful, but the prices! I can't even conceive of having that much money, much less spending that much on a house. I would get lost in a house that big.

Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:00:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Well, Naomi, that post was just as if you and I were sitting on the patio chatting and you were telling me a story about your father and the houses he wanted to buy... and the house he ended up buying. A trip down memory lane indeed. One day I think I should write a post about the houses my dad lived in.... not anwhere near so grand, but interesting all the same! thank you Naomi, that was fascinating! A peek into the lives of the rich and famous, and perhaps the not-so-famous!
I'm so glad you got invited back to the house for tea!

Friday, June 17, 2011 at 1:42:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Just amazing memories, Naomi!
Really you had a wonderful life
full of experiences! And what interesting people you have met too!
Did I told you that you must to write a book? Yes, I have been saying it many times... LOL!

Have a nice weekend!

Friday, June 17, 2011 at 1:51:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

That is so cool.. those houses are beautiful. i have never been to where you live but I have been to a small part of Cali before and its way different than up North here. Or it seems different..

Friday, June 17, 2011 at 2:43:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

ahhh bless the Spellings, she is the queen of excess

I love all the photos and history

Friday, June 17, 2011 at 5:40:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Fascinating! And oy, that house! I realize that 700K was a fortune back then but...gulp! If only he had bought three such properties at that price--can you imagine what they'd be worth today? Do you have any idea who lives in the Beverly Hillbillies mansion now? I prefer Judy Garland's cute "little" house, though. And poor Zsa Zsa--her husband sounds like a real piece of work. The fact that she's not even dead yet and he's trying to get as much $$ as he can (while keeping her own daughter away). Yuck.

Friday, June 17, 2011 at 9:45:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

TOLD ya I'd be back, Naomi! LOL And SO glad I did.....really enjoyed this post a lot! You have THEE most incredible stories and memories!

Those mansions just boggle my mind! I always loved the Conn. home your father owned and always enjoyed all the posts about it! I had to smile when you questioned what Daddy Joe would think of the prices now in real estate....he'd probably be as flabbergasted as the rest of
I was in Bel Air in the 80's and wow! Those homes were incredible!

Thanks so much for such an interesting post, complete with photos. Hugs to you!

Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 1:56:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Dear Naomi,
you know how muched I and Anna would have a lunch with you this July.
Next year I'm a retiree, so I can come whatever time (after April) - just to sit down and speak and talk and sharing memories.
I even think our converation might be a book.

Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 3:01:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Your father would probably still think the prices are like phone numbers... aren't phone numbers getting longer too? LOL

Really, though, wealth and prices are all pretty much relative, I think. I mean, what movie star made $200 million (or more) per movie back in the 60's? Inflation really is the perfect word for it all, you know?

Loved the story about your dad just commanding you to go in, and then turns out he knows the guy. So funny.

Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 9:32:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Wow Naomi, fabulous stories from your memory. Your daddy was truly something else wasn't he?

I look at those houses and just think wow - I mean $85,000,000 for a reduced price? Oh my. How ridiculous.

Off Cairns at the moment is an island which is for sale. It has always been a very exclusive island, set off the beautiful northern beach suburb of Palm Cove )paradise, just a couple of beaches up from our home of Trinity Beach) which the owner has put on the market. For $8,000,000aud. Truth be told, I'd rather buy that beautiful island (with little resort) for the bargain price of 8 mill, than a big home worth 85mill in the Hollywood Hills. (Though I might consider your home! lol)

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 3:10:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Amazing stories you have to tell Naomi. I love coming here. While I was reading I kept thinking of Rue McClanhan's character on Golden Girls and her stories about her Daddy, and your Daddy Joe just reminded me of that. Thanks for sharing. xoxo

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 11:03:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

That's a huge property! I think I've seen the Beverly Hillbillies when I was a child. It's really awesome to learn about some Hollywood related history. You should pen a book Naomi!

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 3:46:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What great stories, Naomi! I can't imagine driving up to the house and asking who lived there! Thanks for another fun and interesting post :-)

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 5:44:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous George Ehling
had this to say:

Dear Naomi

Zsa Zsa Gabor was asked if she was a good house keeper. "Darling" she replied. "I was an excellent house keeper! Everytime I got a divorce I kept the house"

George Ehling

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 6:16:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

That was such an interesting post Naomi. It must have been quite something to have a spot of tea in that huge house. I like the house your father finally bought. I wonder why people need such large houses. I am in agreement with you about your last comment – that is, that there is no sense of history here. We just drove down Peachtree Street in Atlanta which used to be lined with opulent houses and historic little shops – most of them are gone. Instead there are ugly office buildings. Some of those houses could have been kept. In Paris there is a very strong planning commission – if it were like here, all the old buildings in the boulevards would be gone and it would not be the city with the highest number of tourists. It is quite sad that money is more important than history.

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 6:43:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh, gee! Had I only know the Spelling House had been reduced in price I might have considered purchasing it. Well, maybe next time it's on the market.

Interesting story about your father and the house hunting experience.

You have a wealth of interesting stories, and not always because they involve celebrities.

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 6:52:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

The whole Zsa Zsa sale is...strange, oh well. (She married him!) Oh, Naomi, if those walls could talk...

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 7:05:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

About the time the man suggested the selling price to your Daddy Joe my parents bought a small custom home in Whittier for about 20K.

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 9:38:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I LOVE your L.A. stories, sugar! xoxoxoxo

Monday, June 20, 2011 at 5:10:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Your dad was quite a charmer, wasn't he? Not only was he invited for tea but he made the owner give him a price. He's right, ANYTHING is for sale at the right price. I like his style! It must've been something traveling around town with DJ back in the day. Your stories always fascinate me, my friend.

Monday, June 20, 2011 at 3:12:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

"Gertrude and the Girdle."
Wanted to mention that I reread your original story about working with (FOR) Eva Gabor back in 1951. That is a wonderful story, truly. It is so well's honest and FUNNY and it fits with my image of the "Dahling" Gabor sisters. I love that you included an untouched (Has anyone seen my old nose) photo of Eva.
Did you ever think of expanding the story for a stage work--as part of a trilogy, perhaps? Great fun, Thanks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 10:44:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

good news at my place today! xoxoxox

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 11:43:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Sorry for the short comment, but I'm catching up with everyone. Thanks for the pics and memories, dear, as always.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 5:09:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi, sorry I didn't get here to read this earlier, real life has been getting in the way, and I'm not sure this post showed up in my reader, or I just missed it.

Your father sounds like a very assertive man! Ha. Of course, if you want something in life, that's the way you have to be.

I think the photos of your fathers home are beautiful, and the grounds and style of the property are much more tasteful than the other house anyway!

You have lead a very interesting life, and it's so wonderful to see and hear all about it!

I was interested by your comments on my blog too. Maybe you are right about passion and dedication. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 2:16:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Dear Naomi,
Just stopping by to whish you a nice day!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 7:14:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I'm pretty sure that I don't have 85 million pennies right now, much less 85 million dollars! Wow.

I love so much that he just knocked on the door and asked who lived there. That is fabulous. I can see my husband doing something like that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 10:57:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Looking at those homes is fascinating, but I wonder who in the world needs such big homes? Some with 40 or more bathrooms! Who could afford all that toilet paper to even stock them all?!! LOL
But I guess if you have THAT much money you can afford it all, with someone to take care of all that and all the cleaning, etc. But I'll bet many of those rooms never get used at all.

I did recognize the Clampett house! I think a lot of those homes are bigger than the hotels around here!

Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 8:37:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Those are some amazing houses with incredible price tags to match! It is a shame that they tore down that house that belonged to Judy Garland. What a shame more respect isn;t shown to preserving history. I did enjoy your little tour though - thank you :)

Friday, June 24, 2011 at 5:12:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Now I know where you get your spunk! From your father...what a guy! Loved this post.

We had a housesitting assignment on Ovada Place in Bel Air a few years ago.

Our daughter lived in Bel Air and the people we sat for were friends of hers. She lived in what she called the "Bel Air Ghetto". It most certainly was not a ghetto but it was in the "less fancy" part of Bel Air. In fact, it was just up the street from the Bel Air Bar and you know where that is? Her dear friend, John, owned that restaurant but sold it several years ago. Not sure if it's still open, though.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 11:04:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous James Starr
had this to say:

My Dear Old Lady of the HIlls,

Thank you so much for the nice story you shared about your dad and the Kirkeby Mansion. Ever since I was a boy watching The Beverly Hillbillies, that house has had a profound effect on me. So much so, that when my dad and I traveled out west from Wisconsin, I was delighted to at least come close to it. Though the gates had been changed and the front could not be seen, I did get to see a small part of what looked like the second story from my vantage point out by the street. That was a beautiful day for me that I hope to always remember for I have a kind of love affair with that home. I'm still hoping to some day build one like it and live happily ever after. Oh well, if not in this lifetime, perhaps in another. Until then, a dream will have to do. Thanks again.

With warm regards,

James Starr

Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 12:58:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hello My Dear Old Lady of the Hills,
I just stumbled on your blog by chance and was enthralled with this post about the Kirkeby Mansion. I , like many others, have been a fan and admirer of this house since childhood. I recall in 1986 standing in front of the gates and seeing the house being renovated by the Perenchios. It was a disturbing sight to see windows removed and plywood covering the large window above the entry doors.
It was still a thrill to get to see it and hugely disappointing to again drive by in the 90's and not be able to look.
I would love to know about the interior of the house as it was then. I am a well known Miniaturist and would very much like to replicate some of the rooms. If you would ever be willing to share, I would be honored to speak to you.
Thank you for this lovely post,
Warmest regards,
Ray Whitledge

Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 1:54:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

My father was a friend of Arnold Kirkeby. Our family visited his widow one time at the house in the late 60's. Also I met one of the Gabors who my father somehow knew on a separate occassion. I grew up in Greenwich, CT on Meadowcroft Lane, think I recognize the home in your photo. Thanks for sharing.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at 3:56:00 PM PDT 

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