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'A Steal and a Half' at $3.5 Million : Actress Sells Pasadena Estate

May 31, 1987|ASHLEY DUNN | Times Staff Writer

In a neighborhood where homes on a mere half-acre lot can easily go for $750,000, there is a hint of exaggerated grandeur at the 4 1/2-acre Pasadena estate on South Oakland Avenue that belonged to Dovie Beams De Villagran.

The lawn in the backyard is so large that children used to play full-field soccer on it; dozens of statues of bare-chested nymphs cover the estate; a pond complete with a small waterfall is affectionately referred to by neighbors as "the lake."

De Villagran, a former B-movie actress and self-described mistress of deposed Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, declared bankruptcy in February, 1986, after falling more than $22 million in arrears to creditors.

Once-Enormous Holdings

The estate is one of the last and most beautiful of De Villagran's once-enormous land holdings in Pasadena, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Alhambra and the San Fernando Valley.

The house was put on the market early this month and, after two weeks, was sold to an unidentified Los Angeles doctor, who is expected to move in in July.

"He just loved this house," said Steve Levine, president of Asher Dann & Associates Inc., a Beverly Hills real estate firm, who was the agent for the estate. "They're absolutely buying it to live in it for the rest of their lives."

Levine would not disclose the selling price, but said it was close to the original $3.5-million asking price.

"It's a steal and a half," he said.

Levine said he expects no problems in completing the sale of the three individual lots that make up the estate.

At one time, De Villagran, who could not be reached for comment, owned about 20 homes in Beverly Hills.

After she declared bankruptcy, De Villagran continued to live in the Pasadena mansion but was locked out of her home in March on the orders of a federal bankruptcy judge after she tried to remove some property, said her former attorney, Michael Cisneros.

Left With Suitcase, Clothes

Local newspaper photographs showed De Villagran after she had been escorted outside the wrought-iron gates of the estate and past the cast-stone lions that guard each entrance, standing with a suitcase and bundle of clothes.

Neighbors, who often stopped to chat with the friendly Southern belle, say they have not seen her since.

Cisneros, who stopped representing De Villagran recently because of what he called a "lack of communications and cooperation," said she still owes various creditors $5 million to $6 million. As far as he knows, she has no current source of income and no remaining homes, and he is uncertain where she now lives.

Representatives of Philippine President Corazon Aquino claimed last year that De Villagran's wealth came from Marcos himself--a claim De Villagran has steadfastly denied. She has said she amassed her fortune through real estate investments and a car business she owned called International Auto Brokers.

De Villagran, who was born in 1932 in Nashville, Tenn., has said she met Marcos in 1968 when she went to the Philippines to film a movie. According to her own accounts, she became his lover and stayed there for two years. In an interview with the Philippine American News in 1984, she said she fled the Philippines in 1970, allegedly one step ahead of assassins dispatched by an angry First Lady Imelda Marcos.

Little has been published about how De Villagran acquired her real estate holdings or what she did until she married her present husband, Sergio, in 1979.

The alleged affair between De Villagran and Marcos has often been the focus of irreverent attention.

Philippine journalist Hermie Rotea wrote a book entitled "Marcos' Lovey Dovie," in which the author described a two-year affair, including accounts of lovemaking sessions with Marcos that De Villagran had tape-recorded.

A column in a 1985 edition of the magazine Vanity Fair described how De Villagran played tapes of her romantic interludes with Marcos for reporters when she left the Philippines. According to Vanity Fair, Marcos retaliated by having a government-run magazine publish nude photos he had taken of her.

De Villagran's former estate is a mixture of elegance and eccentricity.

Quiet, romantic nooks of trees and shrubs are bounded by the statues of naked nymphs and gods. Two gazebos, capped with wildly colored stained-glass domes, dominate the park-like grounds.

Levine likes to describe the surroundings as "overwhelming."

But most neighbors who have watched the property evolve over the years lean more to the words "flamboyant" or "ostentatious."

'Done Very Nicely'

"Well, it's grossly overdone in one sense," said Sterling Johnson, who lives across the street. "But it is done very nicely."

From the back patio, the lawn stretches out like a golf course fairway, surrounded by about 30 statues, a few fountains, a paved walkway lined with stone columns, and oak, eucalyptus, cypress and palm trees.

"The view gives the impression that it goes on forever," Levine said. "It's like you own all of Pasadena."

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