"Joan Rivers has taken a place in New York but will maintain her Bel-Air residence."
That's all Richard Grant, the comedienne's publicist, would say when I asked Rivers' standard question, "Can we talk?"
Another source said, however, that Rivers bought a flat in one of the few grand old houses left on 5th Avenue for $2.4 million, which was quite a drop from the original $4-million asking price!
What Rivers bought, I'm told, was the ballroom of the old house with a 17-foot-high ceiling and a minstrel's gallery. Her flat also has a library, dining room, two fireplaces, and a couple of bedrooms.
When she bought the apartment, she reportedly planned to make New York her principal residence, selling the Bel-Air property she and her late husband, Edgar Rosenberg, bought in 1981, and getting a condo out here instead.
Then, in deference to the wishes of their 19-year-old daughter Melissa, I heard, Rivers changed her mind. Now, I understand that Rivers has purchased a second flat in the New York building for her daughter.
It has only been six months since Rosenberg died, but he and Rivers were about to put their Bel-Air mansion on the market a couple of years ago, from what local realty sources say. For some reason, the couple decided not to sell then.
Their Bel-Air house, on an acre along the Bel-Air Golf Course, is a two-story colonial built in 1931. It has six bedrooms and a pool. And it's apparently beautifully furnished.
From all reports, Rivers and Rosenberg both had wonderful taste, and Rivers is already putting her special touch on her New York place by having herringbone parquet floors installed and her decorator and security man flown there for consultation.
Another New York City sale is the townhouse at 39 E. 68th St. that was owned by the late Roy Cohn (Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy's chief inquisitor in McCarthy's '50s hunt for communists). Until he died of complications from AIDS in August, 1986, Cohen lived and worked at the townhouse, which just sold to a European buyer for $3.7 million through Nancy Weaver of Douglas Elliman-Gibbons & Ives Inc.
This could be the biggest price asked to date for a single-family home in the United States: $52 million! It's for a 170-room mansion built at the turn of the century to house a collector's art treasures in Cold Springs Hill, N. Y., 45 minutes from Manhattan. But it's listed by Jamil Hasan of Rodeo Realty in Beverly Hills.
The house sits on 23 acres, and the mansion is 112,895 square feet in size. That's about twice as big as the Holmby Hills house that TV producer Aaron Spelling is building for himself, his wife and his daughter.
But it's smaller than the 125,000-square-foot Pullman estate in Hillsboro, Calif., and the 126,000-square-foot Biltmore House in Asheville, N. C.
The world's largest privately owned single-family residence is probably a 500-room, 231,000-square-foot mansion in West Germany near Munich, says Frank Ashby, a West L. A. real estate appraiser.
While researching large properties, Ashby found out that the place was the late Gen. George S. Patton Jr.'s German headquarters during World War II, but it's owned by a German prince and has been in the same family for years. The staff's uniforms have looked the same for four generations, Ashby says, and 300 hot meals a day are prepared for the full-time staff of 146. For some reason, these huge houses always remind me of hotels.
The former Frank Sinatra estate in Pinyon Crest, 15 miles west of Palm Desert, is for sale at $1 million, furnished. And Old Blue Eyes once owned much of the furniture and the artwork.
He completely rebuilt an older single-family home into a contemporary, 6,934-square-foot main residence and guest house after he purchased the 12.6-acre property in 1974. Then he donated it to Loyola Marymount University, the current owner. The place also has a pool, spa, tennis court and helipad.
"We're the exclusive agents," said Michael D. Foxworthy of the Charles Dunn Co., Encino.
Actor James Coburn lived here for about 15 years while he was married to ex-wife Beverly, who has just put the house on the market for $5.8 million.
The Moorish-style villa, on a 1.8-acre knoll along Tower Road in Beverly Hills, was built in 1927--at a cost of $250,000!--for George Kolb, a wealthy banker from the East. Harry Werner, who also designed and built homes for such celebrities as Stan Laurel and Warner Baxter, designed the 40-room mansion to house Kolb's art collection.
Coburn's former wife wants to sell because she is planning to marry "some lovely man who is building a penthouse for them on top of a building he already owns in New York," said Steve Levine of Asher Dann & Associates, who has the listing.
As we were going to press, there was some sad news from San Diego, but maybe, just maybe, some enterprising and very wealthy person might see it as an opportunity.
The plush U. S. Grant Hotel, a downtown landmark for 77 years, is expected to be auctioned Feb. 24 on the steps of the San Diego County Courthouse, following foreclosure on a $32-million mortgage. The hotel's owner is Sybedon Corp. of New York.