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ANN CONWAY

Couple to Live Modestly, but Guests Will Have Lots of Room

February 17, 1989|ANN CONWAY

Now you've heard everything.

Motor-home magnate John Crean and his wife, Donna, are building themselves a 2,000-square-foot home and a 40,000-square-foot guest house.

That's right. The Creans of Corona del Mar are turning the good life upside down on their rural 3.7-acre Santa Ana Heights property.

Of about 42,000 square feet of under-roof structures, only 1/20th will be used daily by the couple, said Crean on a recent tour of the monolith-in-progress. "We like small spaces. We make our own bed. Donna cooks for me. We don't want a lot of people coming in to mop and vacuum. We have our place in the main house and the rest of it's for entertaining friends and family."

In fact, the mansion, which friends and family have said should be dubbed "Crean Acres," got started with some entertaining last year. On a crisp January afternoon, the duo tossed a demolition bash attended by such diverse nears-and-dears as actor Buddy Ebsen, Orange County Supervisors Tom Riley and Don Roth, composer Ray Conniff, Orange County Republican Party Chairman Thomas Fuentes, Pilar Wayne and Worst Dressed List author Mr. Blackwell. The idea was to smash to smithereens--via bricks and sledgehammers--the house that existed on the tree-sprinkled grounds to make way for the mansion, due to open its towering front door this fall.

Now, Crean--chairman of the board of Fleetwood Enterprises, a Fortune 500 company that manufactures recreational vehicles--would cringe if he thought you'd be offended by the following litany of his home's amenities (after all, they're being created for you, if you're lucky enough to be one of his pals):

There's the gymnasium that will sit over the carriage house where an oak dance floor will be available for tap dance lessons (with hoofer Ebsen as teacher? "Could be, could be," Crean said, laughing); the sprawling swimming pool; the north-south exposure tennis court ("that exposure keeps sun out of the eyes," he said); the sprawling, bar-equipped, rooftop verandas; the 10 guest bedrooms, each with a bath and each independently temperature-controlled; the projection room with a lobby where hot dogs, popcorn and pop will be featured; the billiard and video game room; the library with a contiguous reading room, and the kiddie playground.

As for the "apartment," as Crean calls it: "It's over here," he said, strolling to the left of the grand staircase into a 12- by 16-foot area he said was his and Donna's bedroom.

Whaaaaaat? Out of acres of frolic space, a master bedroom no bigger than most mansions' coat closets? "When we were married 40 years ago, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Compton that only had a Murphy Bed, a bath and a kitchen," he said. "It was about 10 by 10 feet. This is our life style!"

But this humbly sized boudoir will feature twin television sets and earphones, Crean said. "So Donna can watch what she wants to watch and so can I." And nearby: a small living room, kitchen with breakfast bar, two huge closets and his-and-her baths and studies. "See, instead of a big master bedroom we've got space we can use. "

Crean is keeping his lips sealed about cost. "I don't know what the price is," he said. "I just watch the bank account, and if we run out of money, we'll have to stop."

If the property has any drawbacks, it might be the constant roar from the jets that leave nearby John Wayne Airport. But the noise doesn't seem to irritate Crean, who smiles as he watches the third one in a matter of minutes soar into a bright blue sky. "On a day when the Santa Ana winds are blowing, the landing planes have to come in this way and they're so low we can see the people in the windows," he said. And besides, the couple's bedroom doesn't have one outside wall, he added. "So we won't be able to hear a thing."

Just how often will the mansion be used for entertaining? "Our friends, four kids and grandchildren will be over a lot. When we lived on our San Juan Capistrano ranch, we had friends over almost every day. We love having people around. The reason for the design of this place is we can have friends here three or four days and not even have to know they're here."

Which brings us to John Crean's philosophy of life: "I think, unless people do things together, life is just not much. Donna and I just sitting and looking at each other can get a little dull. We all need to come together to enjoy life."

As for that next Crean bash in Santa Ana Heights, be prepared for an eye-popper. "When we opened our house in Beverly Hills, we had a 150-piece band march down Canon Drive, form up on the tennis court and give a concert," Crean said.

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