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Family Keeps Ties to Town


MICHAEL GROSS, who played the lovable, liberal dad in the hit NBC series "Family Ties," and his wife, Elza, have sold a hillside house that they put on the market more than a year ago, when they bought their current home in another area of La Canada Flintridge.

Gross, who will co-star as a serial killer with Melissa Gilbert-Brinkman this fall in the CBS thriller "With a Vengeance," has played a variety of roles since the seven-year run of "Family Ties" ended in 1989. But Gross, 45, was back to playing the father of a teen-ager in the 1992 film "Alan and Naomi," which was released in video stores last week.

"I'm so excited that the house is gone," he said about selling his hillside property. "If someone had offered me a dollar eighty for it, I might have taken it," he joked.

"Actually, the economy was so good that we thought, 'Sure, let's buy.' Then the economy got so bad, our first house didn't sell. We had two homes for 15 months and only one was occupied. But we finally sold our old home, to some people from the East Coast."

That didn't surprise him, he said, because the four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot house, built in the mid-1950s, had a Cape Cod look. It sold for about $650,000.

The house, which he and his wife had purchased soon after they were married in 1984, has a garage that he had painted to look like a railroad station. Gross owns an interest in a short-line railroad that runs into Santa Fe, where he and his wife have a second home.

"We were both very fond of the house (that they just sold), but my wife didn't like the location," he said. "It's on a hill and has a gorgeous view of the mountains, but my wife is a wonderful cook, and every time she forgot an ingredient, it would take her half an hour to go buy it.

"Then a number of houses were burned down in a fire in Glendale just as I was leaving for Thailand to do a film." The worry of leaving his wife and two children (from her first marriage) in a fire-hazard area and the inconvenience of "using two quarts of gas to go down the hill to buy one quart of milk" inspired them to buy a home closer to town.

They bought a five-bedroom, nearly 4,000-square-foot house, built in the 1950s, for about $1 million. "It's a great party place, built in the shape of a C and dominated by a 250-year-old oak tree, wrapped by a huge deck," he said.

Comedian YAKOV SMIRNOFF, who will appear in the Comedy Store 20th Anniversary Special on NBC Sept. 24 and is scheduled to be on stage at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas Sept. 17-21, has put his first house on the market again, this time at $975,000.

The Russian-born comic listed the Hollywood Hills home in 1990 at $1,795,000, then took it off the market when it was rented with an option to buy. "The people who were renting it lost their business, so they couldn't buy the house," he said by phone from Memphis, where he was appearing last week.

Smirnoff and his wife, Linda, bought a Pacific Palisades home for $2.4 million two years ago. He had purchased the Hollywood Hills home in 1984, before he was married. It was built in the 1920s and was later owned by the late comic LENNY BRUCE, Smirnoff said.

The gated home, which Smirnoff refurbished, has four bedrooms, maid's quarters, a sauna, spa, enclosed area for exotic birds or animals and city views. Jackie Fronen and Raquel Kaufman share the listing at Nourmand & Associates, Beverly Hills.

CASEY COLE RAY, one of late singer Nat King Cole's five children and a younger sister of singer Natalie Cole, has purchased a four-bedroom Hancock Park house, built in the 1920s, for slightly under $1 million.

She is a partner with her twin sister Timolin in the public relations firm Cole P.R., started about two years ago on the East Coast. Clients include King Cole Productions, a family-run firm that handles Nat King Cole business.

Casey, who is married to personal manager Kevin Ray, also just produced "Nursery Raps featuring Mama Goose," a contemporary children's album using traditional nursery rhymes.

Craig Blanchard of Rodeo Realty represented her in the purchase, and Peter Jenkens of Jon Douglas Co. represented the seller.

An unusual open house of Montecito estates, first held the day of the June 28 earthquake, will be repeated Aug. 30 from 2 to 5 p.m. "because the quake cut the day short for many of those who followed the warnings to stay off the freeways," said Paul O'Keeffe of Joyce Gibb, Realtor, one of the coordinators.

Pop star KENNY LOGGINS' Italian villa, producer JON PETERS' former property and an estate of a late oil heiress will be among the six to 10 major homes that will be open through the efforts of the Gibb, Rodeo Realty, Fred Sands, Pitts and Bachmann, Coldwell Banker, Steve Schmidt and Jon Douglas firms.

"The concept is to make it easy for buyers, particularly from the Los Angeles area, to view a diverse selection of fine properties," O'Keeffe said. Open houses are not normally held at any of the estates, he added.

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