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Another Author With Stars in His Eyes

April 28, 1993|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"The most interesting things aren't on the movie star maps or the established tours," William Gordon was saying as he hiked along the trail overlooking Lake Hollywood, not far from the Hollywood sign.

As Gordon spoke, a torrent of concrete and bricks thundered down a plywood chute into two Dumpsters at the bottom of a steep cliff, shattering the tranquillity of Castillo del Lago, the spectacular new digs of pop diva Madonna.

Gordon, a Laguna Hills free-lance writer and author, stared up at the white, nine-story Spanish-style castle, which served as mobster Bugsy Siegel's gambling casino in the '30s and now is being renovated for its Material Girl owner, who purchased the 8,000-square-foot, nine-bedroom, six-bath manse last year for $5 million.

"I always thought it was a fascinating house," he said, with a grin. "I'm just so happy Madonna bought it."

Gordon makes it his business to keep track of the latest real estate doings of Hollywood's stars and celebrities.

It's all fodder for "The Ultimate Hollywood Tour Book" (North Ridge Books), a guide "to movie stars' homes, movie and TV locations, scandals, murders, suicides, and all the famous tourist sites."

Want to see the former homes of Agnes Moorehead, George and Ira Gershwin, Jack Benny, Lucille Ball, Rick Schroder, and the current homes of Jimmy Stewart and Peter Falk? Simply cruise down Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills.

Interested in the dark side of Hollywood? Check out the house at 12305 5th Helena Drive in Brentwood, where Marilyn Monroe died.

Have a fascination for the obscure? How about the Brentwood house where Richard Nixon lived after losing the 1960 presidential election or the Hancock Park apartment that served as a hideaway for John Kennedy during the 1960 Democratic National Convention? Gordon even lists Sunset Strip Tattoo, the tattoo parlor on Sunset Boulevard favored by Cher, Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and Charlie Sheen.

The 272-page book, which spans the Greater Los Angeles area, features 33 street maps and 47 photographs (including aerial shots of those hard-to-see-from-the-street homes, such as the Pacific Palisades compound of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver).

Gordon is enjoying a modest success with his self-published book, having sold 5,500 copies in six months.

Gordon, 42, has an affinity for tourists.

When he moved to Los Angeles from Akron, Ohio, in 1988, he began driving around in search of the city's famous and architecturally unique homes.

"It's just fun going out in the Hollywood Hills and getting lost," said Gordon, who considers himself neither star-struck nor a movie buff. "I really wasn't all that into celebrities as much as the houses."

The author of two previous books--one a compilation of quotations about the craft of writing and the business of publishing, and the other on the Kent State killings--claims his Hollywood book is more up-to-date and accurate than the maps to the stars' homes hawked on street corners.

Gordon said it took him six months to do the research, although "I had been sightseeing for years so I knew a lot of this stuff."

In addition to talking to several dozen film location scouts and other knowledgeable sources, he spent hours at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library where he scoured celebrity biographies, and magazine and newspaper clippings dealing with the stars' homes and other Hollywood attractions.

"All the houses are public record, so they were easy to find," he said, adding, however, that "there were a lot of houses I didn't publish if they had children or it didn't look secure."

Gordon, who moved to Laguna Hills in January, continues to drive to Los Angeles once a week to keep his research files up to date.

He had driven to Hollywood on this particular morning to pick up a list of current film locations at the film permit office--and to lead an impromptu celebrity home tour.

The tour began in the Hollywood Hills, with a cruise by actor Ned Beatty's home and the intersection of Beachwood and Belden Drives, where scenes from the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" were filmed.

"Hollywood Hills streets are too narrow for tour buses," Gordon observed, as actor Nicolas Cage's 5,367-square-foot "castle" on Tryon Road loomed into view on a nearby ridge.

Swinging over to Mulholland Drive, Gordon pointed out the gated driveway leading to the homes of Jack Nicholson and next-door neighbor Marlon Brando and, farther on, the entrance to the home of Warren Beatty and Annette Bening.

Then it was down Benedict Canyon Drive, past "the house Roseanne and Tom (Arnold) supposedly trashed" and the " 'Superman' Death House," where actor George Reeves was found dead in 1959 with a .30-caliber Luger by his side.

With the summer tourist season fast approaching, Gordon said the upcoming fourth printing of his book will include both major and minor revisions.

Revisions will include the upcoming move of the Screen Actors Guild from its Hollywood Boulevard location to the Miracle Mile, MGM's move from Culver City to Santa Monica and new film location sites.

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