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Quite a Selling Point: Free Parties at Malibu Estate

August 09, 2000|BOOTH MOORE

Imagine you're a Realtor with a $15-million Malibu oceanfront estate for sale. Michael Ovitz and Mel Gibson have both toured the 12-acre property and passed on it, and after a year on the market, you still can't get rid of the darn place. What to do? First, get the estate its own publicist. Then make it available as a party site . . . for free.

The current owner of Gull's Way, as the estate is known, is Pepperdine University. The school put the property on the market in June 1999 after being denied permission from the city of Malibu to build a conference center there, according to Pepperdine's real estate manager, Rex Levi. He and his colleagues had a few nibbles, but no bites, and when the property on Latigo Point was still vacant a year later, they decided what Gull's Way really needed was some good PR.

They hired Cooper Communications in Woodland Hills to devise a plan to attract the "appropriate clientele," and account exec Stephanie Stephens came up with the idea of offering the property as a party venue.

"We thought if we could attract the right kind of people for functions, maybe someone would be interested in buying the property," she said. (Did I mention it's a one-bedroom with seven bathrooms?)

The estate was given to Pepperdine by Luella "Billie" Ulrich, who died in 1997. She and her late husband, Rick, who'd operated several mobile home parks in Southern California, bought the land in the 1940s and eventually built a two-story house, based on a postcard depicting "The House of the Seven Gables."

Pepperdine's Levi describes the place as "funky," a "fixer-upper" with "hidden rooms." The estate includes a guest house, nearly six acres of manicured gardens, a gardener's quarters, a garage and a pet cemetery. "They were fond of Dobermans," Levi said.

I'm thinking a Halloween bash might be appropriate.

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The latest driving distraction on Sunset Strip? Road soaps.

For the last few weeks, the Strip's jumbo VideoTron has been playing a daytime serial called "A Reason to Love." The five-minute episodes look authentic (with cheesy doctors, nurses and all), but are actually a promotion for the film "Nurse Betty," slated to open Sept. 8.

In the film, Rene Zellweger plays a Kansas waitress who is such a devoted viewer of "A Reason To Love" that she sets out for L.A. to meet her true love, the show's Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear.)

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UNICEF, the venerable children's health organization, is trying to revamp its somewhat tired image with a fresh take on its famous, 50-year-old line of greeting cards.

One series of cards introduces flower designs by pop artist Andy Warhol, and another features cards with Indian mirror work and embroidery. A set of postcards with computer-generated designs in pearlized colors depicts words associated with children's rights--"love," "peace," "protection." Calendars feature art relating to the theme of water by contemporary artists Liza Lou, Bill Viola, Yayoi Kusama and others.

UNICEF also recently founded its first in-house design studio in Geneva, which has attracted artists from around the world. The line is available in department stores or through the Web site (http://www.unicefusa.org).

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Booth Moore can be reached at booth.moore@latimes.com.

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