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Hot Property

Scribe bids addio to Italian villa

May 23, 2004|Ruth Ryon | Times Staff Writer

Gore Vidal, who has had a residence on the Westside for more than 30 years, has put his equally longtime home in Italy on the market at about $17 million.

The writer and political commentator, 78, decided to sell his property in Italy, he said, because he had knee surgery and now finds it difficult to use the retreat on a cliff in Ravello, south of Naples overlooking the Amalfi Coast.

Vidal's 4 acres, once a working farm, are on a fairly steep slope, but most of the land is terraced, some of it planted with lemon and olive trees. "We make our own olive oil," he said.

His villa, known as La Rondinaia (Swallow's Nest), was built about 1920 for a British lord's daughter, but it became a draw for the internationally famous after Vidal purchased it and had such guests there as Greta Garbo, Princess Margaret and Tennessee Williams.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 27, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Film release -- An item in the Hot Property column in Sunday's Real Estate section said the movie "Around the World in 80 Days" had just been released. The release date for the film is June 16.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday May 30, 2004 Home Edition Real Estate Part K Page 5 Features Desk 0 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Film release -- A May 23 Hot Property item incorrectly said the movie "Around the World in 80 Days" had just been released. The release date for the film is June 16.

By Vidal's count, La Rondinaia has six major bedrooms and bathrooms, a servants' apartment and three other bedrooms where he keeps 8,000 books. The house is estimated at 5,500 square feet.

The home has a large living room, a dining room, five fireplaces and a wood-burning pizza oven in the kitchen. The grounds have a pool, pool house and sauna but no guesthouse, although there is a rundown building that could be converted.

Vidal, who appeared on "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO in March and just had his latest book "Imperial America" published by Nation Books, has no plans to sell his California home but is quick to say that housekeeping is "something of a bore" to him now. "I'd rather live in a hotel," he said. "That's my idea of heaven."

Vidal, who has publishers in 80 countries, is known for his essays, novels, historical biographies, movie scripts and liberal commentaries. He contributed to the screenplay for "Ben-Hur" (1959), wrote the Hollywood spoof "Myra Breckinridge" (1968) and played a supporting role in the film "Bob Roberts" (1992). Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was his stepsister.

John Bruce Nelson of John Bruce Nelson & Associates, Bel-Air, has the listing.

A Walton heads to the Big Apple

Richard Thomas, who just completed a run starring in "The Stendhal Syndrome" on stage in New York, and his wife, Georgiana, have listed their Los Feliz home at just under $1.8 million. They are moving to New York.

Their Los Feliz house has five bedrooms and five bathrooms in about 4,500 square feet. The Mediterranean-style home was built in 1924. It also has wrought-iron railings and gates, a two-story entryway, a library, a formal dining room, a light-filled living room with a fireplace, tropical landscaping and a rear yard with a pool.

Thomas, 52, gained fame as John Boy in the 1970s CBS series "The Waltons." He has made a number of TV movies, some as spinoffs of the show. He also has had a career on stage and in feature films. He appeared on the London stage in "Art" in 2000 and has been prompted lately to take more stage roles with the airing of more reality shows and fewer made-for-TV movies.

Dennis and Mimi Martino of Prudential John Aaroe, Beverly Hills, have the listing.

Sunset is home for entertainment duo

Caresse Henry, Madonna's longtime manager, and entertainment manager Jorge Hinojosa have purchased a Sunset Strip-area home for close to $5.3 million.

The gated Mediterranean-style home, built in 1977, has four bedrooms and 4 1/2 bathrooms in nearly 6,700 square feet. It's at the end of a long driveway.

The home, which has city views, also has three fireplaces, a living room-screening room, a family room, a pool, a patio and a yard.

Hinojosa owns the management company Caliente. He is also a technology consultant.

Leah Steuer of Prudential John Aaroe, Beverly Hills, represented the buyers, and Bennett Carr of the same office had the listing.

Music man's abode in Brentwood sold

The Brentwood Park home of the late actor Robert Preston, who starred in films including "The Music Man" (1962) and "Mame" (1974), has been sold for slightly more than its $3.6-million asking price.

Preston, who died in 1987 at 68, had shared the home with his wife, Catherine, who died last year. They had purchased the three-bedroom, three-bathroom home in 1945.

The traditional, 2,400-square-foot ranch-style house was built in 1938 for Johnny Weissmuller, swimming star of "Tarzan" movies co-starring Maureen O'Sullivan. The pool is almost 16 feet deep at the diving end, where Weissmuller perfected many of his famous dives.

Chuck DiStefano and his sister, Denise DiStefano, had the listing at Coldwell Banker, Beverly Hills South, and Gary Glass of Prudential California, Brentwood Village, represented the buyer, a local resident.

Engaged with a Neutra home

Phyllis Alia, executive producer of the just-released movie "Around the World in 80 Days," and Kevin Crotty, TV, literary and packaging agent at ICM, have purchased the Van Cleef House, a Richard Neutra-designed home in Little Holmby, for slightly more than its $1.48-million asking price.

The updated two-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot house, built in 1942 on an 11,000-square-foot lot that has a terraced garden, was designed for indoor-outdoor entertaining, and the buyers expect to do their share. They were recently engaged and plan to wed in September.

Doris and Hal Lazner of DBL Realtors, Beverly Hills, represented the buyers.

To see previous columns on celebrity transactions visit

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