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Far removed from her seaside jewel

Huguette Clark's Bellosguardo estate, perched on a Santa Barbara bluff, is worth at least $100 million. At 104, she resides at a New York hospital, possibly remembering much — or nothing —about her long-ago days at the grand home.

February 26, 2011|By Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times

In 1932, Huguette's mother was adding a wing to the 30-year-old house. When her architect praised her for providing jobs in hard times, she decided to create many more by tearing down the entire home and rebuilding it in a French country style.

One of her new workers was Doran's father, an electrician who managed Bellosguardo until his death 50 years later.

Into the limelight

Doran lived at Bellosguardo until her parents separated. She summered there as a teenager and, until about 10 years ago, exchanged cordial, if infrequent, notes with Huguette.

By then, the frail Clark had left her lavish New York apartment for round-the-clock institutional care. She collected dolls, directing her attorneys to pick them up at high-stakes auctions. According to one report, she negotiated with an antiques dealer only through a closed door.

But last year, an investigation by MSNBC.com thrust Clark and her holdings into the limelight.

A series of reports suggested that she was being exploited by her longtime attorney, Wallace Bock, and her accountant, Irving Kamsler. As a result, three distant relatives asked a judge to name a guardian for her.

The relatives, whose request was denied, were upset that Kamsler had pleaded guilty to charges of e-mailing pornography to teenage girls. They also questioned Clark's $1.5-million donation to an Israeli settlement where Bock's daughter lived with her family.

In court documents, Bock called the relatives "officious interlopers … with whom Ms. Clark has knowingly and assiduously avoided contact for decades." Clark's gift was for the community's security system, Bock said, reflecting her "continued interest in my daughter and her family's safety."

Bock did not return phone calls. Kamsler's attorney, Elizabeth Crotty, said he "has acted both professionally and diligently."

Still, prosecutors are investigating how Clark's fortune has been handled, according to a New York law enforcement source not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

In Santa Barbara, Bellosguardo remains, as always, hidden from public view.

Doran said she last saw the house about 10 years ago, after writing Huguette for permission. The windows had been opened for her. There were dust covers on the old furniture, and the double stairway was still adorned in gold leaf.

"It could be a museum," she said. "But it's too fine. It couldn't bear that much traffic."

steve.chawkins@latimes.com

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