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Ruth Ryon dies at 69; creator of The Times' Hot Property column

Ruth Ryon took readers inside the world of Southern California celebrity real estate in the column she began writing in 1984. An annual journalism award is bestowed in her honor.

March 29, 2014|By David Colker
  • Ruth Ryon, who died Friday at 69, wrote approximately 1,300 Hot Property columns from 1984 until she retired in 2008.
Ruth Ryon, who died Friday at 69, wrote approximately 1,300 Hot Property… (Los Angeles Times file )

Former Los Angeles Times reporter Ruth Ryon, who created the highly popular and enduring Hot Property column on celebrity real estate, died Friday at a hospice facility in Redondo Beach. She was 69.

The cause was complications of Parkinson's disease, said her husband, George Ryon.

For Angelenos, some of whom visit homes for sale even if they're not looking to buy, Ryon's column quickly became a guilty-pleasure must-read. The first column, which appeared Nov. 25, 1984, led with Johnny Carson buying a house in Malibu for $9.5 million, at the time the most ever paid in that area for a single-family home. After a few details — the house came furnished and went for close to the asking price — she followed with news of Kenny Rogers renting a Beverly Hills home for $20,000 a month and actress/wig entrepreneur Eva Gabor putting her Holmby Hills house on the market for $5.2 million.

Hot Property was so successful it was eventually distributed to newspapers nationwide and several imitators sprang up in print and on TV.

"It's a legend," said Mary Doyle-Kimbal, executive director of the National Assn. of Real Estate Editors. "I think there is always an attraction to find out how people are living, and when you add in celebrities, that's the key thing. It had universal appeal."

The idea for the column came to Ryon when she was looking at a Sunday newspaper magazine. "She was reading Parade, and there were all these little items about celebrities," said Times writer Lauren Beale, who now writes the column. "She thought we could do that with real estate."

She was in the right town for it, said Jeff Hyland, a Beverly Hills realtor whose clients were often mentioned in Hot Property over the years. "This is not New York City where everyone wants to keep quiet," Hyland said. "This is Hollywood, where if you are moving from south of Sunset to north of Sunset, you want all your friends and the competition in the industry to know about it."

Ryon was born July 16, 1944, in Portland, Ore. She graduated from Hollywood High School and went on to UCLA to get a bachelor's in theater and then to UC Berkeley for a master's in journalism. She worked for several small newspapers, including the Folsom Telegraph and now-defunct Alhambra Post-Advocate, landing at The Times as a part-time copy editor in 1977. She became a full-time reporter in 1979.

Ryon wrote lengthy pieces on serious real estate and consumer matters such as toxic waste on residential sites and flammable materials used in furnishings. But she will probably be best remembered for the tirelessly researched, breezy Hot Property, a column that people who wouldn't be caught dead picking up People or Us magazines loved to read. By the time she retired in 2008 she had written more than 1,300 of the columns which ran weekly and at times twice weekly.

In Ryon's honor, the National Assn. of Real Estate Editors gives out an annual award for the best real estate article by a young journalist.

In addition to her husband, Ryon is survived by a daughter, Heather.

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