Unreal Estate

Unreal Estate

Money, Ambition, and the Lust for Land in Los Angeles

“Paragraphs of jaw-dropping details about a type of extravagance that might have been scorned even by the very wealthy on the Titanic. But [Unreal Estate] also leaves the reader with a sense of history….[It's] what would happen if Us Weekly and Architectural Digest had a love child that was much smarter than either. The book provides a panorama of what was going on inside some of the most frivolous, gated houses on a hill that have ever existed.”The Los Angeles Times

"Great Hollywood houses, great Hollywood tragedies, great book." The Chicago Tribune

"Sprawling, delicious….compelling and overflowing with gossip....It’s fun! And quite astonishing to read….Unreal Estate is compulsively readable."Liz Smith

“Gross seems to be picking up where the late, great Dominick Dunne left off in his fascination with the ways that high life and low life come together. Gross gives us the lowdown on an incredible cast of characters…[He] is such a good storyteller.”Joe Meyer, Connecticut Post

“Why didn’t today’s owners of the great LA estates get together and offer Gross a house of his own not to write the book?...Great dish."Jesse Kornbluth, Headbutler.com

"This book's for you."David Patrick Columbia

"Murderers, lawyers, actors, pornographers, tycoons, and addicts....Fantasy and ambition, cheating and careless waste...Gross's research is meticulous. Hard to read. Harder to put down."Los Angeles Magazine

"Rich in incident and full of thwarted ambition, visionary zeal, conspicuous consumption [and] salacious gossip...A juicy, breezily told social history of La La Land, deal by deal.Kirkus Reviews

“Unreal Estate has it all: movie stars, murders, strippers, pimps, playboys and Mafiosi alongside the founding members of Los Angeles society…The book is a great read. New York Social Diary

“A gripping picture of what made Los Angeles what it is today...In Unreal Estate, [Michael Gross] takes on the Western Frontier like a modern day cowboy — seeking, searching and taking no prisoners.” Lucy Blodgett, The Huffington Post

“Remarkable houses …famed owners…stories of trysts, broken marriages, dissolution and predatory capitalism.” The Hollywood Reporter

"Sexy and sordid stories fill this survey of L.A.’s wealthiest, most private districts." Los Angeles Magazine "The Reading List"

"Tales of adultery, prostitution, embezzlement, Mafia schemes, and the dauntless efforts of millionaires to keep the riffraff out of the exclusive enclaves of Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby Hills, and Beverly Park.” Details

"Mister Gross leaves no high society stone un-turned...untold and sometimes sordid stories."The Real Estalker

"Stripping bare the glamorous West Coast,from Beverly Hills to Bel-Air, Holmby Hills, Beverly Park, etc… Michael’s never been a lap dog of his subjects. And he never holds back the dish "George Christy, Beverly Hills Courier

"A name-dropper's paradise."Library Journal

"Gross write with an aficionado's zeal."Publishers Weekly

Michael Gross uncovers the very secret history of Los Angeles through the mind-boggling estates of Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby Hills and Beverly Park, and the fascinating, fabulous folks who created and populate them. Using the century-long evolution from adobe huts to $100 million mansions as the baseline of the story, he reveals how a few powerful and often ruthless oil and railroad magnates imposed their idyllic vision of the good life on the Los Angeles landscape to create the legendary communities known as the Platinum Triangle. Gross gives vivid, riveting accounts of the most lavish of the many lavish houses that started springing up almost immediately. But the stories of those homes are just a window onto the lives of their owners and occupants over the course of the 20th century, and onto the bigger story of a people and a storied region that have become, in Gross’s words, “the Mecca of self-invention.” Taken altogether, they read like a cross between Gross’s own 740 Park, Valley of the Dolls, and Hollywood Babylon. With a little of the film Chinatown thrown in too. Los Angeles provides Michael Gross with his broadest canvas yet; UNREAL ESTATE will surprise, fascinate, and most of all entertain you with a story you don’t know about a place you think you do.

October 20th, 2015

Another one bites the dust: RIP Bookhampton

Truly sad news in the inbox last night: Bookhampton, the multi-door east end independent bookseller, will close shop after this holiday season–unless a white knight comes along to save it. There are no words. And after December, there will literally be none left out there. Anyone want to step up and save the day?

June 15th, 2015

Battling Billionaires: LA Strikes Back

elon1The Billionaire’s Belt in midtown Manhattan isn’t the only place where the .01 percent are spending mounds of money on real estate. The Hilton-Hyland realty blog, run by Bilal Khan, formerly of Curbed, today spotlights a Billionaire’s Hill in Bel Air, one of the neighborhoods featured in Unreal Estate. Want to rub garden hoses with Elon Musk (pictured)? He’s today’s king of the hill.

May 5th, 2014

Help Save Bookhampton

This heartbreaking letter just arrived from the wonderful Bookhampton book stores:
Dear Friends and Neighbors and BookLovers:
The most wonderful part of owning BookHampton has been the discovery of new books and the camaraderie of fellow readers. The saddest part is the
awareness that all things, even those we cherish most, have days that are numbered. The frozen Winter and this very chilly Spring caught BookHampton in a
grip that has brought us to our knees. We’re fighting to have one more Summer, and not to be bowed by the writing on the wall that forced our
colleagues to close their doors. In NYC alone: Coliseum Books, Gotham, Endicott, Shakespeare & Co., Murder Ink, the lovely Madison Avenue
Bookshop, the incomparable Books & Co., BN Lincoln Center and now Rizzoli – all gone. A good friend asked if there’s anything that we can do to hold on to
BookHampton. As I tried to find one more answer, the brilliant metaphor of the great writer Anne LaMott came to mind. “My brother,” she wrote in
Bird by Bird, “was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day… he was at the kitchen table close
to tears… immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said,
‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’” So here then is my answer and a heartfelt request: Could you please help us take on the enormous challenge of saving BookHampton book by book. If every one of our friends, neighbors, and booklovers would be so kind as to buy one book today, it would make a true and immediate difference: bookhampton@bookhampton.com
Please take a moment to order just one book right now from BookHampton
Any book at all. http://bookhampton.com/buy-a-book/
Tell us the book you’re looking for or let us make a great recommendation. We’ll hold it in store or ship it anywhere!
Or call us : (631) 324-4939 or (631) 488-5953.
BookHampton is the literary cornerstone of our community; the beach, the farms, and this bookstore enrich all our lives and nourish our souls.
Thank you, in advance, for taking the time today to save BookHampton book by book.
Charline and Chris, Billy, Kim, Taylor, Mary, Sarah, Greg, Kate, Ken

February 17th, 2014

Owlwood set to fly-but to whooo?

Owlwood, the Holmby Hills mega-estate made up of homes once owned by stars like Rudy Vallee, Engelbert Humperdinck, Jayne Mansfield, Tony Curtis and Cher, has reportedly been sold, says the indefatigable LA realty blogger, Your Mama of The Realestalker. Its current owner, Dawn Arnall, is the widow of Roland, a subprime mortgage banking billionaire. As featured in The Hollywood Reporter (at right) the whole story of the estate–allegedly listed for $150 million, but reportedly sold for something closer to half that–is told in my last book, Unreal Estate. Writes the red-hot Mama, “It could be that this is all just a lot of hot property air and that nothing will come of the juicy rumors about Owlwood’s pending sale. We’ll just have to put on our patience caps and wait and see, right?”

July 5th, 2013

House of Outrageous Fortune: Now available for pre-orders

House of Outrageous Fortune: Fifteen Central Park West, the World’s Most Powerful Address is now available for pre-orders on Amazon by clicking here. Publication date is March 11, 2014. I’ll post a bn.com link as soon as it, too, becomes available.

April 4th, 2013

Eye on LA on Unreal Estate

Good things are worth waiting for. Back in November 2011, when Unreal Estate was launched with a gala party at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, KABC’s “Eye on LA” filmed a piece on the book that finally aired–sixteen months later. Watch it here.

February 18th, 2013

Jerry Buss, RIP

Jerry Buss, the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, who died this morning Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at age 80, plays only a cameo role in Unreal Estate: Money, Ambition and the Lust for Land in Los Angeles, but it’s a fun one. Buss bought Pickfair, the 42-room Beverly Hills estate built by Douglas Fairbanks for his lover actress Mary Pickford (at right) from the latter’s estate in 1979 for $5.3 million and sold it to actress Pia Zadora and her husband Meshulam Riklis for $6.7 million in 1988. Now in other hands, the house has been so altered and degraded, I chose not to feature it in the book. But Buss pushed his way into the story anyway, as one of “five million dollar mansion boys.” They were Kenny Rogers, Hugh Hefner, Bernie Cornfeld, and Ghazi Aita, who are featured in the book, as well as producer Bob Evans, businessman Leonard Ross, Wilt Chamberlain, agent turned network head Jerry Perenchio, and the investor and casino and studio boss Kirk Kerkorian. All of their homes were the home of a moveable party through the 1970s and 1980s, where the most beautiful women in L.A. met and mingled with its richest, most powerful men.

February 14th, 2013

A Valentine for Unreal Estate

Realestalker, the much-read luxury realty blog, sent a heart to Unreal Estate today, calling it “exhaustively researched…and deliciously dishy” in a post that retails the rumor that one of the great estates featured in the book, Casa Encantada in Bel Air, once the home of Conrad Hilton and David Murdock, can be yours if you shovel $225 million in the direction of its current owner, Global Crossing founder Gary Winnick. HBO’s planned Unreal Estate series is currently in development. Watch this space for more news on that front as soon as Gripepad is allowed to share it.

January 30th, 2013

Whale Watching

Students and fellow realty obsessives, Curbed LA gives a history lesson on the first realty whales to hit Los Angeles this week and Unreal Estate is one of the assigned texts.

October 11th, 2012

Oscar Winner Alex Gibney Films 740 Park

The Hollywood Reporter just revealed a secret I’ve been keeping since last year. Alex Gibney, the acclaimed documentarian, has acquired and made a film version of 740 Park. It’s called Park Avenue: Money, Power and The American Dream and it will air on PBS on November 12th as part of the international Why Poverty? documentary series, and will also be available on Hulu, iTunes and Netflix for digital download later this month. I’ll post links once I have them. Thanks to the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer who played matchmaker for Gibney and me. UPDATE: Curbed comments on the Gibney/Gross collaboration, of course.