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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,

"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.

July 27th, 2012

“Liar Loan” Widow Lists $150 Million Holmby Hills Estate: Marilyn Monroe Canoodled Here

Dawn Arnall, widow of Roland Arnall, a central figure in creating the mortgage crisis, is quietly seeking to sell Owlwood in Holmby Hills, one of the central estates in Unreal Estate for a noisy $150 million ask, says the Hollywood Reporter and Real Estalker. Among the fabled residents of the gated estate (actually once three separate houses): Tony Curtis (pictured), Cher, Jayne Mansfield, Engelbert Humperdink, David Geffen, and movie mogul Joseph Schenk, who allegedly let Marilyn Monroe stay in a guest house in return for special benefits. Read all about them all in Unreal Estate.

July 26th, 2012

Kristen Stewart’s Lynda Resnick Connection

The news that actress Kristen Stewart was caught cheating on her Twilight co-star Rob Pattinson was quite unreal. There’s also an Unreal Estate connection. The photos of Stewart snogging her Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders put an unwelcome spotlight on the cuckquean (the female equivalent of cuckold) in the affair, Sander’s wife, the British model Liberty Ross. Happier in the glare of publicity is Ross’s father Ian Ross, aka Flipper (for his metal leg), who brought his family to Los Angeles in the ’70s when he signed on as the front man for California’s first roller disco, called Flipper’s, of course. That was a bit of a comedown from his first gig as a founder of Radio Caroline, Britain’s legendary pirate radio station. And after Flipper’s flopped, Ross slipped further down the greasy pecking order of L.A. life, leveraging his plummy accent (his wife, Liberty’s mum, was a wealthy aristocrat) into a job as butler at the Sunset Boulevard mansion of the fruit-and-nut billionaires and political and cultural contributors Lynda and Stewart Resnick, two of the main characters in Unreal Estate. Ross later wrote a revenge novel called Beverly Hills Butler starring a thinly disguised version of the Resnicks.

July 13th, 2012

Richard Zanuck of Beverly Park, RIP

The Hollywood Reporter reveals that producer Richard D. Zanuck, one of the original residents of Beverly Park, has died at age 77.

May 22nd, 2012

POM (not so) Wonderful

“Lies and gross exaggerations,” is how Linda and Stewart Resnick of Beverly Hills characterized Unreal Estate–which ends with their astonishing story–in a mass email condemnation shortly before its release late last year. They cited no specifics (of course) and the book nonetheless spent 15 weeks on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. And today, news comes that the Resnicks have engaged in what can only be described as “lies and gross exaggerations” themselves in promoting their signature POM Wonderful pomegranate products. “An administrative law judge issued a cease-and-desist order after determining that the company had insufficient evidence to support claims that its juice reduced the risks of heart disease, prostate cancer and impotence,” reports Stephanie Strom in this morning’s New York Times. “The order will remain in effect for the next 20 years. It was issued after an Federal Trade Commission complaint two years ago, contending that Pom Wonderful had engaged in false and misleading advertising.”

May 14th, 2012

Unreal Estate is “Entirely Un-Put-Downable,” says Darlings author

I just bought a new novel called The Darlings by Cristina Alger (at right, from Penguin Press), so it was a double thrill to discover she’d told Jeff Glor of AuthorTalk at that she is reading Unreal Estate. “I always find his books entirely un-put-downable,” Alger said. I expect to return the compliment soon.

March 16th, 2012

Australia Gets Unreal

In the March issue of Wish Magazine from The Australian, Carrie Kablean calls Unreal Estate, “A literary peek into the estates of the rich and/or famous that’s raised a few hackles among its glittering cast of characters. High life, low life and a fascinating tale.”

March 11th, 2012

My weekend in Palmhampton

Private jets! Republican gossip! Italo-Asian-Middle Eastern fusion food! If it’s Sunday, it must be a Palm Beach Story in my latest column for Crain’s New York Business. Thanks to the Brazilian Court Hotel for inviting me back to its Author Breakfast series to discuss Unreal Estate.

March 6th, 2012

The Sales Just Keep on Coming

Unreal Estate continues its unreal performance at Book Soup in West Hollywood, hanging out its shingle as the #5 bestseller this week.

February 26th, 2012

Unreal Estate a 13-week bestseller

It’s back up to #12 on the Los Angeles Times non-fiction bestseller list for Unreal Estate this week. It’s now been a bestseller for 13 weeks.

February 22nd, 2012

“Positively Dickensian,” says the Los Angeles Review of Books

The Los Angeles Review of Books has just posted a long, thoughtful and fair consideration of Unreal Estate. Even though it’s not entirely positive, it is the kind of review most writers hope to receive now and then, but do all too rarely, especially nowadays when ever-fewer media outlets do that job. The site, which is currently in preview mode, clearly deserves attention and support. And I say that not only because it says, “Gross isn’t selling us a bill of goods; he’s just asking us to enlist him as our trusted cicerone, to let him guide us through the neighborhood, even if he, admittedly, has never gained access to many of these properties. A tour most assuredly of his own design, it has plenty of melodrama and a cast of characters that, in number and complexity, is positively Dickensian…..It’s enticing to have an East Coast ‘outsider’ like Gross set his sights on Los Angeles; sometimes it takes an interloper’s objectivity to refocus our lens, much like British-born Reyner Banham did when he identified the city’s four ecologies, or Roman Polanski with the film Chinatown, or Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One…..His narrative employs each estate as a mere touchstone for spinning the yarns of its owners. He reminds me of John Cheever’s ‘The Swimmer,’ whose goal is to traverse his upscale neighborhood pool by pool.” Nice company!