Vincente Minnelli’s Former Abandoned MansionOct 2nd, 2013 | By Lindsay | Category: Celebrity Homes
Back in February 2012, a fellow stalker named Kayleigh emailed me to ask if I knew anything about the “creepy” mansion located on the southeast corner of West Sunset Boulevard and North Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills. Her email stated, “There’s very little information on it online other than the fact that Liza Minnelli battled her former step-mother over it. It stands out because all the houses in that area are gorgeous, but this home is unkempt, looks abandoned and is just plain scary.” I did not have any intel on the property – in fact, I had never even heard about it before – but hello! Unkempt, abandoned, scary, AND a celebrity tie-in? Count me in! I contacted fellow stalker E.J., of the Movieland Directory website, who I figured would have the lowdown on the manse’s history and I was right – he had a boatload of information to share. Somehow though, I failed to stalk the place in time for last year’s Haunted Hollywood postings. So, believe you me, it was at the very top of this year’s list and I finally dragged the Grim Cheaper out there in early June.
I do not know what it is about abandoned properties that makes this stalker’s heart go pitter-patter, but I could NOT have been more excited as we pulled up to the mansion.
Liza’s father, famed musical director Vincente Minnelli, moved into the six-bedroom, six-bath, 5,877-square-foot Hollywood Regency-style estate – which was originally built in 1925 and was later re-designed by architect John Elgin Woolf – at some point following his 1951 divorce from Liza’s mother, actress Judy Garland. Liza split her time evenly between both parents, spending six month of each year at Vincente’s house, which boasted a motor court, a pool and a 0.98-acre plot of land. According to Richard Alleman’s book Hollywood: The Movie Lover’s Guide, the director commissioned artist Tony Duquette – whose whimsical Dawnridge residence I blogged about in August – to build a large playhouse for Liza in the backyard. Alleman also states that the young girl’s closet was filled with tyke-sized reproductions of costumes from The King and I, Gone with the Wind and An American in Paris. In her 1984 autobiography Knock Wood, actress Candice Bergen said, “I remember always asking to go to Liza’s to play dress-up because in her closet hung little girls’ dreams.” The state of the house today, though, is the stuff nightmares are made of!
The estate’s first brush with darkness came in 1986. On July 25th of that year, Vincente, who was suffering from emphysema, took his usual after-dinner nap. Sensing something was wrong due to his pallor, Minnelli’s wife, Lee, whom the director had married in 1980, called 911. Paramedics rushed to the scene and Vincente was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival. He was 83. And while the mansion was willed to Liza, it was stipulated that Lee would be permitted to reside there – or at a comparable place – at Liza’s expense for the rest of her life.
In 2000, Liza decided to put the property on the market – unbeknownst to Lee. It sold for $2.75 million two years later and Liza subsequently purchased a $450,000 condo for her step-mother to live in. Lee wasn’t going anywhere, though. A battle ensued in which Liza ended up firing the mansion staff and shutting off the estate’s electricity, at which point Lee sued her. The lawsuit, referring to Liza’s recent wedding to David Gest, stated, “While defendant is honeymooning all over the world, having fed 850 of her closest friends a 12-foot cake, plaintiff is alone in a cold, dark house, at age 94.” You can see some photos taken of Lee at the dwelling, which was starting to dilapidate, during that time period here. Liza eventually had the power restored and the sale finally went through in 2006 –after a four-year escrow. A mediator ruled that Lee would be allowed to stay on the premises until her death, with Liza paying rent to the new owners, who would not be permitted to move in until Lee passed away.
When Lee did pass away three years later, on November 11th, 2009 at the age of 100, the new owners apparently set about making arrangements to tear the mansion down and build a Mediterranean-style estate in its place. The project was scrapped, though, in 2010 due to difficulties with the Beverly Hills Planning Division. Supposedly a restoration of the property was then scheduled to begin, but, as you can see below, that never occurred, either.
And while it seems that some sort of work was done on the property in recent years, as evidenced by the dumpsters and utility truck visible on Bing aerial views, for whatever reason it was stopped and the residence has been left untouched ever since. (How eerily awesome is that pool, by the way? LOVE IT!)
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Big THANK YOU to fellow stalker Kayleigh for telling me about this location and to fellow stalker E.J., of The Movieland Directory website, for informing me of its history!
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: Vincente Minnelli’s former abandoned mansion is located at 812 North Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills.