Michael Gross is America’s best-known writer on the wealthy. Following his books 740 Park and Rogues’ Gallery, he went west to the richest and most entertaining neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and Holmby Hills, Beverly Park, to look at crazy cast of characters who brought them into being and occupy their most over-the-top homes.
Beginning with the founding of this fabled district on lima bean fields set against a stunning backdrop of impassible mountains and tracing how adobe huts evolved into $100 million mansions perched between the city and the Pacific, he reveals how the plutocrats of a century ago, oil and rail barons with lots of cash and little provenance, created the communities real estate agents would later market as the Platinum Triangle.
Outlandish, lavish homes began filling the landscape, and Gross uses some of the most extravagant and the stories of their owners and occupants over the course of the 20th century to open a window onto life and times of a town he calls "the Mecca of self-invention."
There are, of course, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Harold Lloyd, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, George Hamilton, Tony Curtis, Cher. But they share the stage with rough-hewn robber barons, Spanish land grant families, desperado oilmen and railroad titans, conglomerateurs, conmen and Ponzi schemers, porn producers, and Arab perverts, not to mention characters right out of the pages of the business section of our most staid broadsheets and the broadcasts of TMZ. If Gross’s own 740 Park had a baby with Valley of the Dolls, and it learned to read with a copy of Hollywood Babylon, it would be Unreal Estate.
Los Angeles, the city of angels, is also a city of dreamers and schemers whose stories will stir you to anger, fits of laughter and moments of sheer delight. You thought you knew L.A.? Michael Gross will tell you its best-hidden secrets.