This article is part of a series by David Silverman about the historic homes I’ve had the honor of being involved with throughout my career—from famous estates like Pickfair and Greenacres to older homes that aren’t as well-known but have equally fascinating stories to tell.
David and his company, LA House Histories, create privately commissioned coffee-table books about the history of homes. He is a great resource for historic photos and other materials for owners, buyers, architects, interior designers, and more. His work has been profiled in the New York Times, the Hollywood Reporter, Town & Country, and Architectural Digest. Find more information at the end of the article!
When B-movie actress Linda Christian divorced Tyrone Power in 1956, she sent her two preschool-age daughters to live with their grandparents in Mexico while she traveled around the world making headlines for dating European millionaires. For the next six years, she rented the Bel Air house where she had lived with her family to so many famous people that I devoted a chapter in my book about the house to all of the renters. Many of them are better known today than Tyrone Power himself, considered one of the most handsome actors in Hollywood history.
Tyrone Power and Linda Christian bought the house in 1951, two years after they married. He was one of the most popular actors from the late 1930s until the mid-1950s, a matinee idol on par with Clark Gable and Errol Flynn who could attract both male and female movie fans. Linda appeared in several B-movies but never succeeded as an actress—instead, she constantly appeared in tabloids and gossip columns for her string of highly publicized affairs. Life magazine dubbed her “The Anatomical Bomb.”
Because the house was featured in an architecture magazine in 1928, movie fan magazines of the 1950s, Architectural Digest in 1984 and 1992, and Interiors magazine in 2018, we are afforded a rare glimpse into the interior of the house over a 90-year period.
Linda Christian received the house in her 1956 divorce from Power, and she rented it out for the next six years while she lived in Europe. When one famous person in Hollywood’s Golden Age rented their home to another famous person, gossip columnists and fan magazines would often write about it—allowing me to search the text of old magazines, newspapers, and books to find the renters. I found more renters of this house over just those six years than any other home I have researched.
In March 1958, one year after Elizabeth Taylor married producer Mike Todd (husband number three of seven), he was killed when his private plane crashed in New Mexico. Eddie Fisher, Mike Todd’s closest friend, comforted Liz after her husband’s death. To the public, Fisher enjoyed a storybook marriage and two children with Debbie Reynolds—the couple were best man and matron of honor at Liz and Todd’s wedding. According to daughter Carrie Fisher’s 2012 memoir, when Mike Todd died, her father Eddie “flew to Elizabeth’s side, gradually making his way slowly to her front.” Eddie’s affair with Liz caused a tabloid feeding frenzy, with Liz and Eddie vilified in the eyes of the public. To escape the media, Liz moved out of her Beverly Hills home and rented Linda Christian’s house for several months.
The pair spent most of their time secluded in the house, with two around-the-clock security guards protecting the couple and Taylor’s three children from reporters and photographers, as well as angry rock-throwers and religious zealots who wanted to preach to the couple on their front porch. Eddie writes in his 1999 memoir that “Sexually she was every man’s dream; she had the face of an angel and the morals of a truck driver…. We’d make love three, four, five times a day.” On Sunday mornings, according to one biographer, Eddie would drive to Nate ’n Al’s and bring back a brunch of bagels, lox, and cream cheese, which he and Liz usually washed down with a bottle or two of champagne.
In 1961, pop singer Joni James and her husband, composer-conductor Tony Acquaviva, rented the house. She recorded more than fifty albums, including 24 platinum records. Later that year, actress Polly Bergen rented the home while filming her most famous role, as the wife of Gregory Peck in Cape Fear, opposite Robert Mitchum as the ex-convict who stalks the couple. That summer, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward rented the house when he was filming Sweet Bird of Youth.
The following year, the house was rented by Sydney Guilaroff, the most celebrated hairdresser during Hollywood’s Golden Era (he was the chief hair stylist at MGM for over forty 40 years). He writes in his 1996 memoir that Marilyn Monroe phoned him twice on the day she died, frantically telling him that Bobby Kennedy and Peter Lawford had just visited her, that she had affairs with both Bobby and JFK, and when she threatened to go public with it, Bobby responded, “There’s more than one way to keep you quiet.”
In 1963, professional psychic Peter Hurkos rented the house. The “telepathic detective,” who helped police departments search for clues in the Manson family murders and the Boston Strangler case, was a popular entertainer in the 1960s and ’70s, known for performing psychic feats at nightclubs and on television for Johnny Carson and Phil Donahue. That summer, Yul Brynner and his family rented the house while he was filming Invitation to a Gunfighter.
Linda Christian sold the house in 1964, and both of the subsequent owners owned it for 24 years before Joyce Rey sold it to the current owners in 2012.
Author and architectural historian David Silverman of LA House Histories creates privately commissioned coffee-table books about the history of homes. He has written about many of LA’s greatest historic estates (including a 150-page book about the Tyrone Power house) and has been profiled in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Hollywood Reporter, Town & County, and Architectural Digest. In addition to his books, David provides services to homeowners and homebuyers, as well as real estate brokers, architects, and interior designers. David grew up in Los Angeles, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in rhetoric from U.C. Berkeley in 1990. Before founding LA House Histories in 2018, he practiced entertainment law in Los Angeles for 19 years.