When David Parnes of “Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles” offers to show you one of the most intriguing properties he represents, you go.
Not because he’s insistent. His impeccable British manners preclude nagging. Rather, it’s because he’s going to show you something you’ve never seen before—and probably never will again.
Parnes and his partner, a fellow Brit, James Harris, star in the popular Bravo reality show and handle the sales of some of L.A.’s legendary mansions, including what’s commonly known as the Spelling Manor.
Their total transaction volume in the first year of the pandemic, 2020 was $290,231,500. Thus far in 2021, they’ve already amassed over $500 million in sales.
A slice of Beverly Hills history
So when Parnes says he’s got something special to show me, I simply jump in his Rolls and roll out.
The classic Beverly Hills estate he had up his sleeve, built in 1931 and listed for $24,995,000, did not disappoint.
As we made our way through the hills, Parnes explained that this home was once the property of Paramount Pictures. It was used by the studio for glamorous private functions, as well as to house stars and executives who weren’t based in the Los Angeles area.
It’s owned by the estate of the late Charles Fries, a producer who worked on movie and TV projects including “The Amazing Spider-Man” TV series.
One of his films, “Troop Beverly Hills,” was based on experiences that Fries’ wife, Ava Ostern Fries, had with the Beverly Hills Girl Scout troop she founded. Much of the inspiration for the movie derived from events that happened on this very property.
Both Parnes and I are suckers for properties with an elegant Hollywood history. While the gleaming glass-and-steel boxes that have popped up throughout Los Angeles neighborhoods are dazzling, there’s something comforting and refined about the older properties.
“This house has so much Old World charm,” Parnes tells me. “It’s full of moments.”
He’s not wrong.
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Inside the gates
I felt extremely privileged as we entered the estate through ornate wrought-iron gates.
A winding brick driveway took us up the hill to the car park. From there, we had a lovely view of the recreational part of the 1.19-acre grounds, which include a pool and full-sized tennis court.
Parnes very savvily began our tour in perhaps the most elegantly vintage part of the estate, the poolhouse/lounge/bar designed by the renowned architect Paul Williams. I found myself longing for a 1940s bathing suit and a Bellini.
Next, we climbed the stairs and entered the 13,000-square-foot main residence. From the entryway on, it was supremely staged, not just with period-appropriate furniture, but with fresh flowers, fragrant candles, and Limoges, Cartier, and Baccarat tableware.
Envisioning a night in
I couldn’t help but imagine myself in a strapless cocktail dress, long gloves, and a tiara, entertaining similarly dressed doyennes of society and their dinner-jacketed husbands in the plush living room.
After cocktails, we could make our way downstairs to the elegant home movie theater to enjoy a screening of an old favorite.
Later, a poker game would start up in the lounge.
Those who’d rather relax than compete would gather by the fire in the drawing room, sipping on their vintage of choice from the well-stocked wine cellar.
And when all the guests had departed, I’d retire upstairs to the luxurious master suite.
Perhaps the maid would draw me a bath infused with rose petals.
Awaking from my daydreams, I must point out this isn’t just a house of leisure. I was intrigued by the office belonging to Mrs. Fries.
Not just because it’s light, bright, and efficient, with beautiful views and French doors leading out to one of many verandas.
It has another asset: what may be one of Beverly Hills’ original glam rooms. A women must have quick and easy access to beauty at all times.
Renovations will be required
While he does love the elegance of the six-bedroom, 10-bathroom estate, Parnes is aware that no property is perfect.
“There is some work that needs to be done to bring it up to date,” he says.
Some rooms were remodeled in the 1980s and could use some restoration work. A buyer will probably want to bring the entire mansion up to modern standards and efficiency while preserving the nods to its history.
The kitchen is a prime example. It was last remodeled at a time when kitchens were used for food prep—and not necessarily for socializing. A brighter—and more open—future is likely to be ahead.
The daunting thought of renovations ahead is offset by the sight of the lavish grounds, which would be impossible to duplicate. This kind of property, with its extensive decks, patios, gardens, courtyards, lawns and, perhaps most spectacular of all, views, is simply unique.
It’s easy to see the grounds filled with happy guests gliding about, enjoying any type of celebration you could conceive of.
Parnes and I both hope the estate sells to someone who will cherish its history and restore it, rather than demolish it and build a steel-and-glass modern cube in its place. But as a listing agent, he can only hope.
We easy could have stayed all day on the estate, fantasizing about its infinite possibilities. But we needed to move along, so he could show me what might well be this home’s polar opposite.
James Harris and David Parnes of The Agency and Jade Mills of Coldwell Banker International Realty Beverly Hills have the listing.