SELLER: Estate of Merv Griffin
LOCATION: La Quinta, CA
SIZE: 39+ acres, 14 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms (total).
YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Real Housewives of Wherever watchers may recall a season or two ago when Orange County-based cosmetics and handbag pusher Gretchen Rossi and her financially troubled man-friend Slade Smiley hopped in her Range Rover and high-tailed it out to California’s hot-as-Hades Coachella Valley where they (along with her seemingly very nice parents) spent a couple of sunny days shacked up in a big house on an equestrian estate in La Quinta, CA owned by the estate of deceased Showbiz mogul and hotel magnate Merv Griffin. Remember that? No? Well, they did…
Mervyn “Merv” Griffin went to meet his Great Executive Producer in the Sky in 2007 and since then his sprawling, horse-oriented spread in La Quinta has been available as a short-term rental and last week, not surprisingly, the property popped up for sale on the open market with an asking price of $9,500,000.
The one-time big band singer turned talk show host turn powerfully connected tycoon, married to a lady for nearly 20 years and long-linked to Hungarian-born actress and social gadabout Eva Gabor but (allegedly) an active if essentially closeted homosexual, had a long and industrious career that made him a billionaire and besties a lot of very influential and chi-chi people like Ronald and Nancy Reagan; Although the casket was actually moved about buy a bunch of hunky, uniform wearing military men, Mister Griffin was listed an honorary pallbearer at President Reagan’s 2004 funeral.
In addition to pioneering the modern-day talk show (The Merv Griffin Show), the entertainment industry legend created a number of long-running, exceedingly-successful and enormously-lucrative game shows including the still-running-at-light-speed juggernauts Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. In 1979 Mister Griffin developed the dance contest program called Dance Fever—which Your Mama watched wide-eyed and religiously for years—hosted by a slim-hipped, disco-dancing stud named Deney Terrio who later (unsuccessfully) sued Mister Griffin for man-on-man sexual harassment.
At some point, Mister Griffin began to invest in high-end hotels and some sort of closed-circuit television something-or-other used in off-track betting sites that earned him a fortune. Over time he owned a handful of famous (and infamou)s hotels including The Beverly Hilton, where troubled songstress Whitney Houston met her maker in the bathtub of her luxury suite last year; Resorts Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City (NJ), bought from long-time rival Donald Trump; the Merv Griffin Givenchy Resort & Spa in Palm Springs (CA), now the still-super-fab Jonathan Adler-decorated Parker; and Paradise Island in the Bahamas, formerly known as the less inviting Hog Island and bought by Mister Griffin from Donald Trump for $400,000,000 and sold some years later for just $125,000,000 to currently financially embattled South African resort developer Sol Kerzner who, as it turns out, recently unloaded the resort in a debt-for-equity restructuring situation far too complicated and uninteresting for Your Mama to make heads or tails.
Property records we peeped are a bit unclear as to the details but various reports and other online documentation on the matter indicate Mister Griffin purchased and custom-built his equestrian-centric desert compound in La Quinta sometime in the 1980s. La Quinta, for those who don’t know, oozes out over the desert valley floor about 25 miles down Highway 111 from Palm Springs. The community is comprised largely of gated, golf-oriented developments favored by snowbirds, well-to-do retirees, and conventioneers.
Current listing information and the myriad of reports already floating about regarding the listing of Mister Griffin’s estate indicate the entirely-walled and electronically-gated compound spans just over 39, pancake flat (but almost entirely landscaped/developed) desert acres. A long driveway snakes through the property to a two-tiered, double circular drive at the front of the Merv’s main mansion.
Altogether, according to listing information, the compound has 14 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms, but only two of the bedrooms (and an unknown number of the poopers) are located in the approximately 5,000 square foot main house, an architecturally confounding white stucco single story affair with an unfortunate, teal tile roof and airy interiors worked over in a modern Moroccan manner by A-list decorator Waldo Fernandez. Mister Fernandez, in case it matters to y’all, also did up the day-core in all six of the (fully detached) guest houses. That’s right, six. More on those in a minute.
A considerable chunk of the main house is taken up by a cavernous, boo-teek hotel-lobby-sized living/dining room (above, top) with 20-foot ceiling and 1,200 square feet of tile-floors, mostly hidden by one, epically-scaled area rug. The capacious space has multiple seating areas—note the back-to-back sofa and smattering of well-worn woven wicker pieces; a modern-minded, mantel-free, wood-burning fireplace; three long banks of towering windows divided by equally towering planted palms; a high-gloss grand piano; round dining table for 12; and a domed, circular sky light that slides open at the touch of a button. That sky light is perfect for releasing the hot friction and frisson generated by the exact sort of crush of high-wattage people Mister Griffin could probably summon on a moments notice with little more than a snap of the fingers.
A short corridor off the dining end of the room connects to a (no-doubt) well-stocked wet bar and a surprisingly compact but well-equipped kitchen (above, bottom). The relatively wee(ish) size of the kitchen is somewhat mitigated by the soaring, barrel vaulted ceiling and a large window set into a wall slathered in the same granite as the counter tops looks out on to a broad terrace and a tightly clustered quartet of circular guest casitas.
The floors in Mister Griffin’s master boo-dwar are, we see, a rather fetching, over-sized hexagonal tiles almost the exact same shade of linen-y white as just about everything else in the pale and fairly sparely furnished space. A fireplace at one end of the room is flanked by a pair of slip-covered chairs and a wrought iron four-poster bed at the other end is attended on either side by a slip-covered night table and identical, jewel-toned stained glass doors that open—we think but can not confirm—to Mister Griffin’s private office and lounge.
The office/lounge, as seen in various photos floating around on the interweb has at least two walls lined floor-to-ceiling with custom-built wood book cases filled to the gills with framed photographs of all his famous friends and associates including Larry King, Johnny Carson and—natch—Nancy and Ronald Reagan. French doors set into an angled corner of the room open up to a private terrace with built-in fire pit.
The main house’s lone guest bedroom looks much like the master with a wrought iron four-poster bed, fireplace, stained glass lantern light, built-in cabinetry and a custom-built cabinet at the foot of the bed out of which pops a flat screen tee-vee. The bathrooms—at least the ones in the main house—have downright spectacular mosaic tile sinks and counter tops as well as decoratively drool-worthy hammered metal fixtures (of unknown metallic material).
Each of the four circular guest casitas (above), set across a plaza-sized terrace from the main house, has an inset porch, bedroom with sitting area and fireplace, private bathroom and wet bar. Two more far flung guest houses each have three bedrooms according to listing information and there are two additional living spaces tacked on to each end of the 16-stall stable.
A water channel cut into the concrete terrace between the main house and guest casitas tumbles down a wide flight of stairs where it empties into an arching and bulbous, infinity-edged swimming pool. This water channel is certainly an interesting way to stitch together the vast and multi-level terraces that wrap around the back of the house but Your Mama worries that some boozy, bikini-clad queen might snag her kitten heel and take a tumble while attempting to step across the channel with a cigarette between her lips and a Danielle Steel novel tucked under her arm. Can you spell lawsuit?
The terraces step down to a private 2.5(ish) acre private pond stocked with fish. A roofed pavilion that hovers over the water’s edge is where Mister Griffin parked his swan-shaped and—let’s be honest—campy paddle boat. Beyond the grassy, palm-tree dotted landscaped grounds that surround the main house (and guest houses) the property turns in to an honest to goodness equestrian facility with white-fenced paddocks and grazing pens, a race track, 16-stall barn and various other outbuildings and barns.
While Mister Griffin’s horsey estate is certainly luxurious and well-equipped (if in some need of a freshening up or face lift) but it is not, in some ways for the meteorologically feint of heart. Today’s expected temperature in La Quinta according to our iPhone app: 108. Tomorrow’s expected temperature is set at 106, and then back up to 108 again for a couple days. And it’s only June.
In addition to his desert spred, Mister Griffin owned and maintained a large number of residences and estates including a vineyard in Carmel, CA that Your Mama (dissed and) discussed back in early 2007 when it was on the open market with an asking price of $6,200,000.
Right now, a privately situated, 2.5(ish) acre estate with a 5,500 square foot house in Bel Air not so far from Mariah Carey’s west coast crib—and currently marketed as the “Previously owned by Merv Griffin (and currently owned by a major Hollywood celebrity)”—is being shopped off-market with a $6,995,000 asking price.
For many years, according to the friendly fellas at The Movieland Directory, Mister Griffin long owned one of the most prominent mansions in the rather much-maligned Mount Olympus neighborhood above Hollywood and, also as per the fellas at The Movieland Directory, Mister Griffin also once owned (or occupied) a mansion on the corner of Bedford and Lomitas in Beverly Hills where in 1958 Cheryl Crane stabbed to death her mother Lana Turner’s gangster-associated paramour Johnny Sompanato.
listing photos: Coldwell Banker Previews International