SELLERS: Suzanne Somers and Alan Hamel
LOCATIONS: Malibu, CA / Palm Springs, CA
PRICE: $16,250,000 / $14,500,000
SIZE: .32 acres / 73 acres
YOUR MAMA’S NOTES: As electrified as the upper end of the property market in Malibu has been the last several years, 1970s sitcom star turned money-minting entrepreneur Suzanne Somers, the quintessential and stereotypical bottle blond hair brain Chrissy Snow on “Three’s Company,” and her husband, former game and talk show host Alan Hamel, seem to be having a bit of difficulty unloading a pair of side-by-side ocean front parcels along Malibu’s prestigious and pricey Malibu Road; After they failed to sell at their original $18 million price tag, the undeveloped lots are now available for the substantially reduced price of $16.25 million. Property records indicate the Somers-Hamels picked up the first lot in September 1999 for $2.3 million and the other in August of 2001 for $2.35 million while our research shows that the adjacent parcels together come to almost one-third of an acre — .32-acres, to be more precise — with about 190-feet of direct beach frontage. A small cottage once stood on stilts on the easternmost lot but was completely destroyed in a January 2007 wildfire that also took out several other multi-million dollar oceanfront homes along Malibu Road. One of the lots, according to online marketing materials, “is close to having building permits” for what appears in a rendering to be a boxy, two-story contemporary designed by Montecito-based architect Bob Easton. Some of the other beach houses along Malibu Road are owned by John Cusack, Adam Sandler, and Sarah MacMillan, the relatively low profile, billionaire heiress to the Minnesota-based Cargill food processing fortune.
Since sometime around their 1977 marriage, the Somers-Hamels have maintained a giddily idiosyncratic and lavishly appointed compound nestled on 73 private, mountainside acres in the affluent Mesa neighborhood just south of downtown Palm Springs. The funky but absolutely deluxe, resort-style property, with panoramic views over Palm Springs, has been for sale on and off since at least early 2008 when it was listed with a publicity generating and in-hindsight quixotically optimistic asking price of $35 million. By August of the following year the price had plummeted like a concrete booted mob hit to $12.9 million and today the property remains available with a 12-ish percent higher asking price of $14.5 million. The compound, said to be modeled on the hillside village of Le Baux-de-Provence in southern France and, hence, dubbed by the couple as “Les Baux de Palm Springs,” encompasses five separate pavilions that together span about 10,000 square feet with a total of nine bedrooms and nine full and two half bathrooms. Although there are paths and stairways that provide additional access, a wooden funicular is the most efficient, novel and, perhaps, least strenuous way to get from the garage and motor court to the main residence that sits highest on the mountainside above the other structures. Online listings suggest the compound as an “alternative to the country club or golf resort” and, in a marketing video, listing agent Joyce Rey of Coldwell Banker says Merv Griffin famously described the property as “the most interesting, unique and beautiful estates in the entire desert.” We’re quite sure at least a couple of the real estate obsessed desert dwellers we know will disagree with the superlative nature of late Mister Griffin’s statement about “Les Baux” but the property is, by any standard, an impressive and scenic residential fantasia liberally frosted with a thick layer of comfy but glitzy decorative icing that’s thick with white, slip-covered furniture and zebra hide rugs and heavy on crystal chandeliers and oddball bibelots. (Did y’all note the authentic matador costume on a mannequin in the dining room?)
Originally built as a small cottage in the 1920s by Wright Ludington, an eccentric artist and connoisseur whose father was the editor of the “Saturday Evening Post,” the main residence was renovated and enlarged by the Somers-Hamels in the late 1980s and one of the guesthouses, a sturdy stone-built structure added in the 1950s, was designed by innovative desert modernist architect Albert Frey. The master suite, surrounded by a plethora of patios, occupies its own building and features a stone fireplace and incorporates a celeb-sized dressing room that features a center island dresser laden with a pirate’s booty of shimmery, multi-colored baubles. Stone pathways shaded by mature trees and bordered by mature landscaping meander the property and link the various pavilions, terraces, and recreational amenities that include a walk-in wine cellar and tasting room, swimming pool with nearby spa, a waterfall that tumbles into a lagoon-like pool, an al fresco claw-footed bathtub, and an amphitheatre where this camp appreciating property gossip likes to imagine the still bubbly 69-year old blond bombshell serenades her guests with corny but catchy Old School ditties like “The Trolley Song.”
Rarely far from the public eye — she popped up earlier this year up on the 20th season of the still kicking “Dancing With the Stars” where she was voted off on the fifth round — the veteran pop culture icon hasn’t been a regular on the boob toob since she did seven seasons in the mid-1990s opposite Patrick Duffy in the little remembered sitcom “Step by Step.” Nowadays the high-energy entertainer and occasional Las Vegas headliner — she recently canceled the second leg of an extravaganza at an off-Strip resort — presides over a sprawling and diverse empire of Suzanne Somers-centric products. Among many other endeavors she sells a line of organic skincare products and she still hawks what is, for better or worse, her signature product: the much-mocked ThighMaster exercise contraption. (Just in case anyone with flabby inner thighs they want to tighten might be curious or interested, a brand-new ThighMaster sells for $29.99 on Miz Somers’ website but there are dozens of lightly used ones available on Ebay for about ten bucks.) A breast cancer survivor and stridently tireless advocate for highly controversial biohormone replacement therapy, Miz Somers has also written a number of self-help books, not to mention, in 1980, a slim volume of hilariously questionable poetry called “Touch Me: The Poems of Suzanne Somers.”