The famous and infamous buy and sell astronomically expensive homes without breaking a sweat. But what happens when they’re in L.A. temporarily and just need a crash pad? Turns out, the list of required amenities isn’t any shorter when the entertainment industry’s one-percenters are only passing through.
“There’s a premium on desirable rentals because there really aren’t that many of them,” says Barry Sloane, who represents a particularly coveted rental with partner Marc Silver. Located in Los Feliz and owned by a financier who spends half the year in New York, the house is available from May to Thanksgiving, and you’re not going to find this one, which has become the go-to house for visiting musicians, on an Airbnb site. “The availability of this house depends largely on what’s going on in town in the entertainment industry,” says Sloane, who’s not at liberty to divulge the list of past tenants at that house. The furnished property is officially listed at $12,000 per month, but can go for more if multiple parties want it at the same time.
“It almost feels like a castle with a moat,” Sloane continues. “It has a long, very steep driveway and from inside the house you can see anyone who attempts to enter the property. It also has a guesthouse with an address that’s actually on another street, and that’s one of the property’s major pluses. It takes several minutes to drive from one entrance to the other, and if paparazzi are following you, you can exit from a different driveway. There’s a bodyguard house on the grounds, too.”
Forget the infinity pool — these people need someplace they know they’ll be left in peace. “High profile people value privacy.” Marc Silver points out, “and living someplace that feels protected is a high priority for them. You want an inconspicuous residence that can’t be seen from the street, and can’t be overlooked from houses at a higher elevation, which is often the more difficult part. It’s easier to protect a house from the street than it is to secure it from aerial views.”
Rentals of choice must be difficult to spot, but they also have to be spacious. “Several big names have security teams at their homes 24 hours a day, and if they stay in a rental it has to have room for those people,” says Sloane. “There’s a house in the Hollywood Hills that used to belong to Dan Aykroyd that we rented out for years. Dan had a big security detail and we rented it a succession to people who had security concerns. The maids’ quarters were at the front of the house, and acted as a perfect bodyguard set-up.”
Security considerations don’t mean that visiting dignitaries are down for bunker living; these rentals must be beautiful, too, and the 2,900-square-foot home in Los Feliz is gorgeous. With four spacious bedrooms, five bathrooms and a swimming pool on a very large lot, it’s straight out of Raymond Chandler. “If you come to L.A. to do a movie or record you want to experience some fantasy of the city, and the two unique L.A. experiences are the Spanish hacienda and the modernist house,” Sloane observes. “Spanish houses lend themselves to security much better than a modernist house with glass walls.”
The house in Los Feliz was designed by W. C. Tanner, a remarkably flexible architect who did all sorts of historical revival style houses in the neighborhood. “He could go from English to French to Spanish at the drop of a hat, and this is a very grand Spanish house with Batchelder tile throughout,” says Sloane. “It has more Batchelder tile than any house I’ve ever seen. It’s extraordinary.”
Around the corner from the rock star hideout is a Greek Revival style house Tanner did for pioneering gay director, Dorothy Arzner, who was the only woman who worked regularly in Hollywood between 1927 and 1943. She made 20 features during those years, and was the first woman to join the Director’s Guild. (Google her! She’s fascinating.)
“In 2010, the director Michael Hazanavicius shot his homage to silent film, The Artist, in L.A., and the star of the film, Jean Dujardin, wanted a house where he could really immerse himself in the part,” says Silver. “We put him in the Dorothy Arzner house because it’s the kind of place a star like the one he was playing in the movie would’ve lived.”
“It was a perfect fit for Jean, who was a lovely guy,” Sloane adds. “He’d have the hair slicked back and be wearing period clothes at home — he really got into it.”
Rental houses can acquire a pedigree by virtue of who’s previously rented them, and occasionally one of them becomes legendary.
“During the ‘80s and ‘90s the most famous rental house in L.A. was this little cottage at the end of a long private driveway up on Woodrow Wilson Drive,” says Sloane. “It overlooked the entire Valley, it had a big modern addition with a sports court, and everyone from Al Pacino to Princess Diana stayed there. It was decorated in a kind of 1950s, Gene Autry, country way, and it was funky. It had blue shag pile carpeting in the master bedroom and everyone loved it! When Princess Diana was in L.A. she allegedly stayed at the British Consulate, but she was actually at that house, sleeping in the bedroom with blue shag carpeting. Eventually the older couple who owned it — and made a fortune from it — died, and it was sold to a television producer, but for 20 years it was the most legendary house in L.A.”
Your chance to see that blue shag carpeting is passed, but W.C. Tanner’s Spanish hacienda in Los Feliz is still available, and it has hipster style to burn. “It’s basically like your own private Chateau Marmont,” Silver concludes. “It has the same vibe, and musicians seem to feel comfortable there.”