Johnny Carson Takes His 'First Lesson'

Times Staff Writer

Johnny Carson was exhausted but happy, as the story goes, at the end of his first two-hour session that is part of a real estate transaction.

The deal, included in the contract and escrow instructions, called for tennis star John McEnroe, who bought Carson's Carbon Beach home after Carson moved to Point Dume, to give the TV talk-show host six private tennis lessons.

Betty Graham, manager of Jon Douglas Co.'s Malibu office, made her boss smile at that. Douglas was an All-American high school (Santa Monica) and college (Stanford University) tennis player and the 1961 Pacific Southwest Open Tennis champion and represented the United States in Davis Cup competition.

Graham also handled a transaction for Carson on a Malibu beach house that he owned as an investment, but that buyer doesn't play tennis, she said.

Carson and McEnroe started their series of workouts at Malibu's Pepperdine University because neither of their houses has a tennis court.

Montsorrel--that fantastic Palm Beach estate where the late Anita O'Keeffe Young played hostess to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Douglas Fairbanks, the Maharani of Jaipur, John F. Kennedy, Dean Rusk and Robert S. McNamara--is being marketed as "the most expensive private residence ever to come onto the real estate market," and that means "in the world, as far as we know," Linda Phillips of Sotheby's in New York, said by telephone last week.

Sotheby's International Realty has the $25-million listing, which includes 35,000 square feet of living space (it has 14 main rooms, 8 bedrooms and 10 baths), 608 feet of ocean frontage and seven acres of land.

Completed in 1969, the Regency-style villa is a contrast between old and new with its use of old and rare materials (floors laid in 17th-Century parquet de Versailles) and sophisticated electronics. Eighteen-foot-high windows retract into the floor to create an open-air room looking out to the sea; electrically controlled winches raise and lower chandeliers for cleaning, and the cabana has heated marble floors. There is also a terraced and heated saltwater pool with electrically operated windbreak panels.

In a joint venture with Sotheby's art auction house, the French and English furniture, porcelain, silver and objects d'art from Young's estate will be offered for sale at Sotheby's New York galleries on Oct. 10-12 to benefit a foundation established by Young in 1958 (but not funded until now), when her husband, Robert R. Young (chairman of the New York Central and C&O; railroads), died. Sotheby's art auction house and Sotheby's International Realty have jointly marketed the property and contents of many estates and houses, but the most famous was probably Hever Castle in England, family home of the Astors.

The only other home that sold for anything near the asking price of Montsorrel was the Knoll, Phillips said. Last year, singer Kenny Rogers sold the 11-acre Knoll in Beverly Hills to Marvin Davis, Denver oilman and co-owner of 20th Century Fox Film Corp., for $22.5 million.

The invitations are out, and each lucky recipient now has a piece of the wall surrounding the 68-year-old Beverly Hills mansion at 9561 Sunset Blvd. that was gutted by fire five years ago after it was purchased by Saudi Arabian Sheik Mohammed al-Fassi.

Accompanying the unique paperweight was this: "About all that will be left of Sheik al-Fassi's former mansion after Aug. 19 will be the stones off the estate's wall you now hold in your hand." Demolition is scheduled Monday after a ceremony at 2 p.m.

Hot off the auction block, 35 condos in the 88-unit, 18-story "Monterey Island" in Glendale went to buyers a week ago for about half their original sales prices. Only three units were sold in the past three years.

The auction, handled by R. Thomas Ashley of Newport Beach, brought in a total of $6,966,000. Original prices would have fetched $12,618,000. The highest price paid was $290,000, for a furnished model that had been priced at $350,000. The lowest price paid was $156,000, for a unit with an asking price of $280,000.

Even with such bargains, going in 1 hour 22 minutes, 13 of the 48 condos offered at the auction were unsold, testifying--observers say--to a softness in the market. Those 13 and 37 others held back from the auction will be sold conventionally.

A weekend in Ventura? That might sound as titillating as a vacation in Barstow, but Ventura is becoming more than a pit stop, especially since former news anchorman John Anderson gambled $2 million there on hotel plans before he got Coastal Commission approval.

Anderson's 157-room hotel on the harbor is a reality now, and he just sold an adjacent 57-unit resort time-sharing project to Arkansas-based Fairfield Communities, which will also manage the hotel. The $28-million complex, designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, is now being called Fairfield Harbortown. It is Fairfield's first venture in California. The time-share developer has been active in nine other states.

To celebrate its entry into California, Fairfield held a party a few days ago that attracted L. A. Raiders Marcus Allen, Henry Lawrence, Vann McElroy and Mike Haynes; Jerry Douglas of "The Young and the Restless;" Martin Kove of "Cagney and Lacey;" Lucinda Dickey, star of the movies "Breakin'," "Breakin' II," and "Ninja III, the Dominator," and Arleen Sorkin of "Days of Our Lives."

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