Mayor of Nice to Build in Canyon Area

Times Staff Writer

Jacques Medecin--mayor of Nice, former French minister of tourism and president of Cote d’Azur Development Corp.--and his wife, Ilene, have decided to build a home in the Beverly Hills area.

That from Bernard D. Skibben, president of Trafalgar Developments, the building contractor. Trafalgar has offices in Sherman Oaks.

Skibben says that the mayor’s wife is spending a great deal of time designing the house, which he described as “an authentic English country estate to be built on an extensive lot in Benedict Canyon.”

Skibben should know something about “authentic English” estates: He’s from Leeds, in the north of England, and has been building custom homes resembling the great houses of his homeland for 30 years, 11 of them in Los Angeles, he said. “We build strictly for our clients, not on spec,” he explained.


The Medecins’ new home will have a long winding drive to a cobblestone courtyard. “Old street lamps will add to the European character,” along with hand-carved stone, used in the house, Skibben said. Landscaping will include a waterfall from the hillside to a spa and swimming pool.

“Elegant display cabinets will house the Medecins’ superb Lalique (crystal) collection,” Skibben added. He expects to start construction in seven to eight weeks.

In the meantime, he’s getting to know his clients and their house wants.

“Madame Medecin is a native of Los Angeles and when not entertaining her husband’s distinguished international guests in the south of France, she will be performing similar duties in her new Beverly Hills home,” he said. “The mayor is also a well-known gourmet cook, and the new residence will include a specially equipped gourmet kitchen and an authentic tea garden.”


Kenny Rogers has put his Athens, Ga., equestrian estate on the market at $11 million.

The popular singer/actor is building a large house in that new, Beverly Hills-area enclave for the rich and famous, Beverly Park Estates, but cited career commitments and the fact that his 5-year-old son Christopher is now enrolled in school in Los Angeles as reasons for listing his Georgia property with Sotheby’s. Another reason given is that the Rogerses are “easing out of the horse business.”

Known as Beaver Dam Farms, the 332-acre Georgia compound has several lakes, a waterfall, a main horse barn and six additional barns, a heated equine pool (normally found only on commercial thoroughbred farms) and guest facilities, in addition to a 15,000-square-foot house that Rogers built.

Rogers’ interest in building has been apparent in the L. A. area for some time. He completely renovated a couple of mansions here, including The Knoll, which he sold for about $22 million in 1984 to (Denver oilman and former owner of 20th Century Fox) Marvin Davis.

In a statement released by Sotheby’s, he said of Beaver Dam Farms, “It’s a truly very special place, and I’ve enjoyed building it, but I’ve always enjoyed the creative part of building more than living in places.”

Rogers’ wife, Marianne, is from Athens, Ga., by the way, and the Rogerses still own a piece of property next to Beaver Dam Farms where Marianne’s mother lives.

Fess Parker’s $60-million Santa Barbara hotel project isn’t finished yet, but a site tour and luncheon were held on the construction site to benefit the Braille Institute.

The 360-room, 23.5-acre hotel is expected to open about Christmastime. “And I’m really looking forward to it,” the actor, who is best known to TV viewers for his roles as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, said by phone.


The hotel already has a name. It is “Fess Parker’s Red Lion Resort Hotel.”

Before interior designers re-did the most expensive single-family house in the nation--the Kirkeby estate--for the first Pratesi Exhibition House Tour, the $27-million Bel-Air mansion, built in 1938, had a “very tired feeling,” Mike Shewan, assistant to designer Tom Buckley, said. “It was very dark.”

By the time Italian bed linen/lingerie magnate Athos Pratesi and his wife, Dede, co-hosted the two-day tour the other day, the 20,000-square-foot home’s interior was bright and beautiful.

Yet, as Carla Kirkeby reminisced, “the designers only had about a week, because Silvester Stallone was filming (‘Over the Top’ there).” Carla is the daughter of Carlotta Kirkeby, who lived in the house until she died in 1985. Carlotta’s husband, hotel magnate Arnold Kirkeby, died in the ‘60s.

Does Carla have any regrets about selling the house? “Oh, I have some feelings about that,” she acknowledged, “but we’ve had it in our family for 41 years. Now it’s time for somebody else.” The estate is listed with Jon Douglas Co. of Beverly Hills.