Doris Day Investments Subject of Suit

Times Staff Writer

Doris Day probably thought she was finished with litigation involving her former lawyer in 1974, when a Superior Court judge awarded her about $22 million for malpractice.

The popular actress might have thought it was over in 1985, when the state Supreme Court rejected the lawyer’s appeal.

Having a reputation as an optimist, she might have even figured there would be no more real courtroom scenes after March, 1986, when the U. S. Supreme Court refused to review the lower court’s judgment.

She was wrong. The attorney, Jerome B. Rosenthal, now 76, filed a $30-million lawsuit a few days ago against lawyers he claims cheated him and the 63-year-old actress out of millions of dollars in real estate investments, but he named Day as a co-defendant.

That was a legal procedure, he explained, to allow him to seek damages on her behalf without her permission. In the court document, she is described as an “unwilling, involuntary plaintiff whose consent cannot be obtained.” She could not be reached for comment.


The millions of dollars Rosenthal says Day and he lost were in real estate sold after Day’s husband, Martin Melcher, died in 1968. That’s when Day fired Rosenthal and hired some of the lawyers named in the latest suit.

Rosenthal asserts that the attorneys gave Day bad advice, telling her to sell, at a loss, three hotels--in Palo Alto, Dallas and Atlanta--and some oil leases in Kentucky and Ohio. The investments were made by himself and Melcher under a long-term plan, he said, and were not intended to be sold until they appreciated in value. Two of the hotels were sold in 1970 for about $7 million, the document says, and their estimated worth in 1986 was $50 million.

A hearing date has not been set yet.

Now that much of the hoopla has died down over his being the skipper who led the Stars & Stripes crew in winning back the America’s Cup, Dennis Conner is busy expanding his business, Dennis Conner Interiors, which he started 12 years ago in San Diego.

In his just-published book, “Comeback,” Conner simply describes himself as a “carpet and drapery salesman.” Two years ago, his firm only handled drapes.

Now, besides doing custom interior design jobs, his 40-employee operation, near Old Town in San Diego, is creating design centers on residential development sites and is building a second company facility in the Mira Mesa area of town.

This should be enough to keep the energetic 43-year-old occupied, but in the past few days, he was also named one of a few “distinguished San Diegans” to serve on an advisory board to help plan events at the San Diego Design Center, due to open in August.

The Design Center will be the first building of its scale to house interior design showrooms in San Diego, we hear. The $45-million project, of McKellar Development of La Jolla, will have 340,000 square feet--the equivalent of about eight acres--of showroom space plus 80,000 square feet to display outdoor furnishings, spas and everything else lumped under the new, catch-all phrase “landscape art.”

By comparison, the Design Center in the beautiful, old Title Insurance Building in downtown Los Angeles is 375,000 square feet, and the gigantic Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood is 750,000 square feet and growing. Another 1.6-million square feet is under way with completion expected by 1989.

A house once owned by actress Jane Wyman, possibly when she was married to Ronald Reagan from 1940 to 1949, and later owned by novelist Judith Krantz (“I’ll Take Manhattan,” “Mistral’s Daughter”) and her husband, Steve, has sold again.

Dress designer Joyce Kay and her husband, Teong, sold the house to Dr. Taro Yokayama, a top cardiac surgeon, and his wife, Rita.

The house was built in the ‘40s on what Sherry Green, who shared the $2.16-million listing with Margie Oswald at Rodeo Realty, described as a “very desirable, flat piece of Beverly Hills land.” The couple will take advantage of the flatness, Oswald added, by eventually adding a tennis court to the property. They also intend to remodel, she said.

The house sold for a bit more than $2 million in cash.

MGM is now a visible presence in the new Filmland Building in Culver City. Not only is the movie company occupying several of the eight floors, but the MGM sign was to be unveiled on top of the building last Thursday.

Office workers have transplanted farmers and ranchers on the last 400 acres of the Dominguez Ranch, which was more than 75,000 acres when it was Rancho San Pedro--the first Spanish land grant in California.

TRW’s Systems Engineering & Development Division has started moving into the first building, just completed, on the historic site, which is also being described as “the last piece of commercial land to be developed in the southern part of Los Angeles County.” It’s in Carson.

Two more buildings are due to be completed there by September, and the fourth is scheduled for occupancy in January. The property is now known as the Dominguez Technology Centre.