“This is Encino’s version of affordable housing,” Mayor Tom Bradley said, gazing at a talking mansion with more white columns than Scarlett O’Hara ever dreamt of, aflame with “Star Wars” lighting and stuffed with men in tuxedos and women in furs.
His Honor’s little joke was as close as the night came to understatement.
The mayor and about 280 others attended a political fund-raiser/real-estate promotion/media event/art exhibit and society goosepile to unveil builder Dennis Michael Nouri’s “House of the 21st Century.”
Americans traditionally jockey for a good view of the future, but futurology’s record is spotty. In 1947 it was Sunday supplement wisdom that, in the 1980s, atomic power would reduce the workweek to four hours and there would be two helicopters in every garage. But who foretold massive drug abuse and the winter of the nuclear family?
So it’s open to question whether Nouri’s house foreshadows the life style of 2005. If it is to be the life style of the common man or even the run-of-the-millionaire, the economy has much work to do.
The palatial, 7,500-square-foot house has four bedrooms with marble baths and fireplaces. In the dining room, a waterfall flows over crystal rocks and the embedded ends of severed optical fibers, creating underwater pinpoints of colored light, like drowning fireflies.
Large abstract paintings by Iranian artist Massoud Arabshahi, featuring networks of strings, decorate it. The 20-by-18-foot “Return of the Comet” dominates the entryway, its vertical strings “showing that we strive to go up, up in our fantasies, but the day-to-day world pulls us down,” explained one of Nouri’s representatives.
The interior is done in bleached-bone white oak. And the house is on White Oak Avenue. Does that mean. . . ?
“Yes,” said Nouri with a grin. “Yes, it’s no coincidence.”
The swimming pool too is embedded with optical fibers, duplicating the constellation Orion. Nouri even has optical fibers twined in the trees, creating a perpetual Christmas.
“There are 10 miles in that one tree alone. Yes, I know it is 10 miles, exactly,” he told a skeptical visitor, “because I just paid the bill.”
The lights and the rest of the house are run by a talking computer named Alexander.
Alexander speaks in a sleepy male voice, like HAL from the film “2001" on Quaaludes. It replies to commands with “As you wish, master.” A rebuke of “No, Alexander” draws a contrite “Sorry, master.”
Alexander can take phone calls, Nouri’s assistants said, and can have a hot bath waiting when the master drives up.
“Don’t you wish you had the listing?” an onlooker asked Mike Glickman, former boy wonder (now 28) of San Fernando Valley real estate . Glickman smiled a Cheshire-cat smile, because he does have the listing and expects “no trouble selling this for more than $3.7 million.”
This is the first of four houses he plans to build in the neighborhood, Nouri said, “and this one is going to be the smallest.” The largest will have a man-made lake with a three-passenger submarine. And he’ll throw in a free yacht with every purchase. (Not a back-yard yacht, the usual oceangoing type.)
Mingled with the Iranian art fans and limousine looky-loos were 160 people who paid $500 per couple, as a fund-raiser for “The Committee for the Future of LA,” a political action committee founded by Bradley to raise money for projects that “parallel” his political goals, a spokeswoman for Bradley said.
Men wore black tie. Women wore flashy evening dresses, displaying more breasts than the poultry freezer at Gelson’s.
Except for Rene Piane, who wore a demure white silk robe and 3-foot wings with white feathers. Piane, a Santa Monica hairdresser, calls herself the Angel of Los Angeles. She attends public events, “sprinkling blessings of love,” she said, hoping to become well-known “so the mayor or somebody will officially appoint me the angel of L.A.”
She was accompanied by her manager, Debbie Munford.
“I’m her cousin,” Munford said. “Who else would work 60 hours a week and then hang out with an angel at stuff like this? No one, that’s who. Only cousins.”
A string quartet played Mozart’s Third Divertimenti as Nouri showed Arabshahi’s giant artwork to Bradley and demonstrated Alexander.
“Mr. Mayor,” Piane trilled from the staircase. “Remember me from the Mormon church?”
Bradley looked up. It was not a question to ignore from an angel.
“We met at the Mormons, remember? Will you name me the official angel of L.A.? C’mon, please.”
“Right, right,” Bradley said, his face frozen in a smile, moving on.
Later, actor Robert Wagner introduced Bradley to the crowd. Bradley praised Nouri’s house. “I own it,” he joked.
Mrs. Nouri dropped her purse.
“Don’t worry,” the mayor said. “I’m only kidding.”
“You’re the mayor,” Nouri said.
“Yes--for life,” replied Bradley, who appears a shoo-in for reelection.
Most of the crowd missed the exchange, off-microphone, so Bradley repeated it:
”. . . And then I said, ‘Yes, mayor-- for life! “
The Bradleyites laughed enthusiastically.
Bradley said it was time for Alexander to put on the laser light show, in which a woman in a gold lame cape representing “the angel of the future” (sorry, Rene) danced by the pool and dived through a cloud of dry-ice fog into the water.
“I thought you’d never ask,” Alexander said, sleepily.