Not in the Party Mood : Revelers Drive Awe-Struck Neighbors to Distraction
Between furious tales of suburban horror, many of the neighbors admit they were often awe-struck at the sheer size of the parties at 3240 Wrightwood Drive and the invasion-like logistical planning that was obviously required.
A thousand people in togas or bell-bottoms, drinking themselves silly. Valet parking on the narrow residential street. Shuttle buses ferrying revelers to and from cars parked a mile away. Bouncers at the gate. Cover charges as high as $45.
One birthday party even made MTV.
“Unbelievable,” said Susan Schellbach, who lives adjacent to “the party house.”
About three years ago, Schellbach accepted an invitation to the first of what many say became almost weekly parties at the house. She and husband William mingled their way through the place and out the back door, where they stumbled on the bikini contest. Participants were at the point of showing off tan lines.
“One of the girls won a prize--obviously for the biggest boobs,” Schellbach said. “Of course, we never went into the house again.”
Three years after the massive gatherings began at the erstwhile mini-mansion, the city attorney’s office has stepped in, seeking to turn down the volume by suing the property owners and occupants for allegedly selling alcohol without a license. Authorities turned to that extreme approach after the more common remedies--police raids, parking citations and undercover infiltration were ineffective.
“It’s kind of like you have a child and you scold them and they don’t listen, and finally you end up spanking them,” said Deputy City Atty. Deborah Sanchez. “You didn’t want to, but there was no other choice.”
Prosecutors, police and neighbors say the alcohol sales are but one of a host of violations and general discourtesies, but they recognize that it may be the most effective way of eliminating the nuisance.
“It’s the same procedure we would use for a rock (cocaine) house in a poor neighborhood,” said Lt. David Muro of the Los Angeles Police Department’s vice squad.
The 7,500-square-foot mini-mansion, along with its ever-changing occupants, has become the bane of this quiet mountainside neighborhood. Valued at $2.1 million last year, the manse is by far the most luxurious property on a street lined with modest suburban homes.
It’s not a case of teetotaling party poopers trying to halt back-yard barbecues, residents insist. In fact, if it had been one toga party, they could have lived with it. And maybe the Age of Aquarius Classic Disco Party. But there was also the Day in Paradise event, which in its effort to attract women welcomed any female reader of a widely posted advertisement, but cautioned male readers: “Gentlemen must appear on guest list.” And the Tax Relief party of April 16. And the beach party. And the lingerie party.
“Almost every single weekend,” said neighbor Margot Lachman, a television news writer. “It’s like living next to a nightclub.”
One spring evening earlier this year, after they had just moved into the neighborhood, Leo and Betsy Clark had to have a party-goer’s car towed so they could get into their driveway.
Another neighbor said valets from the party house park guests’ cars in front of her driveway.
Then there are the reports of true baseness: staggering revelers urinating in neighbors’ bushes, copulating on their lawns, shrieking through their yards at 3 a.m., flicking cigarettes into the dry hillside grass.
Lachman said they even swiped some of her potted plants, of all things.
Some claim the parties are more than just gatherings in exaggerated L.A. style, that the “hosts” are really running a business. And their elected representative agrees.
“This isn’t just a guy having parties at his house,” said City Councilman Joel Wachs. “It’s like a professional party house. These things pop every now and then in different parts of the city.”
The difference, said Vice Lt. Muro, is that such parties are typically held in commercial buildings or warehouses rather than residential areas.
Steven Powers, co-owner of the house and a defendant in the recently filed lawsuit, was arrested this year in Malibu for the same type of operation, according to Sanchez, the deputy city attorney.
Neighbors played a key role in that case too, she said. Working with sheriff’s deputies, they “made a citizen’s arrest on Mr. Powers for disturbing the peace.”
Jerry Bolduc, a resident of the house--and the keeper of what he affectionately calls its “lair,” with wall-to-wall king-size beds and parachutes on the ceiling--described the charges as trumped-up and prompted by raucous parties held before he even moved in last winter.
“It’s actually a cumulative effect that people are blaming me for . . . for parties over the years,” said Bolduc, who prefers to be called “Jerry Bo.”
And, he added, “it’s a house built for entertainment.” What, he asked, do neighbors expect a young, single guy to do in it?
To bolster his defense, Jerry Bo provided a witness: actress and party guest Beege Barkette, 37. In a telephone interview, she said that during the three parties she attended at the house, she saw nothing illegal or even particularly boisterous.
Besides, she said, “I think Jerry Bo is the cat’s meow . . . and if somebody asked him to turn the music down, he probably would.”
Neighbors don’t know whether he is the cat’s meow or not; they don’t know much about Jerry Bo. And they concede that the thumping bass of the massive stereo system was shaking them awake long before he moved in in February.
But to them the bottom line is that the disruption of their lives hasn’t stopped.
One of two women chatting over a common fence late last week summed it up. “Everybody has a party now and then and we certainly understand that. . . . But we’re tired of it. We’re fed up.”