Keeper of the Irvine Castle Steps Forth : Remodeling: Owner of topless club lends family $65,000 to save their home from the wrecking ball.


A last-second compromise Friday night saved the Kron Street Castle, an architecturally unusual house that city officials were poised to destroy after a 10-year dispute with its owners.

Mark Bailey, owner of a Lake Forest topless club called Captain Creams, said he saw a cause where others saw only a half-built castle, so he provided the $65,000 needed to bring it up to code.

“It’s done,” said Bailey, standing before the house with his wife, just hours before the owners were to be evicted. “They’ve got their home.”


A wrecking ball and bulldozers were set to flatten the 8,500-square-foot home of Haym and Fern Ganish today, after city officials said they were left with no other way of forcing the Ganishes to finish an elaborate remodeling project begun in 1982.

“It feels good,” said Haym Ganish, moments after Bailey announced that the house had been saved.

Almost from the start of the Ganishes’ ambitious renovation, which more than quadrupled the size of the original house they bought in 1978, neighbors complained that the turreted, rock-faced castle was an eyesore, while city officials claimed it violated dozens of building and safety codes.

Bailey, 45, said he was inspired to help because of his many tussles with local municipal governments, which often have vehemently oppose his business. Captain Creams is an adult cabaret, where women sometimes wrestle in pits of hot shaving cream.

“I’m in the adult entertainment business,” he said. “My whole life is getting beat up by cities. . . . It made me incensed. I just couldn’t understand how this could go on. These people are trying to participate in the American Dream, and the city is talking about bulldozing their house?”

In addition to the $65,000, Bailey lent the Ganishes his $235-an-hour lawyer, Alan Curtis, who reached the compromise with the city minutes before the close of business.


Curtis, a former Santa Ana planning commissioner, said the Ganishes were glad to end their bitter battle with Irvine. “They want to be good neighbors,” he said.

City officials would not comment on the specifics of the compromise, which reportedly calls for the Ganishes and their three children to live at a local La Quinta Inn until March 31, when remodeling is expected to be completed.

“I can tell you the house is not going to be demolished this weekend,” said one Irvine official who insisted on anonymity.

Irvine Mayor Michael Ward said he was pleased about not having to preside over the demolition. “We didn’t want to knock it down to begin with,” Ward said, praising his fellow City Council members who “stuck by their guns” and forced the Ganishes to the bargaining table.

Fern Ganish said the compromise had effectively ended her family’s long public nightmare, which has drawn gawkers in droves to see Orange County’s most famous turrets, outside of Disneyland.

“We’re going to have about three weeks to hire a contractor, to fix any things (the city) were considering defects or hazards,” Fern Ganish said. “They’re really minor.”


She said the compromise calls for the family to deposit $65,000 in an escrow account to be used solely for construction, which will make the house more compatible with the sleepy little cul de sac on which it sits.

“After that, we’ll just be like any person that’s remodeling,” she said. “No demolition. No threats. No nothing.”

The house, which the Ganishes bought for $91,000, has an assessed value today of $130,000. The family has lived there through all phases of construction.

Bailey, who said he was prepared to give the Ganishes as much as $135,000, insisted he isn’t worried about getting his money back, even though he had never met the family before Friday.

“It really doesn’t even matter who they are,” he said. “It’s just a cause that I felt I had to be involved in.

“The Ganishes are not people that are looking for a handout, and we said, ‘OK, well, whatever we spend for this project, we’ll put together some kind of deal with you and you pay it back in payments you can afford.’ ”


While the Ganishes were inside meeting Bailey and Curtis, their normally quiet street was turning into a sideshow, as a parade of motorists drove by, some hoping to witness the house’s destruction, others voicing support for the family.

“It’s too sad to see it torn down,” said Eri Hayashi, a Japanese tourist who snapped several pictures of it with her children standing in front. “If you want to buy this house in Japan, it’s a few million.”

Jim Powers drove over from a few blocks away to get what he thought would be a last look at the house. “(A house) is a labor of love for a family,” he said.

However, not everyone was hoping the Ganish home would be spared the wrecking ball’s kiss.

Late in the afternoon, a man roared down the street in a midnight-blue Porsche. He stepped out of the car and dialed his cellular phone while carefully appraising the house from the street.

The man, who refused to give his name, said he had just heard on the radio that a family was about to be evicted for want of $100,000--and he smelled a bargain.

“When you hear somebody’s going to lose their house for $100,000 in Irvine,” he said, “and there’s nothing here for less than a hundred grand, who wouldn’t do something about it?”


He told someone on the phone that he was prepared to pay the family $100,000 for the house.

But then he saw the stream of cars cruising past, and someone told him that another man had already come forward with enough money to help the family stay put.

He frowned.

“There goes that idea,” he said, climbing dejectedly back into his car. “Guess a lot of vultures are coming around.”