The Strip gets a little more hip

Times Staff Writer

Hip-hop may have been born poor in 1970s New York, but it doesn’t live there anymore. Russell Simmons, widely recognized for taking rap and hip-hop into the mainstream, and his wife, Kimora Lee, have purchased a Sunset Strip-area home for close to $5.3 million.

The house has a rare amenity for its bustling locale, where parking is at a premium: a motor court with room for five cars, in addition to a two-car garage.

The gated Mediterranean has five bedrooms and four bathrooms in 5,800 square feet. Built in 1988, the villa has high ceilings and stone floors.


Outside, the home is described in the Multiple Listing Service entry as “fully equipped for entertaining” with an outdoor kitchen, a fireplace and a pool.

Simmons liked the estate’s privacy and proximity to Sunset Boulevard. The 17,000-plus-square-foot lot, considered large for the area, and city views from the master bedroom also were draws.

The couple make their East Coast home in New Jersey. They formerly lived in New York, where he grew up. Simmons put his Manhattan penthouse on the market at $11 million in June. The 13-room, 7,000-square-foot property has media, meditation and game rooms and was once featured on the MTV series “Cribs.” The building was damaged in the Sept. 11 attacks but was renovated before Simmons listed it.

The hip-hop mogul, in his late 40s, announced in April the formation of Russell Simmons Music Group, a partnership with Island Def Jam Music Group.

He rose to fame in the ‘80s when he co-founded the Def Jam label, which he popularized with the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J. Simmons sold Def Jam in 1999 for $100 million. He also produced the HBO series “Def Comedy Jam” and “Def Poetry Jam.”

His wife heads Baby Phat, a clothing line for women.

Valerie Fitzgerald of Coldwell Banker, Beverly Hills, had the listing, according to public records.



With ‘Sex,’ $6 mil, he’s in Bel-Air

Darren Star, creator of the HBO comedy “Sex and the City,” has sold his Hollywood Hills home for about $4 million. Star, 44, bought a house in Bel-Air for an estimated $6 million.

The house he sold is on almost an acre and is reached by way of a long, private drive. The gated, four-bedroom, 3,100-square-foot residence also has a pool and sprawling lawns. The one-story house was designed by architect Hal Levitt in the ‘60s.

“Beverly Hills, 90210” launched Star’s career as a writer-director-producer in 1990. The show ran until 2000 and was credited with energizing the Fox TV network and the Aaron Spelling TV empire. “Sex and the City,” based on a collection of New York Observer columns written by Candace Bushnell, debuted in 1998.

The WB has given Star the go-ahead to produce a drama set in the Hamptons. He is co-creator of “Kitchen Confidential,” a comedy series, which is set to return to Fox in November.


Bang, bang and remodel 15 is done

Corbin Bernsen, who appears in the just-released movie “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” a postmodern version of the L.A.-based hard-boiled-detective story starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, has completed a redo of house No. 15 with his wife, actress-designer Amanda Pays.

The couple have renovated houses since 1995, when they refurbished and then sold a Beverly Hills home to actor Steve Martin for $3 million. The pair have bought most of their homes in the San Fernando Valley.

Their recent renovation, in Encino, is for sale at close to $2 million. The couple have owned the property for slightly more than a year. They paid $1.4 million. It has four bedrooms and four bathrooms in 3,000-plus square feet. The gated home on a 36,000-square-foot lot was built in 1941.

Pays orchestrates work on the houses and confers with her husband when he’s not busy playing John Durant, Carly’s long-lost father on the ABC daytime series “General Hospital.” The actor, 51, also has a recurring role on the UPN show “Cuts.” Bernsen gained fame playing Arnie Becker, a smarmy divorce attorney in the NBC series “L.A. Law” (1986-94).

In addition to remodeling homes, Pays has launched a furniture collection with a company called Directions and is working on an accessories line.

Refurbishing houses is “still something we enjoy doing and is a creative outlet for me,” the English actress said.

Scott Hammar of Keller Williams Realty, Redondo Beach, has the listing.


265 acres: That’s some backyard

There have been some large parcels of land for sale on the Westside in recent years, but this is a whopper: 265 acres in the Moraga Canyon area of Bel-Air. The asking price is $35 million.

The undisclosed seller is looking for a buyer like billionaire Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., who owns the 120-acre Kollsman estate in the Beverly Hills area and is keeping it all for himself. In other words, developers need not inquire yet.

“Our vision is to find a family or an individual to grow vineyards and put in a putting green,” said Drew Mandile, who has the listing with Brooke Knapp of Sotheby’s International Realty, Beverly Hills.

“Create a compound,” their flier suggests. “Use your imagination.” The property has a forest, stream, hills and views from the city to the sea.