An escrow that time forgot

Times Staff Writer

Life may be a cabaret, but the last six years have been a drama for Oscar-winning actress Liza Minnelli, who recently sold the Beverly Hills home of her father, director Vincente Minnelli, for about $3.5 million.

The Oscar-winning director died in 1986, leaving his widow, Lee, to live in the 5,800-square-foot house, if she so desired, for the rest of her life.

“She still lives there,” said real estate agent Sheila Rose. “Liza inherited the house with Lee, now 98, in it.”


News that Liza and her stepmother were at odds surfaced in 2000, when the four-bedroom house, on an acre near the Beverly Hills Hotel, first went on the market. Rose got the listing in 2001. In 2002, Lee sued Liza, claiming elder abuse and breach of contract, then dropped the lawsuit.

The home, where Liza lived as a young woman, was in escrow for four years, according to Rose, who represented both sides of the deal. Escrow took so long because of issues concerning the living arrangements, or life estate, of Liza’s stepmother. A person holding a life estate can occupy the property for life.

The house, built in 1925 with a pool and a motor court, sold for close to its last asking price of four years ago, Rose said. It was redesigned in the ‘60s by John Elgin Woolf, who was known for his Hollywood Regency style.

“The buyers will eventually move in and refurbish the house for themselves,” said Rose, who works at Prudential California Realty, John Aaroe, in Beverly Hills. The buyers declined to be identified by name.

Liza won an Oscar for her starring role as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” (1972), and Vincente for directing “Gigi” (1958.)


A farmhouse far from ‘The Office’

In the hit NBC comedy series “The Office,” Rainn Wilson plays Dwight Schrute, the sales rep with a superiority complex second only to his boss’.


On the home front, Wilson and his wife, fiction writer Holiday Reinhorn, just bought a farmhouse in Agoura Hills.

The couple purchased the four-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot farmhouse, on half an acre, for close to $1.2 million. The house has 2 1/2 bathrooms, a breezeway, a porch, a wood stove, a fireplace, an air-purification system, an artist’s studio and lush landscaping. The property also has stables, a corral and access to nearby horse trails.

Wilson, familiar as the paunchy, bespectacled office dweeb whom TV viewers love to hate, and Reinhorn, author of “Big Cats,” a collection of short stories, are already remodeling the farmhouse, built in 1981.

They have listed their 1920s Craftsman bungalow in Van Nuys at close to $625,000.

The Craftsman has two bedrooms, one bathroom and an office in 1,300 square feet plus a pool, patio and garden.

The house is in a historic preservation overlay zone, which requires residents to obtain approval before they make changes to exteriors and makes residents eligible for a reduction in property taxes.

Wilson will appear in the upcoming Ivan Reitman-directed comedy film “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” starring Luke Wilson and Uma Thurman. The movie is due out in July.

NBC has ordered 22 episodes of “The Office” for next season. The series made its debut in 2005.

Traci Lynn Gordon and Gary Dean Ruebsamen, both of Prudential California Realty, Studio City, represented the couple in buying the Agoura Hills property, and they have the Van Nuys listing.


Rock ‘n’ roll and restore ‘n’ sell

Grammy-nominated art director George Mimnaugh has worked with rock musicians including the Foo Fighters, Everclear and Dave Navarro, but the names he has encountered in his sideline are also impressive.

When he’s not designing CD packages, Mimnaugh restores houses. In 2004 he sold a Craftsman he refurbished in Venice to “Lord of the Rings” star Elijah Wood for $1.2 million.

Mimnaugh has now finished work on a two-year restoration and conversion of a Rodney Walker-designed property on the Silver Lake reservoir, and it’s on the market at almost $1.5 million. Walker was among the designers who participated in the post-WWII Case Study House program.

The single-family residence Mimnaugh is selling was originally one of three hillside duplexes when it was built in 1953. A year later, it was selected as a subject by architectural photographer Julius Shulman. This year, it was featured in the Sundance documentary “Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman.”

No longer a duplex, the 1,800-square-foot home has two bedrooms, a den and two bathrooms. It also has an indoor-outdoor feeling with its walls of glass, terraces and mature gardens.

There are views of the reservoir and the Hollywood Hills.

Jeff Kohl has the listing at Prudential California Realty, John Aaroe division, Beverly Hills.


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