Cahuenga Peak Fundraising Deadline Extended To April 30th

April 14, 2010 § 2 Comments

Photo by Hope Anderson Productions

Today’s press conference at the Hollywood Sign announced the fundraising effort has come up $1 million short; on the bright side, the deadline has been extended by 16 days.

This would be the time for some generous celebrities to get out their checkbooks. Ready? Go!

Deadline for Cahuenga Peak: Press Conference at the Hollywood Sign Scheduled for Wednesday, April 14th

April 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

MEDIA ADVISORY
 
Save the Peak Campaign Announcement
Los Angeles (April 12, 2010) – Councilmember Tom LaBonge and officials from the Trust for Public Land will make a major announcement regarding the Save Cahuenga Peak campaign on Wednesday, April 14th at 9 a.m.
 
Wednesday is the announced deadline for the campaign to raise $12.5 million to acquire Cahuenga Peak, a 138-acre parcel just to the west of the landmark HOLLYWOOD sign.
 
Councilmember LaBonge has been working for nine years to set aside $5.3 million in public and private park funds to acquire Cahuenga Peak from property owners who have threatened to develop the land for luxury residential housing.  The City partnered with the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, to raise private funds to cover the balance of funds needed.
 
The campaign has attracted donations from Hollywood stars, inspired an outpouring of support from the local community, which raised more than $9,000 at a rally last Saturday. 
 
WHAT:     Update on “Save the Peak” campaign
 
WHEN:      Wednesday, April 14, 2010.  Press conference begins at 9 a.m.  Shuttles to site begin at 8:30 a.m.
 
WHERE:    The Hollywood Sign
                  (Meet at the Beachwood Market, 2701 Belden Dr., Los Angeles, CA90068 and we will shuttle you up to the sign.)
 
WHO:          Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, City of Los Angeles
                  Will Rogers, President of The Trust For Public Land
                  Leron Gubler, CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce
                  L.A. Dept. of Recreation and Parks
                  Members of the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood
Media Contact:  Carolyn Ramsay (213) 359-3593
ph: (213)485-3337  fx:  (213)624-7810

The Trust for Public Land’s Drive to Save the Peak

March 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

Photo by Hope Anderson Productions

Each week without fail, the piece that gets the most hits on my blog is “Howard Hughes, Ginger Rogers and the Property on Cahuenga Peak.” (The most frequent search term leading to this site is invariably “Howard Hughes.”)

With less than a month to go before the April 14th deadline to purchase the Cahuenga Peak parcel from Fox River Financial, the Trust for Public Land has begun an online fundraising campaign. Interested readers can go to www.savehollywoodland.org to learn more about the campaign and to donate.

Howard Hughes, Ginger Rogers and the Property on Cahuenga Peak

June 16, 2009 § 5 Comments

howard hughesSoon after I started production on my documentary “Under the Hollywood Sign” in 2006, news broke of a spectacular property by the Hollywood Sign that was going on the market. That a piece of Cahuenga Peak was for sale came as shock to almost everyone; even LA City Councilmembers assumed the entire Peak was part of Griffith Park. As it turned out, a 138-acre parcel to the west of the Sign–five lots–was private. The land had been part of Howard Hughes’s estate and was sold to Fox River Financial, a Chicago property developer, in 2002. Fox River, which paid $1,675,000 for it, put the parcel on the market for $22 million.

The City of Los Angeles, caught unawares, managed to raise less than $6 million of the purchase price. Horrified residents, freed to imagine a clutch of McMansions–or one enormous pimp palace–to the left of the letter H, wondered how this had come to pass.

What I wondered was this: who would want to buy property in the middle of a city park, with no access or utilities? Here’s what I found out from my research of the property’s history:

IMG_0726

The access road to Cahuenga Peak would be built beyond this gate. Photo by Hope Anderson Productions

Howard Hughes bought the parcel in 1940, when he was  engaged to Ginger Rogers. His intention, after their marriage, was to build a castle with sweeping views of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. In order to do so, he would need a road as well as utilities–electricity, gas and water–where none existed.  When the City tried to prevent him from building a road,  Hughes sued–and won.

Lake Hollywood from Wonder View Drive, below the Cahuenga Peak parcel

Lake Hollywood from Wonder View Drive, below the Cahuenga Peak parcel. Photo by Hope Anderson Productions

Meanwhile, Ginger Rogers was having second thoughts about the marriage. She no doubt had encountered Hughes’s “eccentricities”–his paranoia, which was exacerbated by his use of painkillers and by his deafness, which he refused to acknowledge or treat, and a severe case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which manifested itself in germ phobia and the compulsion to do things like sort and count the peas on his plate. She confided to friends that she feared he would hold her prisoner on their Cahuenga Peak estate.

Howard Hughes and Ginger Rogers at a film premiere, 1933/Courtesy Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Howard Hughes and Ginger Rogers at a film premiere, 1933/Courtesy Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The catalyst of their breakup, however, was Hughes’s usual  pattern of wildly indiscreet infidelity. Rogers dropped the bomb on Hughes as he lay concussed  in the hospital after crashing his car head-on into another car, returning all his gifts of jewelry in a basket before hurling her emerald engagement ring at his bandaged form.

After Rogers’s departure, Hughes abandoned the Cahuenga Peak project but not the property, probably because he had more pressing concerns. The 1940s were arguably his busiest decade: in addition to running Hughes Aircraft and developing new civil and military planes, he continued a parallel Hollywood career, producing movies with Preston Sturges (see below) and buying a studio, RKO, in 1948. He was awarded a Congressional Medal for his aviation work in 1941 and received a contract to produce his giant military transport plane, the Spruce Goose, in 1942.

He also had two nervous breakdowns, the first in 1944 and the second, in which he locked himself in a screening room for 4 months while subsisting on chocolate bars, milk and movies, in 1947. In addition to his emotional injuries, there were devastating physical ones. In 1946, Hughes suffered major trauma when the XF-11 reconnaisance plane he was test-piloting developed engine failure. His attempt to crash-land on the Los Angeles Country Club golf course failed, setting fire to and destroying two houses. It was his second near-fatal plane crash (the first occurred during the filming of “Hell’s Angels” in 1929) and would leave him in severe, permanent pain. Addicted to codeine and increasingly crippled by OCD, Hughes withdrew from public life in 1950, though he continued to run his businesses by telephone.

When he died of renal failure in 1976, Hughes’s 6’4″ frame was so wasted by malnutrition that he weighed 90 lbs. Coroners found pieces of hypodermic needles in his arms. He left a mismanaged estate whose value, once estimated at $2 billion, was pegged at $360 million. The parcel on Cahuenga Peak was a tiny part of  a fortune that included Hughes Aerospace, the Howard Hughes Medical Center, four hotels and six casinos.

At this writing, Cahuenga Peak property is still on the market at $22 million. Interested buyers should contact Teles Properties in Beverly Hills.

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