Election Day at Hollywoodland Realty

November 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Voting Today at Hollywoodland Realty/Hope Anderson Productions

Like many residents of Beachwood Canyon, I’m lucky to have Hollywoodland Realty as my polling place. Located just inside the Hollywoodland Gates, the Realty office fulfills a community function that goes well beyond the business of real estate. It’s where we go to vote and have our documents notarized. Tourists stop by for directions. And last December, in celebration of a major renovation, Hollywoodland Realty hosted a Christmas party for the neighborhood.

The first structure to be completed in Hollywoodland, it opened for business in early 1923. At first, Hollywoodland Realty sold lots to prospective home builders; afterwards, it sold and resold the houses that were built on them. For nearly 90 years, the Realty office has been the beating heart of the neighborhood, and the fact that it is our polling place helps to explain why.

The Hollywoodland Realty Office in 1923. The Developer S. H. Woodruff Stands At Center, Wearing Bow Tie/Courtesy Bruce Torence


Today just after noon, on a day of heavy voter turnout, the wait was about 3 minutes–probably the longest I’ve experienced in seven years of voting here. The fact that many of us work at home helps stagger the voting throughout the day, so that the only really busy times are the first and last hours. But even if the line had been longer, waiting would have been a pleasure: meeting and talking to neighbors at Hollywoodland Realty connects us, not only to one another but to Hollywoodland’s past.

Haunted Hollywoodland, Part III: The Ghost with the Top Hat and Cane

December 5, 2009 § 2 Comments

The Hollywoodland Realty Office in 1923. The events described took place in the front courtyard and on the second floor/Courtesy Bruce Torrence Hollywood Historical Collection

Charisse Landise is a Beachwood Canyon resident and clairvoyant healing artist with a keen sense of the supernatural. We first met three years ago when I interviewed her on the significance of the Hollywood Sign for my documentary; since then we’ve talked periodically about Beachwood Canyon’s history and notable past residents. It was Charisse who had the vivid dream about Peg Entwistle described in Part I of my Haunted Hollywoodland series. 

After I posted a piece on Busby Berkeley (“First House North of the Gates: Busby Berkeley’s Home in Hollywoodland”), Charisse called me to tell me about an incident that happened last November, when she was working out of the day spa above Hollywoodland Realty in Beachwood Village. 

It was late afternoon but already dark when she arrived for a session and saw a male apparition sitting in the courtyard outside the Realty Office. He appeared to be in his late thirties and was dressed in narrow old-fashioned trousers and a top hat. He carried a cane. 

Though Charisse didn’t recognize him, she felt he was waiting for her. Unable to get any answers about his identity or motives, she went upstairs to meet her client. Once inside, she felt his presence in the spa. 

“He was definitely there as a curious witness,” Charisse says. “He was extremely fascinated with my healing procedure. I had the sense he had never seen anything like it.  He was very unthreatening. I was challenged by the unexpected nature of his steady watchful presence.”  The ghost observed her throughout the session and stayed behind after she locked up. 

“I didn’t know that was Busby Berkeley’s house next door until I read your blog, but I’m sure it was him,” she said. Unlike the house, whose entryway is now hidden behind a gate, the Realty Office remains open to the street, as it was in Berkeley’s time. The fact that the ghost appeared to be in his late thirties seems appropriate, as Berkeley was at the height of his success during those years. And a top hat and cane would be obvious props for a choreographer of movie musicals featuring scores of top-hatted, cane-wielding dancers.  

“Ultimately I was so grateful to have met him,” says Charisse. “His movie ’42nd Street’ was why I moved to New York City when I was 18.”

Contact www.charisselandise.com for further information.

First House North of the Gates: Busby Berkeley’s Home in Hollywoodland

August 21, 2009 § 1 Comment

Catching the bus outside Busby Berkeley's house, c. 1930/Courtesy Bruce Torrence

Catching the jitney outside Busby Berkeley's house, late 1920's/Collection of Bruce Torrence

You see it as you drive through the Hollywoodland gates, a large Spanish Colonial house directly ahead, though the road goes to the left. The property wraps around the curve, and the house is so blindingly white and prominently sited that it’s impossible to ignore. Unlike many old houses, it looks the same as when it was built in 1923, as pictures taken during Hollywoodland’s early years attest. (A gate now hides the front steps and the current garage doors lack the originals’ honeycomb details, but that’s about it for exterior changes.)

L-R: The Busby Berkeley House and Hollywoodland Realty Today/Hope Anderson Productions

L-R: The Busby Berkeley House and Hollywoodland Realty Today/Hope Anderson Productions

The first house (and second building, after the Hollywoodland Realty Company) to be built in the Hollywoodland tract, it was owned by Busby Berkeley, whose name still evokes the glamour and inventiveness of the lavish musicals he choreographed and directed at Warner Brothers, Fox and MGM. 

A native Angeleno and the son of actors, William Berkeley Enos (1895-1976) gave us such dance classics as “Lullaby on Broadway,” and “I Got Rhythm.” From 1933-1937 he directed and/or choreographed 14 Warner Brothers musicals, including “Gold Diggers of 1935,” “42nd Street” and “Footlight Parade.”

200px-Busby_Berkeley_photo

His success afforded him the house on Beachwood Drive where he lived with his widowed mother, to whom he was devoted, and whomever he happened to be married to at the moment. (He had between four and seven marriages, depending on the biographical source.) His matrimonial success no doubt was hindered by his work, which required auditioning thousands of young female dancers for the 150 he would ultimately choreograph in each film. His drinking probably didn’t help matters, either. In 1935, while driving drunk, Berkeley caused a crash that involved two other cars and killed three people. He was acquitted of homicide charges after three trials, largely because he was his mother’s sole source of support.

While Berkeley was one of the biggest stars in Hollywoodland, his house was–and still is–arguably the least private because of its location in Village’s commercial district. Besides the Realty Office next door, the house boasts a bus stop directly outside, and has since 1925. The top photograph shows passengers transferring from the public bus to the Hollywoodland jitney, which took them further up the Canyon to their homes.

Berkeley was long gone by the time the actor Ned Beatty bought the house in the 70’s, after “Deliverance” had made him a star. During Beatty’s years in residence, large buses ran up and down Beachwood Drive, rather than the Dash buses that make the run today. The old buses were too big to make the U-turn in front of Beatty’s house and would grind and rev their engines in the attempt. On one occasion the bus actually became stuck, creating such a racket that an infuriated Beatty came out and hurled empty liquor bottles at it.

Like Busby Berkeley, Ned Beatty eventually moved to greener and less congested pastures. Still, many people still call the place the Ned Beatty House, though others prefer the original Busby Berkeley title.

While Busby Berkeley’s name would seem to evoke a more genteel era, his life was anything but. In addition to the vehicular homicide trials and many divorces, Berkeley struggled with suicidal depression after the auto accident. A serious suicide attempt after his mother’s death in 1946 made the newpapers and landed him in a mental hospital. Nevertheless, he survived to the age of 80, long enough to experience a career revival in the 1960’s. New generations discovered his films of the 1930’s and 40’s, which began to be shown on television and later found new life on video and DVD. By the time  Berkeley died in 1976 in Palm Springs, his place in Hollywood history was assured.

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