Expensive Nest

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

Since it's the summer of adultery in Los Angeles, it seems fitting that the estate where William Randolph Heart lived with Marion Davies has made the news.

With all due respect to Antonio Villaraigosa, THAT was an affair.

Starting in the 1920's, the aging newspaper mogul and the platinum blond starlet carried on America's most open extra-marital fling -- for more than three decades.

While his wife lived the life of a New York socialite, Hearst built Davies a castle at San Simeon.

He got her a big beach house in Santa Monica -- and a movie studio.

They were the original unofficial It Couple, 34 years apart in age, but madly in love.

Everyone, including Mrs. Hearst, knew what was going on. The lovers hosted parties and banquets, including LA's elaborate tribute to Lindbergh at the Ambassador Hotel.

When Orson Welles featured the affair in Citizen Kane, what enraged Citizen Hearst was the depiction of Davies as a no-talent bimbo. He banned the film from his newspapers and tried to buy up the prints.

Late in their time together, Hearst and Davies took one of the grandest estates in Beverly Hills. It cost her A Hundred and Twenty THOUSAND dollars.

When he died there in 1951, the Hearst family came to forcibly reclaim their patriarch. Tensions ran so high for a while that one of Hearst's sons got in a fistfight with Davies' new husband outside Romanoff's, the Spago of its day.

Anyway, the news this week is that the compound north of Sunset went on the market for the first time since Gerald Ford was president. It set a new record for most expensive residence ever listed for sale in the U.S.

You can live like Hearst and Davies for a HUNDRED and sixty five MILLION bucks -- including, I presume, commission to the real estate broker who has been waiting for this listing

That's pretty steep, but look at what you get for the price.

The Beverly Compound, as they call it, is a Spanish Mediterranean charmer with good blood lines. The architect also designed the beautiful Greystone mansion in Beverly Hills, as well as Hoover Dam and the Los Angeles Times building.

It comes with four full residences, a guest cottage and a pool house on six and a half acres. The main house alone has nine bedrooms, eight fireplaces and a pair of screening rooms for watching movies -- one of them with Dolby surround sound.

There are 29 bedrooms in all on the property, plus three swimming pools and a couple of tennis courts.

That was plenty of privacy to accommodate John and Jackie Kennedy for their honeymoon in 1953. But since then there's been a remodel, adding 20,000 square feet and some fireplaces from Hearst Castle.

The lucky buyer, should one show up, will get a piece of Hollywood history too. Scenes from the original Godfather were shot at the compound, and some less classic movies like The Jerk, with Steve Martin.

News of the listing swept through the media and the real estate world, but there's good reason to wonder if the old love nest will fetch anything close to its asking price.

CurbedLA, the blog that celebrates the real estate culture of Los Angeles more effusively than anyone, calls the property “egregiously and outrageously overpriced.”

There have been a half dozen mansions go on the market lately asking A Hundred Million or more. The Fleur-de-Lys next door in Holmby Hills came with a library full of first editions and a nine-car garage, at A Hundred and Twenty Five Million.

But the reality is that no estate anywhere has yet to actually sell for a Hundred Million dollars.

It's coming, though. Beverly Hills was essentially built for rich guys from somewhere else to buy conspicuously near movie stars. Maybe a Middle Eastern price will need to shelter some assets in a hurry.

If I got hold of the Hearst-Davies lair, I would rename it something appropriate. Like Rosebud.

For KCRW, I'm Kevin Roderick and this is LA Observed.