Great Homes You Wish You’d Visited Part Two: 625 Palisades Beach Road, Santa Monica, CA

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Right on Pacific Highway One facing the beach is a Mediterranean inspired home originally built in 1926 for Louis B Mayer. Mayer was the famous chief of MGM studios at the time and not only engaged MGM studio carpenters and electricians to build the building, but also conjured up the idea for the academy awards in the dining room whilst drinking there with some pals.

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Rear of 625 Palisades Road – Photo stolen from web

Built in only 6 weeks due to the use of floodlights and round the clock work schedules, the property was used by Mayer to entertain Hollywood types, including hosting Judy Garland’s birthday party there in 1939.

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Mickey Rooney Being Thown Off The Diving Board At Judy Garlands’ 1939 Birthday Party – Photo stolen from web

Following the initiation of divorce proceedings in 1944, Louis B decided to move out and the home was eventually sold to actor Peter Lawford, a member of Frank Sinatra’s ‘rat pack’ and a former MGM contract actor. Lawford was married to John F Kennedy’s sister Patricia, and JFK would frequently visit the house…Usually for the purposes of banging various women there. Most notably Marilyn Monroe (to whom Lawford introduced J.F.K to), but also a wide variety of models, starlets and hookers his resourceful brother in law organised for his visits.

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Marilyn Monroe – Photos stolen from web

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Lawford & Kennedy (Likely) Planning An Orgy – Photo stolen from web

Howard Hughes, a staunch anti Kennedy advocate, reportedly engaged a private eye to listen in and watch the house in order to catch the Kennedy brothers in flagrante delicto. The investigator dutifully picked up the sensual sounds of Marilyn Monroe, recalling in an interview 1992, “I would have kept it quiet all my life. But all of a sudden, I’m looking at FBI files and CIA files with quotes from my investigators telling them about the work they did on my behalf. It’s stupid to sit here and deny that these things are true. Yes, we did have [Lawford’s house] wired. Yes, I did hear a tape of Jack Kennedy fucking Monroe. But I don’t want to get into the moans and groans of their relationship. They were having a sexual relationship — period.”

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R.F.K, Marilyn & J.F.K. / Marilyn & J.F.K. – Photos stolen from web

Monroe didn’t limit herself to only one brother whilst on the premises either. She also apparently did Robert Kennedy within the home’s walls as well. The property also hosted other friends and acquaintances of Lawford such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr.,  Judy Garland, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis and Dean Martin.

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Lawford, Sinatra, Marilyn and Patricia Kennedy – Photo stolen from web

Lawford and Patricia divorced in 1966 and the property was subsequently leased. Abby Mann (who wrote Judgement at Nuremburg and created Kojak) lived in the property in the late 1960s, and in March 1974 John Lennon rented it, having decided to produce Harry Nilsson’s next album in Los Angeles. Nilsson apparently begged Lennon to produce this album during their ‘lost weekend’ outings and Lennon thinking the sessions would be shambolic, thought it prudent to house all the musicians under one roof for the duration of the recording to ensure they got to sessions on time.

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Harry Nilsson In The Studio / Lennon, May Pang & Nilsson – Photos stolen from web

For Nilsson and his album band (which included Keith Moon, Ringo Starr and Klaus Voorman), excess was the rule and they spent most of their time getting fucked up on brandy and cocaine. A letter penned by Lennon during these sessions to Phil Spector shows the level they were at. Lennon realising that as the producer he had to be responsible, and that the musicians (in this case Nilsson and Moon) weren’t.

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Letter From Lennon To Phil Spector Detailing The Destruction Of A Recrding Console By Urination – Photo stolen from web

Paul and Linda McCartney on a working holiday in California, took a taxi to Burbank Studios where they were recording and upon arrival exclaimed, “Fuck Me! Anyone left alive?” Three days later, Lennon invited the McCartneys to Palisades Beach Road and they jammed on a number of songs.

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Ringo & Paul McCartney Jamming March 1974 – Photos stolen from web

During this afternoon, several photos were taken of Paul and John which would sadly become their last ever taken together and the sessions themselves have added poignancy due to the fact that Nilsson destroyed his vocal cords whilst attempting to balance falsetto and poor lifestyle choices.

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John Lennon & Paul McCartney At 625 Palisades Road – Photo stolen from web

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Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney & John Lennon At 625 Palisades Road – Photo stolen from web

Most accounts state that Lennon took the master bedroom, noting that “…this is where they did it” in reference to J.F.K and Monroe as he did. Moon and Nilsson took other bedrooms, whilst Ringo made use of a converted library as a place to sleep.

A year later the property was sold, and in 1978 sold again, to its final owner who still holds onto it, undoubtedly aware of the providence and delighting in its historical occupants.

 

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

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Cracked Actor (1975 Bowie Doco)

So I recently tracked down a good quality copy of the 1975 documentary ‘Cracked Actor’. Filmed during David Bowie’s 1974 Diamond Dogs tour of the United States, it features him during his thin white duke stage when he was living up to the character’s name in a blizzard of powder and paranoia.

Originally made by the BBC for their Omnibus series, the film follows Bowie from stage to stage and from hotel room to hotel room, as he meanders his way round the western states in the back of a limo and prepares for his gigs.

Bowie is an evasive interviewee and like Mick Jagger is well aware of public personas and myth making. You rarely get the feeling he’s being entirely honest with the documentarians, but merely playing a character, despite this tour being about him supposedly ridding himself of his most famous one (Ziggy Stardust).

There are some good performances in here though and the viewer is made aware of just how extravagant a 1970s stage show could be – with Bowie riding cherry pickers and emerging out of huge jewelled gloves whilst singing songs like Rebel Rebel and Moonage Daydream.

The film (though interesting in parts) is far from superlative, so for the casual Bowie fan like myself this film is mainly a curio piece. As with the Rolling Stones ‘Cocksucker Blues’ (1972), I was principally watching to catch glimpses of insanity and rampant chemical abuse such as the following example at the 5:40 mark on the clip below…

Or 22 seconds into this one…

The director seems a bit confused sometimes at what direction he’s taking, but at only 54 minutes it nonetheless manages to document one of the more special periods of Bowie’s career, if not one of the most famous.

Posted by Horatio Cornblower