Iconoclast Musician Frank Zappa’s Longtime Compound in the Hollywood Hills Comes to Market (EXCLUSIVE)

SELLER: Estate of Frank and Gail Zappa
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $5,495,000
SIZE: 6,759 square feet, 7 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms plus multiple guest units

YOUR MAMA’S NOTES: In early March, 2016, actor and filmmaker Alex Winter — he made the 2013 Napster documentary “Downloaded” and the 2015 darknet market doc “Deep Web” — launched a terrifically modern and well-publicized Kickstarter campaign to raise $9 million to buy the longtime Hollywood Hills compound of late, legendary and legendarily eccentric musician and composer Frank Zappa as well as to finance his upcoming, Zappa-family approved bio-documentary “Who the F*@% Is Frank Zappa.” Though the crowd funding effort hauled in more than a million bucks towards making the documentary — well above its $500,000 goal — it did not pull in anywhere near the $9 million needed to purchase the Zappa family compound that’s now come up for sale on the open market with an asking price of $5,495,000. Property records show Mister Zappa, who passed from prostate cancer at 52 in 1993, acquired the quirky compound in 1968 for just $74,000. Now cleared of most family possessions and staged for selling with a truckload of generic furnishings, the property remained in the hands of his long-time wife and widow, Gail Zappa, who died in October of 2015.

In addition to the vaguely faux-Tudor main house, which dates to the late 1930s and current online marketing materials indicate has six bedrooms and seven bathrooms in 6,759-square-feet of higgledy-piggledy multi-level living space, the .56-acre property manages to squeeze in two architecturally adventurous detached guesthouses plus an attached apartment for guests or staff. The main residence includes all the customary rooms expected in a 7,000-square foot home —marble floored foyer, formal living and dining rooms, library, several lounges/offices, and an airy kitchen with vaulted and sky-lit exposed beam ceiling — as well as what listings describe as “small reading/creative nooks.” There are “many one-of-a-kind embellishments,” such as a dragon mural in the formal dining room, along with “porthole windows and doors salvaged from vintage submarines.” Other features of note include a double height art gallery with parquet flooring, the so-called “Utility Muffin Research Kitchen,” Mister Zappa’s sprawling recording studio, and “The Vault,” a storage chamber beneath the house where during his lifetime Mister Zappa kept his private archives under lock and key. The terraced, tree-shaded grounds include a hodgepodge of decks and patios, a greenhouse, swimming pool, roof top tennis court, and “lush gardens” that feature “one-of-a-kind mosaic art.”

It’s probably romantic and uselessly nostalgic to imagine a well-to-do Frank Zappa fan will and buy the property and retain all the Zappa family’s idiosyncratic bits and bobs because, given the effervescently bubbly state of the high end real estate market in Los Angeles, it seems much more likely an experienced developer will snatch it up and raze or at the very least radically alter the existing structures to make way for a substantially bigger, glassy and probably aggressively contemporary spec-built mansion designed to sell for well over $10 million. No? We shall see.

Mister Zappa was a wildly prolific, deeply influential and self-taught experimental musician, composer and artist who released more than 60 albums during his lifetime, about two dozen of them with The Mothers of Invention. In 1982 he released “Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch” which included the deeply sarcastic but radio-friendly Grammy-nominated song “Valley Girl” sung by his then teenaged daughter Moon Unit. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1997.

The Zappas are survived by their four creative and creatively named children: occasional actress and writer Moon Unit, rock guitarist Dweezil (née Ian Donald Calvin Euclid), writer/producer Ahmet Emuukha Rodan — the executor of the Zappa Family Trust, and artist/actress Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen. The children are at odds with each other over control of the family trust that is reported to be millions of dollars in debt but owns and controls the rights to their father’s extensive archives that could be worth tens of millions of dollars according to a recent report in the L.A. Times.

Listing photos: Hilton & Hyland

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  1. Beth CP says:

    Looking through this album, I have to agree with the author’s “nostalgic” wish that someone with a Zappa-friendly bent would purchase this property and maintain as much of it’s quirky features as well as many of the other quite elegant elements on display here. The front foyer, the kitchen/breakfast area and the art gallery are quite lovely.

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