A renowned estate with an illustrious pedigree in what is arguably the plummiest pocket of Los Angeles’s tony Bel Air community, owned for the last 25-plus years by Bill Bell, scion of the Bell family soap opera dynasty, and his former soap opera writer/producer wife Maria Arena Bell, has come up for sale with an asking price of $37.5 million. Designed in the early 1930s by esteemed high-society architect Wallace Neff for film producer and studio mogul Sol Wurtzel, the elegant Spanish Colonial mansion, represented by Kurt Rappaport at Westside Estate Agency, measures in at 13,361-square feet with five bedrooms and 7.5 bathrooms.
According to Michael Gross’s 2011 real estate page-turner Unreal Estate, the property was purchased in 1953 for a reported $125,000 by celebrity psychic and astrologer-to-the-stars Anthony Norvell, who claimed to have sublet it at various times to Howard Hughes, Prince Ranier of Monaco and, “The King” himself, Elvis Presley. At some point the house came to be owned by British character actor Reginald Owen who, according to Gross, sold it 1962 to heiress, philanthropist and thoroughbred horse owner Dolly Green, daughter of oilman Burton Green, a co-founder of the city of Beverly Hills. Green lived in the house until her death in the fall of 1990 and it was from her heirs and estate the Bells purchased the property in 1991 for $4.775 million.
Positioned high on 1.35 up-sloped acres with a view of the ocean over the Bel-Air Country Club, the elegant home stands the end of a long, gated driveway that swoops up from the street and around the eastern end of the mansion to a discreet motor court at the front of the house where a flamboyant pair of Corinthian columns frame the front door. According to the exhaustively researched, 428-page coffee table book The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills, written by powerhouse real estate broker Jeff Hyland, co-founder of the Hilton & Hyland brokerage firm, the 180-foot long house was designed with a curved shape that followed the contour of the land with each of the main floor rooms having at least two exposures that opened to deep loggias and/or broad terraces that overlook terraced gardens. According to Hyland’s tome, “The front door opened into an intimate, circular foyer, which led into a very large—and very grand—oval reception room, with the curving grand staircase on one side. To the right was the huge living room with French doors leading to the arched loggia. To the left was the dining room and breakfast room, both opening onto their loggia, and the kitchen and service wing. The second floor contained the library and four master bedrooms.”
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Current marketing materials show the estate additionally offers a gym, spa and screening room and there is additional unspecified living space tucked up under the terrace that surrounds the swimming pool at the western end of the house. Curved staircases cascade down from the terrace that runs along the curved rear façade to a tennis court and vast sweep of lawn surrounded by manicured gardens.
The property is surrounded by other equally plush estates and even larger mansions unsurprisingly owned by financial heavy hitters like Packard Bell founder Beny Alagem, mobile home tycoon Jeffrey Kaplan, A&M Records co-founder Jerry Ross, billionaire financier Gary Winnick, nightclub mogul and hotelier Sam Nazarian and luxury property developer Jason Grosfeld who owns a mansion previously owned by English crooner Dean Martin, Tom Jones and Nicholas Cage.
Property records suggest the Bells additionally maintain a partial interest in a shingled cottage on a rare, double-lot ocean-front property with a beachside swimming pool and spa inside the guarded gates of Malibu’s Colony enclave with the other half being owned by his mother Lee Bell, creator with her late husband William Bell of “The Young and The Restless” and “The Bold and The Beautiful,” and the architectures savvy couple recently completed construction of an über-modern mansion on almost six bluff-top acres above Malibu’s Paradise Cove.