Just a quick jog due north of the Sunset Strip’s western end lies an unusually large, ominous-looking concrete mansion. Sited on a high knoll above a long gated driveway and looming over its neighbors, the hulking estate has curved colonnades and intricate wrought iron balustrades embellishing more than 18,000 square feet of interior living space, including 10 bedrooms and 13 baths. And the house offers a history that’s nearly as outrageous as its gaudy architecture would suggest.
Originally built in the early 1950s, the mansion was commissioned by Hal B. Hayes, a wealthy contractor, noted playboy, and a onetime fiancée of Zsa Zsa Gabor. Hayes was also deeply paranoid, and his home was built to withstand a nuclear attack. There was an indoor bomb shelter, plus an underground cave — complete with oxygen tanks for aeration — accessible only by swimming through a secret tunnel within the backyard pool.
Hayes eventually fled to Mexico after a federal probe over the source of his glamorous lifestyle. But his house remained, changing hands many times over the ensuing decades. Its appearance was radically altered, too — the giant concrete bunker-like structure of today bears little resemblance to the original design, though the fortress mantra is intact.
Elizabeth Taylor allegedly once lived in the house, and Mike Tyson was reportedly in escrow on the property during 1997, around the same time he bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear. But that deal fell through. In 2000, the estate was acquired by legally-embattled “Jumanji” producer Ted Field, an heir to the Marshall Field’s chain of retail stores; five years later, Field sold the estate to now-retired NBA star Carlos Boozer, then playing for the Utah Jazz on a $70 million contract.
In fall 2005, Boozer famously leased the house to music icon Prince at a princely rate of $70,000/month. That happy arrangement didn’t last long, however, because The Purple One ran afoul of his landlord after Boozer discovered several unauthorized changes to his estate — a driveway mysteriously painted a deep purple, monogrammed purple carpeting in the master suite and added plumbing for water transfer to Prince’s in-house beauty salon.
Boozer promptly sued Prince for damages, though the case was ultimately dropped and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. The alterations were quickly removed, the purple paint scrubbed away, and the house subsequently sold in 2006 for $8.6 million to billionaire Russ Weiner, founder of the Rockstar energy drink empire.
Less than a year after closing on the property, Weiner attempted to flip the house with a sky-high $22 million pricetag; that ask, predictably, proved unsuccessful. Then the recession hit and Weiner eventually dumped the property at a loss in 2010, to an entity controlled by the Omidi family.
Longtime L.A. residents probably recall the 1-800-Get-Thin marketing scheme that blanketed television, radio and billboard ads during the late 2000s and early 2010s. The maddeningly catchy jingle “Let your new life begin, call 1-800-get-thin” was a cutesy way to advertise the lap-band, a very serious — and expensive — surgical weight-loss procedure performed at clinics owned by Michael and Julian Omidi, Iranian-born brothers and physicians.
The Get-Thin campaign proved enormously successful; by 2010, according to Julian Omidi himself, clinics controlled by the brothers were raking in a whopping $21 million per month. But by late 2011, the Omidis’ lucrative business had come under scrutiny from local, state and federal regulators, who uncovered a massive trail of fraud and neglect — at least five patients who underwent the lap-band treatment at 1-800-Get-Thin affiliated clinics died shortly after their procedures.
Julian Omidi, now in his early 50s, was ultimately arrested on a 37-count indictment, alleging he defrauded insurers of $250 million, and is awaiting trial. His mother Cindy Omidi was also arrested and convicted on unrelated charges of violating laws designed to prevent money laundering, and sentenced to probation.
In 2014, according to the L.A. Times, dozens of armed FBI agents raided the massive Hollywood Hills mansion as part of a probe connected to the 1-800-Get-Thin case. Records reveal an Omidi-linked entity originally paid $8.4 million for the main house and later picked up the house next door, a much smaller Tudor-style affair, for a total outlay of $11.1 million.
The family is now hoping the entire compound, which spans about 2.2 acres over six contiguous parcels, is worth nearly triple what they paid. A tall order, perhaps, particularly considering the property is outdated and marketed as a “development opportunity” — often another way to say teardown in realtor-speak — but there’s no denying the complex is one of the most distinctive estates in the immediate area. And the place has spectacular vistas of the L.A. basin, particularly from the rooftop tennis court.
Besides the giant main house, the smaller house next door contains another four bedrooms and baths in about 3,400 square feet of living space, plus a large backyard of steep hillside land. There’s plenty of hiding spots to survive a nuclear attack — or a global pandemic, perhaps.