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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Paradise Bought in Los Angeles -Beverly Park - Playground of the Rich - New York Times

Paradise Bought in Los Angeles

J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

An aerial view of one of the homes in North Beverly Park.

Published: July 2, 2006


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J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

The home of Avi and Joyce Arad in North Beverly Park in Los Angeles.

WHEN Irena Medavoy decided to build her dream home, on two flat acres above Beverly Hills, one thing was really important. "I wanted it warm, cozy, informal," she said, before demonstrating how the living room converts into a screening room. At the push of a button, a 20-foot-wide screen descended from the ceiling and three huge speakers rose from beneath the wood parquet floor. At the other end of the room, a floor-to-ceiling bookcase sank — Batcave-like — revealing a projection room hidden behind it.

By the standards of North Beverly Park, the gated community where Mrs. Medavoy and her husband, the Hollywood producer Mike Medavoy, live, their home — 11,000 square feet in an East Coast traditional style — actually is cozy.

That's because other houses in this intensely private, security-obsessed community for Hollywood potentates, business tycoons and movie and sports stars are even larger, more on the order of small hotels: 20,000, 30,000 or, in a couple of cases, more than 40,000 square feet. When Eunice Kennedy Shriver visited the Medavoys during a reception for President Vicente Fox of Mexico, she said of their spread, "I didn't even know they built houses like this anymore," her hostess recalled.

In an age of gilded real estate excess, massive homes are nothing new. Still, the scale of Beverly Park is striking, with one palacelike home next to another like a billionaires' Levittown. East Coast visitors often react with wonder-cum-horror at the neighborhood, while even in Hollywood's monied upper echelons, some consider Beverly Park to be too much.

"You won't find anywhere a concentration of such large homes," said Joyce Rey, who heads the estates division for Coldwell Banker on the West Side of Los Angeles. "You'll find a large estate in Bel Air, or a few large estates. But you won't find a concentration of houses, and new houses, with such large square footage."

How did it happen? "We've had a concentration of the rich getting richer, and that's really propelled the construction of these homes," she said.

But there's also the question of keeping up with the neighbors, when the neighbors are a Who's Who of show business elite. Eddie Murphy lives in a 45,000-square-foot Italianate compound (alone, apparently, since his divorce in April). Nearby are the homes of Barry Bonds, Reba McEntire, Rod Stewart, Sylvester Stallone, Denzel Washington, the Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, the billionaire Haim Saban and Avi Arad, the recently retired Marvel chairman who is now a producer.

What binds this group together is not so much work or leisure pursuits, but a baseline of stratospheric wealth or fame and a keen desire for privacy. In a city where paparazzi roam like packs of wild dogs, you will never see one in, or even near, Beverly Park, whose main entrance is hidden down a long road to a secure gatehouse off San Ysidro Drive. A second entrance is off Mulholland Drive, that winding road that traces the ridge above the wealthy West Side.

In many ways, the neighborhood is a testament to the power of changed perspective, providing Los Angeles's micro-club of superrich and superfamous a place to feel normal. In a gated community like this, what may be too much to outsiders is validated by neighbors, whose own choices suggest that huge feels just right.

"When you come here, you can see everyone creates his own environment," Mrs. Medavoy said. "The Stallones' is very Italian. Denzel's is like a small Hotel du Cap. Jami Gertz has a Southern colonial."

Residents insist that their gated paradise is a real neighborhood and a true community, if a wealthy one, with Halloween shindigs for the kids, friendly movie screenings and dinner parties.

"This isn't Versailles, and I'm not Marie Antoinette," insisted Joyce Arad, who might have made the remark because her house, completed in 2003, is a three-story palace built in classical 18th-century French style. The kitchen has two vast stone islands with copper pots hanging around each of them, though Mrs. Arad confesses that she doesn't cook much. Outside is an elegant swimming pool designed to look like the reflecting pond of a chateau, along with several outdoor living areas, with fireplaces and fountains. "I wanted it to be homey and authentic-feeling," she said.

The culture of Beverly Park is secretive, even paranoid, and a couple of residents who gave interviews urged caution and begged anonymity, so as not to arouse the wrath of the homeowners' association. In the center of Beverly Park is an elaborate four-acre children's park, usually empty. Indeed, there are almost no people visible in Beverly Park, except for domestic workers, gardeners and construction workers, as building continues apace on the handful of remaining lots, watched only by the hidden security cameras that are everywhere. Mrs. Medavoy, who once disdained the impulse of the wealthy to hide behind gates, now says she wouldn't live anywhere else. "There is nothing that compares to this in the world," she said. "It would be like the Hamptons, gated."

Paradise Bought in Los Angeles -Beverly Park - Playground of the Rich - New York Times

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