Wednesday, May 27, 2009


On December 1, 2000 we took a walk from Chaos Manor up into the hills. I came up with an idea for an illustrated article I will never write called "The Mansions of Studio City," and idly took some pictures. If you don't care for pictures of the Hollywood Hills and the San Fernando Valley, this won't do much for you.

 Left is our street. I was struck by just how blue the sky is, and how bright a day for December. Now I know why I pay California taxes. Center is looking up the hill toward one of the more recent palaces. Right is the view from a low part of the trail. Chaos Manor is off to the right but you can't see it. The distant mountains have a notch just to the right of center. The left peak is Strawberry which Niven and I and the dog climb sometimes, although not in winter since it can snow at any time with no warning. The ridge to the right of the notch is Mount Wilson. Pasadena is over that way, and the smog is building up despite the early hour.

Moving up the trail. The house over looks the valley. Chaos Manor is off to the right beyond that ridge. This house was recently rebuilt, or "mansionized". I very nearly bought the original house and lot there 32 years ago, but it was a bit more than I could afford, and it was just remote enough that I wasn't sure it was a good place for the boys to grow up. I like my house on a street below that level, where I have neighbors, and someone else keeps up the park I walk in. We are walking in a State Conservatory area. In the center Sasha waits impatiently for us to get moving again. On the right we have got to the "flats" area. If you knew precisely where to look you could see Chaos Manor down there.


Looking through the deer fence down to the valley below. Again if you knew precisely where to look you could see Chaos Manor, which is at the edge of the park area. Center is the deer fence, which does nothing to contain the deer: they jump this with ease. It doesn't keep coyotes out either. The other side of the fence is private property, but geologically undevelopable. Right is another attempt to get a picture of Chaos Manor from a distance.

We've reached the flats and are about to climb again. This is looking out from the fire road into the San Fernando Valley. Center is much the same view but telescopic. The yellow house on the right is the one you have seen before; we're well above it now. On the right is a shot of Studio City below, out to Burbank Airport which is the line of white buildings just below the mountain ridge.

A wide angle view of the Valley, Burbank Airport, and Beautiful Downtown Burbank in the distance with the tall building. Chaos Manor would be visible if the ridge close up were a little lower. The notch is Strawberry Mountain, and to the right of the notch is Mount Wilson. The left-most peak is Mendenhall, and in between the far mountains and us is the Verdugo Hills. JPL is off beyond the Hills but before the mountains. Next from the same place but east a bit. Smog is building up in Pasadena. The big black mountain to the right is Griffith Park, and on the south side of that is the Hollywood Sign. The white house in the center belongs to Mary Tyler Moore. It used to be more sand colored and looked like a CÚzanne painting, but they had to so structural work to make it earthquake proof and in the process changed the color, and I think the nature of the house.  The right hand picture is taken from further up the trail, and is "the Dragon House," where Carmen Dragon lived for many years. He eventually moved to Malibu and his son, called "The Captain" lived there. The Captain had wild wild parties, rode motorcycles through the park (illegally), and repainted the street sign on the lane leading to the driveway to the house to read "Snow Mountain." The rumor was that there were a lot of drugs consumed there. Then The Captain married Toni Tennille, and she moved out. She said she wasn't interested in that life style. He followed her, and the house was sold to a nice couple with small children who have been rebuilding it for years. It's a magnificent place, surrounded on 3 sides by the park. Last I heard The Captain and Tennille are still together, but not here.

Two more views of the Dragon House, but neither one shows the most interesting room in the house, which is a long, curved, windowed gallery connecting the wing of the house you can't see well (to the right and behind the rest) to the part you do see. Next a wide angle to put it in context. Chaos Manor is not quite in view down and to the right. We are quite high above the valley now, about 400 feet of the 800 foot climb to Mulholland.

The right hand picture is from Rattlesnake Bend, so called because a seven foot rattler has lived there for years. The house was built by Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, and has 17 "bedrooms" although two are offices, one is a den, and there are staff quarters, as well as rooms for each of the children (his, hers, and theirs). There's also a small movie screening room. The house was completed just before the 1992 earthquake, and they lived there for a short time. Neighbors say they were very nice people, the kids played with the neighborhood children, and everyone liked them. The house was severely damaged in the big earthquake, and apparently Ms. Hawn was terrified, particularly for the children. They moved to Malibu, the house was fixed up, and I don't know who lives in it now. They don't.

Just to the left of the Hawn-Russell house. Larry Niven lives just about dead center out there at the base of the Santa Susanna Hills, in country where every 20's and 30's Western was filmed. We walk through the rocks where the stagecoach was ambushed once a week...  And a wide angle of the same area.

Three more views from Rattlesnake Bend. Left, looking north, with the Russell house about 90 degrees left. Then looking east and down the trail, where Sasha hopes the gopher will come out again. He caught one there once, and the others tease him by popping up and ducking. Of course he caught one when it was legal for him to run free. They've changed that law and the State Rangers spend most of the very little time they have up here giving out dog tickets, which is I suppose good for the State Treasury but seems to me a waste of time. In 30 years the only person I know who got bit by dogs up here was me, and that was my own darned fault for trying to stop a dog fight in which no one got hurt but me. The right hand picture is the familiar north-east view to Burbank and Pasadena, with the smog building up in Pasadena. The big black building just beyond Mary Tyler Moore's house is in Universal City.  The Disney Studios are near the white building in the center, which is St. Joseph's Hospital where our number 3 son was born 3 months prematurely. When the State threatened to require all hospitals with maternity services to offer abortion services, Mother Superior went to the State Legislature and testified: "If you do this, I will send all the patients in my hospital -- I am Mother Superior and I legally own this hospital as a corporation sole -- I will send all the patients to another hospital, cancel all insurances, send the other Sisters and all the staff away, and personally burn the place to the ground."

They believed her. As they should have.



This is as high as we went today; usually I go all the way to the top, and we'll have some more pictures of the rest of the walk, and the Palaces of Studio City, another time.