Inside The Crumbling Walls Of Liza Minnelli’s Abandoned Beverly Hills Mansion
By Chris Wharfe
Beverly Hills is full of magnificent homes. Yet somewhere among the glamorous villas of the rich and famous lies a decrepit building. The mansion was once the home of talented Hollywood director Vincente Minnelli and his family — but it has since been abandoned and left to decay. And its crumbling walls and overgrown gardens are a sorry testament to the legal battle that would come to engulf the property.
A luxury home
Vincente left his impressive Beverly Hills home to his daughter, Liza — and it was said to be worth some $1.1 million at the time in the 1980s. But he also left lifetime use of the property to his fourth wife, Lee. So while his widow continued to live there, his daughter apparently paid the bills. The stage was set for a fight. The house had been home to true Hollywood royalty — but before long, it would be falling into ruins.
A Golden Age icon
Vincente Minnelli made a name for himself in the movie business in the mid-20th century, helming several classic musicals. In 1951 he sat in the director’s chair for An American in Paris — a film that took home the Academy Award for Best Picture. Seven years later, he repeated that success and also earned the Best Director award for his work on Gigi.
Judy Garland enters the picture
Over the course of his life, Vincente married four times. He tied the knot with his first wife, the legendary actress and singer Judy Garland, on June 15, 1945. Garland received considerable recognition for her work and picked up a Golden Globe and Special Tony among other awards. She is perhaps best known, however, for her role as Dorothy in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, for which she earned a Juvenile Oscar.
A star is born
Vincente and Garland had one child: Liza Minnelli. Born on March 12, 1946, Liza would grow up to become a star in her own right. She bagged an Academy Award for her role in the 1972 film Cabaret and is also widely celebrated for her singing voice, with memorable performances at venues like Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall through the late ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s.
The family splits
But things didn’t end happily for Vincente and Garland. In 1951 the couple divorced. Their struggles were apparently sparked by Garland’s self-destructive behavior. The actress had reportedly struggled, and MGM had gone so far as to terminate her contract. Amidst this chaos, the relationship began to fall apart — and it spelled the end of Garland’s marriage to Vincente.
Vincente loves again
Nevertheless, Vincente married three more times, wedding his last bride — Lee Anderson — in 1980. Just six years later, the director passed away in his Beverly Hills home, aged 83. And in the years since his death, the ownership of the mansion has proven to be a source of conflict between Liza and her stepmother, Lee.
A house divided
It was a spectacular home — but it now had two owners, and their interests weren't always aligned. In 2000 Liza put the house up for sale, and she apparently did so without Lee’s knowledge. To sweeten the deal, Liza offered her stepmother a $450,000 condo. Unfortunately, it was a deal that Lee simply wouldn't accept — she refused to leave, altogether. And this would be just the start of the bad relations between the pair.
Lee won't leave
When the house finally sold a couple of years later, Lee still wouldn’t vacate the property. Liza reportedly responded by stopping payment on the mansion’s electricity bills. To add to that, she fired the staff who were employed to take care of it. As a result, Lee filed a lawsuit against her stepdaughter, kicking off the legal battle.
The lawsuit in question alleged that Liza had breached a contract and had brought emotional anguish upon Lee. In fact, court papers went as far as to say that moving the then-94-year-old would “no doubt be the death of her.” It was serious stuff. Then, Liza’s much-publicized wedding to David Gest in 2002 added further fuel to the fire.
Liza snubs Lee
For one thing, Liza apparently withdrew Lee’s invitation to the wedding as a result of the lawsuit. But it was the lavishness of the festivities that reportedly drew the most ire from Lee. Her legal filings referred to the wedding, noting, “While the defendant is honeymooning all over the world, having fed 850 of her closest friends a 12-foot cake, [the] plaintiff is alone in a cold, dark house at age 94.”
What Vincente wanted
Liza responded to the lawsuit in April 2002 — a month after her wedding. Speaking to Daily Variety writer Army Archerd, she explained, “My father left me the house, saying, ‘It is my wish if you sell the house that you move [Lee] to a residence.’ I finally got a nice offer to sell it and offered her a $450,000 condo, tax-free. She won’t move. I’ve been supporting her forever. I did exactly what my father asked me to do. And now we can’t go into escrow because she won’t move. I am willing to give her a happy life.”
The pair make a deal
Despite the hostilities, the legal battle came to a conclusion fairly quickly. Lee actually dropped the lawsuit just a month later, after Liza had reportedly reached out to her and invited her to dinner. The pair then came to an arrangement over the mansion: Liza would pay rent to the new owners while Lee continued to reside in the property. And after Lee’s death, the buyers could finally take full control.
In 2006 — four years after the buyers made their offer — the house finally closed escrow. And three years later, Lee passed away — less than a month after her 100th birthday. It was at this point that the new owners could take residency of their $2.75 million purchase. First, though, they discussed plans to renovate the property.
Opulence is left abandoned
Ultimately, however, the new owners’ plans seemingly fell through the cracks — and no restoration work appears to have ever taken place on the site. Rumored visions to scrap the property and construct a new estate on the same site never came about, either. As a result, the mansion seems to have since only been home to squatters.
Spanish Colonial Revival style
The home was built in 1925, which was around the time that Spanish Colonial Revival architecture was coming into fashion. The hallmarks of the style include smooth plastered walls, terracotta features and flat roofs. However, the mansion was renovated and redesigned between 1944 and 1953 by John Elgin Woolf — this time in the French Louis XV style.
A huge mansion
In total, the house — which is located at 812 N. Crescent Drive, CA, adjoining Sunset Boulevard — boasts 19 rooms, including six bedrooms and six bathrooms. The mansion covers some 5,900 square feet on a lot that stretches to a whopping 42,500 square feet. It’s an enormous space, then, and certainly fit for a celebrity. Vincente moved in shortly after his split from Garland in 1951.
A childhood wonderland
As a child, Liza alternated between living with her two parents. And so she spent half of the year at her father’s mansion. One can only imagine that she enjoyed her time there. After all, Vincente reportedly adored his daughter. He commissioned an artist called Tony Duquette to build her a huge playhouse in the property’s backyard, for instance.
A playground for the stars
In addition, Vincente reportedly had multiple outfits fashioned for his daughter, making her house a popular hang-out spot for her friends. Candice Bergen, who starred in Murphy Brown, recalled her younger years in her autobiography. She said, “I remember always asking to go to Liza’s to play dress-up because in her closet hung little girls’ dreams.”
At the turn of the millennium, the Los Angeles Times profiled Lee Minnelli and painted a grand picture of the mansion. As well as describing “python-skin-covered walls” and “vast dressing rooms,” the story highlighted the various designer outfits that hung in Lee’s wardrobes. Her own suite was apparently “smothered by books, papers, catalogs and, of course, many framed photos.”
Frozen in time
Even after her husband’s death, Lee apparently changed very little in the home. Vincente’s easel and paint were, for example, said to have been left exactly where he had placed them. And the house still contained a room showcasing relics from the director’s illustrious career, including his Best Director Oscar that he had won for Gigi. Nowadays, though, the property is much the worse for wear.
Time takes its toll
Images of the house today paint a depressing picture compared to the opulence seen in the Los Angeles Times. The years since Lee Minnelli’s death have clearly not been kind. Just look at the grass and trees in the mansion’s substantial grounds, which are overgrown and untended. It all suggests that the property has been left to go wild.
A sunken hollow
Amidst the plot’s untamed vegetation is an outdoor swimming pool. But just like the rest of the property, it’s a shell of its former self. Sitting empty, it looks more like a sunken hollow in the ground. It’s an eerie vision, particularly when you remember the glamorous people who once enjoyed it. Now, the pool is simply a remnant of a time long since passed.
The rest of the grounds aren’t much prettier, either. Debris and rubble are littered around, while marble columns lie toppled and strewn. Such is the state of the house’s exterior surroundings that it’s hard to believe anyone of note ever lived here. You’d certainly never guess that it was once the home of some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
A ransacked kitchen
Unfortunately, the inside of the house isn’t any different. The kitchen is in a sorry state and has been left in disarray. Cupboard doors are torn off their hinges, while drawers have been pulled out and stacked haphazardly. Broken furniture, dishes and other detritus are scattered here and there, and the dirty sink is in desperate need of attention.
The vastness of the property and its general state of abandonment make for unnerving viewing. There’s an inherently creepy feeling to the crumbling walls that’s palpable even in the images. The parts of the carpet that have remained intact are filthy, while some sections have been torn away to reveal the material underneath, which is now aged to red dust.
A state of decrepitude
In fact, almost the entire house appears to be in a terrible state of disrepair. There are holes in the walls, doors are coming away from their hinges and piles of papers litter the rooms. Over the years, then, it would seem that the mansion has been subject to the whims of curious intruders and squatters who have ventured into the once-grand home.
Graffiti on the walls
Upstairs, the words “Judy Garland” are scrawled across one of the walls. There’s no way to know who penned them, but it’s not hard to imagine someone getting wind of who used to live here and coming to scribble the name. Regardless, it’s a much-needed reminder of the lofty figures that were once associated with the now-abandoned house.
This sense of squalor doesn’t improve in the master bedroom, either. While some pieces of furniture remain, most of it is long gone — including the bed and bedside tables. More trash covers the floor, and the room is horrendously dirty. Plaster is falling from the ceiling, too, and there are yet more holes dotted in the walls.
Random, abandoned belongings
In other areas of the house it’s more difficult to distinguish the rooms as having any particular uses. In one space, there’s a bathtub, a mattress and an exercise bike — along with more random objects, such as a fire extinguisher. Given the eclectic nature of these items, it becomes difficult to piece together a coherent image of those who once resided here.
Empty for years
But this doesn’t mean that people don’t try. With the house now abandoned, there’s little to stop members of the public from poking around. And that’s exactly what one YouTuber — Adam Williams, also known as adamthewoo — did in 2014. During his exploration of the house, he discovered that there’s no running water. That’s hardly surprising, though, when you consider the fact that the home hasn’t been lived in since 2009.
A forgotten past
Old television sets and VHS tapes are scattered in another room, along with a multitude of other belongings. Perhaps, then, Liza had no interest in coming back for her or her stepmother’s possessions after Lee’s death. That’s Williams’ theory, which he explained in a post for Abandoned Explorers — a website that’s dedicated to urban and industrial ruins.
Left behind and unwanted
“Maybe Liza retrieved some things she wanted from the home, but she certainly wouldn’t be interested in old furniture [or] TVs,” Williams wrote. “So those were probably just left since the house needed a complete renovation anyway, and that was up to the owners.” Alas, it seems that the new landlords never got around to the restoration that the house desperately needed.
Squatters using the property
In another room, there’s a tired old fireplace, with a wall covered in dirty, mirrored glass standing behind it. According to Williams who toured the house in 2014, there was evidence that the fireplace had actually been put to use not long before his visit. This supports the suggestion that squatters had entered the house at some point since 2009.
Grandeur stripped away
As the video continues, so does Williams’ tour, and on it, he found few traces of the grandeur that the property had once enjoyed. In the dining room, only a few cushions, a couple of chairs and an old TV set remain. And even more random furniture lies askew in other rooms, including a lurid, bright-green couch. Elsewhere, large sections of ceiling are missing.
A new beginning?
Despite everything, it does appear that some work has been done on the property since 2009. There are aerial photos of the house on Bing that show a utility truck and dumpsters parked outside the home. Whatever work was planned, however, it seems never to have come to fruition. And it’s thought that the local authorities may be preventing the current owners from tearing the mansion to the ground in order to start afresh.
Better off gone forever
In fact, Abandoned Explorers posited that this may be the reason that the home has been left deserted. “Was this why it had been basically left open to squatters for years in hopes it would be accidentally burned down or be destroyed by vandals beyond repair?” the author pondered. Whatever the case, the house has again been left to decay — despite once being home to some of Hollywood’s most famous names.