I was on the scooter yesterday afternoon, buzzing along Mulholland and in and out the canyons and trails and cul de sacs between Beverly Glen to Laurel Canyon. And I guess I was thinking about the two 2012 Roman Polanski docs — Laurent Bouzereau and Andrew Braunsberg‘s Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir (which I reviewed in Cannes) and Marina Zenovich‘s Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out, which will play the fall festival circuit — because I found myself hanging a subconscious right onto Cielo Drive off Benedict Canyon south, and up to an area that used to be known as 10050 Cielo Drive.
The original Robert Byrd-designed home, apparently taken sometime in the late ’60s or early ’70s.
Jeff Franklin’s “Villa Bella,” was built in ’94 or thereabouts on the same lot after the Byrd home was torn down.
This was the site of Robert Byrd‘s now-demolished California ranch-styled home where Polanski’s late ex, Sharon Tate, and four others — Abigail Folger, Steven Parent, Voiytek Frykowski and Jay Sebring — were murdered by the Manson family on August 9, 1969. I knew that Trent Reznor lived there for two or three years in the early ’90s, and that the place had been torn down in ’94 and that a nouveau-riche Moorish-Mediterranean monstrosity called “Villa Bella” was built in its place by producer Jeff Franklin (Full House). The original street number was also erased — the address is now 10066 Cielo Drive.
I stood on the other side of the canyon and told myself that anyone who would trash the original single-storied structure, which had a nice homey vibe with a pool and a guest house and was painted red with white trim with huge trees on the grounds, and then cut down the trees and build a ghastly Uday Hussein-style Euro-mansion, must be a real animal. I can understand how a new owner might want to flush out the murder vibes by building a new place, but the Franklin mansion is an even worse nightmare — a monument to tastelessness and a metaphor for the mongrelization of architectural standards in Los Angeles and across the USA. You’d have to be truly coarse and clueless to build this place and be delighted with it. If and when I ever run into Franklin I think I’ll tell him that.
A certain percentage of those reading this article will go, “Wait, what’s wrong with the Franklin place? It looks like a nice McMansion — big and palatial with over-sized rooms and great wifi…probably has a home theatre and maybe a workout room and a pool and room for three or four SUVs in the garage…what’s not to like?