Originally posted: August 23, 2012 by CHRISTOPHER RIORDAN
People always ask me, "CHRISTOPHER, how did you happen to live at Falcon Lair?" 'Ah, 'tis a story, to be sure.
My association with The Lair began almost from the moment I arrived in Hollywood.
When I first ran away from home, I lived first, in a hotel; then my own apartment that sat behind Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Soon, I could no longer afford the rent by myself, and I moved into a house with four other people. One of those roommates was crazy about all things, VALENTINO; and one day he talked the one person in the house that had a car into driving up to Falcon Lair.
The Lair rests (or, rested) high on a hill on Bella Dr. in Beverly Hills. Originally, it was thee only house on the street. Now, two other homes sit there, as well. And, at this writing, another is being built. Slowly, the full Twenty-Two acres that VALENTINO once owned, have been divided and sold, piece by piece. The latest sale being the unkindest cut of all. (From, possibly, the unkindest person, as well.)
When we drove by Falcon Lair on that summer day in 1956, DORIS DUKE owned the place; and she hadn't yet put up the large sheets of metal that no longer allow you to look through the gates and see the main house.
We drove by very slowly that day. And I gazed longingly out of the back window of the car as we hit the dead end and circled back. Somehow, I couldn't take my eyes off the property. It was a very long glance, and I could actually feel something pulling me toward the entire acreage.
My roommate exclaimed, "Maybe you lived here in a past life." Little did I know that Forty-some odd years later, I WOULD be living there. Not only as a resident, but the ONLY resident. Except for Max and Lucas... the guard dogs that I seemingly inherited. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Sometime after the drive-by, my VALENTINO fan roommate told me he had a chance to meet with VALENTINO'S older brother, Alberto. When the day arrived, I was asked if I wanted to go along. At first, I didn't think I would do it. After the fact, I was delighted that I did.
Alberto Valentino's apartment sat on Hollywood Blvd., just east of Western Ave. It was nothing special. Nothing like what I expected the brother of VALENTINO to be living in. There was a smallish size living room that looked onto Hollywood Blvd. Then, a rather long hallway that took you to the one bedroom. It wasn't obvious, but there were a lot of things pertaining to the famous brother that were interwoven among the many objects placed about.
Alberto and I hit it off immediately. I think he sensed that I was not some crazed fan; and I appeared to be interested in what HE had to say. So I let the man speak and express his thoughts.
He obviously mourned his brother. He missed the glory days; but more than anything, he hated the fact that he didn't inherit Falcon Lair. He kept saying, "One day, I'll be up there again. And it will be mine. That's where I should be living."
But for now, The Lair was inhabited by DORIS DUKE, heiress to the great tobacco fortune. Alberto had nothing nice to say about MS DUKE. He greatly resented that she lived where he felt he rightfully belonged. But, due to RUDY'S many debts and outstanding loans he had given others, Falcon Lair did not go to the relatives.
Our meeting that day lasted longer than I expected. But that didn't seem to bother Alberto. He was truly acting as though he and I were the only ones in the room. This didn't please my roommate, but he did seem to accept it all.
On my own, I saw Alberto many times after that initial meeting. We always enjoyed each other's company; but he never stopped talking about his 'want to be at Falcon Lair.' And, he always denied the various disparaging rumours regarding his brother.
Somehow, over the years, I saw less of Alberto, and spent more time at Falcon Lair. Of course, these visits were not at the behest of DORIS DUKE. Instead, I was invited by one of her staff, who delighted in entertaining his pals at The Lair when MS DUKE was out of town!
In Part 2, I tell of eventually running into DORIS DUKE at my 'dad's' cocktail parties....but of NEVER letting her know that I spent so much time in her house.
Scroll down for PART 2.
Originally posted: August 27, 2012 by CHRISTOPHER RIORDAN
Of course, whenever I ran into the formidable DORIS DUKE at my 'dad's' cocktail parties, I never admitted to being in her home while she was away. Some say...I may have spent more time at Falcon Lair than she did.
I digress a bit; DORIS DUKE considered Falcon Lair the least favourite of her homes. It was her friend, GLORIA SWANSON, who suggested that DORIS buy the house. GLORIA had rented The Lair during part of the shooting schedule for "Sunset Blvd."
DORIS had been traveling from New Jersey to Los Angeles, and having a long stop-over before going on to her home in Hawaii (Shangri La.)
Buying Falcon Lair meant that DORIS could have her own home in which to spend the night before boarding for the Islands. As time went by, after the purchase, MS DUKE began spending more and more time in L.A. Thus, she was introduced to more of Hollywood society.
Most already know of the questionable, and horrible demise of MS DUKE. Seemingly, she was 'done in' by her man-servant. She was eventually so ill that it was no longer possible for her to remain in the main bedroom downstairs. She was brought up to the Music Room, where a hospital bed was arranged; and eventually, she died there.
And, sometime after all that mystery had passed, a man by the name of Tom Blount bought the Falcon Lair Estate. At that time, that meant nothing to me. But, all these years later, I was living in Mexico, and my son, Sean, was working as a grip in the film industry.
One day, Sean contacted me, and he informed me that he was shooting a film on the grounds of Falcon Lair. All his life he'd heard me talk about the famous home, where I had attended so many parties. We also had a mirror in my home that had been given to me by a woman friend of mine who used to help me with my lines. Especially when I was doing a play.
I was at her home one night, and I admired the mirror in her bathroom. She informed me that the mirror once hung at the famous Falcon Lair. By the end of the evening, I was presented with the Falcon Lair mirror. I still have it. It has been with me in Studio City, Ashland, Oregon, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.....back to Falcon Lair, and again in Studio City.
While Sean was working on this film, he learned that Mr. Blount was looking for a new person to manage the property during the many times he was away on his travels. He called me and asked me what I thought. I was leery at first; because I knew nothing of Mr. Blount. However, during their interview, Mr. Blount informed Sean that he did a lot of entertaining when he was in town, and there would often be all kinds of people coming up that hill to a party, or political function. Sean knew what he meant, and told Mr. Blount, 'not to worry,' "My dad has been in show business all his life. I used to be on his sets when I was just a little kid. I've met just about every kind of person there is." With that, Mr. Blount looked at Sean's name again. "R,I,O,R,D,A,N," he spelled it out. "The only people I know who spell the name this way, is our Mayor, and the dancer that was discovered by FRED ASTAIRE." Very quietly, which is his manner, Sean replied, "That's my father."
Well, being a big film fan, Mr. Blount told Sean that he'd like to meet his father one day. Sean explained that I was living in Mexico at the time; but was coming into town for a visit in two week's time. "Let me know," Mr. Blount said, "And, you've got the job."
Coming in Part 3, My return to Falcon Lair.
Scroll down for PART 3.
Originally posted: August 30, 2012 by CHRISTOPHER RIORDAN
For whatever reason, when I finally did meet Mr. Blount, he seemed somewhat intimidated. He suggested that Sean show me around; and then I informed him that this was NOT my first time at The Lair. I told him of my first visit in1956. "DORIS DUKE owned the place then," he informed me. "Oh, how well I know," I said. Then Mr. Blount asked me if I noticed any changes since I'd last visited. I mentioned the circular driveway being filled in with gravel. When we used to drive up to the front door, we'd have to wait for the dust to settle before we could exit the car. I then mentioned that there was something different about the door to the main bedroom. Thinking he'd 'one up me,' he said, "Oh, you know about the bedrooms, do you?" And I immediately replied, "Oh, Mr. Blount, I'm afraid I had sex in this house way before you did." Needless to say, we've been friends ever since.
My first meeting with Max and Lucas was something else again. Lucas was his usual friendly self. And Max was his usual, as well. Looking at me suspiciously, and growling in a menacing manner the whole time. He was eventually put in another room, as everyone was sure he was going to bite me. After all, he'd bitten many others before I came along.
The dogs had been purchased off the street by a friend of Tom's. The two brothers were in a cardboard box, and taken from some street person for the grand sum of $15.00. From not knowing what was going to happen to them, Max and Lucas ended up on the remaining eight and a half acres of Falcon Lair, being treated better that most dogs I've ever known. Except that, somewhere along the way, someone was not treating Max very well when Tom was away. This, obviously had a great effect on his personality as he got older.
Naturally, I was upset that Max didn't like me. I've always enjoyed animals (more than most humans, as a matter of fact.) And the next time I came to visit, Sean had been ensconced in the ground floor of the 'servants quarters.' He, and Lucas were delighted to see me. But Max growled at me the entire time I was going through my mail. Sean kept saying, "Don't pay any attention to him." Easier said than done, I assure you. Here are the jaws of a hundred pound animal, showing his fangs and growling ferociously at me. I made no quick moves. When I was finished, I went upstairs to go to bed. At that time, I had no idea that one day, the entire space would be my home for quite a few years.
Anyway, I awoke in the morning, and proceeded to do my usual 200 sit-ups. The dogs must have heard me stir, and they came running up the stairs to check on me. As soon as I saw Max, I thought I was done for. I was on the floor... on my back... and completely disarmed. He looked at me as though I were a delicious morsel. My instinct said, "Just lie back, don't be threatening." Suddenly, Max put both of his front legs across my chest and stomach. His tail was wagging, and he seemed to be smiling at me. I took a chance and pet him. We've been devoted to each other ever since. To the point that ultimately, Max slept on the bed with me at night. His head would rest on my bicep, and we'd spoon until morning.
From the moment he put his legs on me, we truly 'belonged to each other.'
In 2005, four months after performing my nightclub act, "I Love a Piano," at the Jazz Club, Garbo, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I returned to the States; bag and baggage.
Things were beginning to get a little 'testy' in Mexico. Besides, I was missing my son, my extended family, and their children. I would always visit at least once a year. But of late, the trips were getting to be three and four times, annually. And my stays went from one week, to three weeks. I began to think I was spending more time in California, than I was in Jalisco.
Fortunately, Mr. Blount told Sean that I had space at Falcon Lair for as long as I needed. I, stupidly, figured that within three weeks, I'd be settled in my own new home. However, after three months, I was still sharing Sean's space with him. How the tables had turned. Sean did this to me when he had returned to college to get his degree.
And, after a while, Mr. Blount decided he was going to do some restoring of Falcon Lair. MS DUKE had not left it in great shape. At first, Tom moved upstairs in the servant's quarters, or Gatehouse. But after a while, he said to me, "I'm tired of living like a college student." He bought another house, in another wonderful section of town, and moved off the grounds. Thus, giving me the entire upper floor of the so-called 'little gatehouse.' Mind you, that consisted of a very large living room, with a terrific view of the surrounding hills. There was a dining area with a view of all of Los Angeles. A small kitchen area, and a good sized bedroom. From my south side windows, as I said, I saw all of LA; and on a clear day, even Catalina. From the round, stained glass window, facing west (bedroom), I saw Bella Dr. and whomever might be parked below. Also, anyone that might be fooling around at the Main Gate.
After a while, Tom decided he needed Sean to be closer to his new home, and a lovely apartment (built in 1937) was found, and Sean also left The Lair.
I had been asked if I wanted to stay on. I had complete freedom; all that was asked of me, was to care for the property, and the dogs. Naturally, I said, "Yes." At last, I wasn't feeling stressed; and it helped greatly, having the dogs with me.
Shortly thereafter, my friend, and former dance partner, BARRIE CHASE, convinced me to do some unpacking and make this part of Falcon Lair my home.
Between us, we decorated the place with my paintings and keepsakes. BARRIE brought in great house plants; and before long, I had a real showplace in which to reside. Even though I had no idea for how long.......
The photo on this page is of Max and Lucas. Lucas is on the left. Alas, he is no longer with us. But, Max the Merciless (not really) is thankfully still here, and still providing much love and affection.
Scroll down for PART 4.
Originally posted: October 8, 2012 by CHRISTOPHER RIORDAN
There were all sorts of problems that arose in the refurbishing project. DORIS DUKE had not taken good care of Falcon Lair. As I mentioned before; it was the least favourite of her homes. Eventually, Mr. Blount grew tired of dealing with all the bureaucracy. I was then told that The Lair was on the market.
"Not to worry," everyone said, "Something like this will take forever to sell." And for a while it looked like that was true. I met many interesting people that came up to see the house and grounds during this period. None, more interesting than DIANE KEATON. I truly hoped MS KEATON would buy it, and restore the place to its former grandeur. Alas, she felt it was too much of a project to handle, and she passed on the idea.
For a while it seemed as though I'd be living at The Lair forever. And then one day a rather vulgar man came up via the realtor. From the beginning, I had a bad feeling about this guy. Typical nouveau riche, with a grand attitude; and nothing to be grand about.
I was entertaining a writer/director friend of mine when the realtor called. Of course, the original agreement was some 'fair notice' before coming up, but that seldom, if ever happened. My meeting regarding doing a film was over-shadowed by the blustering of this over-stuffed prima donna, who immediately began acting like HE was actually VALENTINO, himself. Except, from everything Alberto told me, and many others who knew VALENTINO: RUDY would NEVER have acted in such an affected and unreal manner. Truthfully, I thought this guy was nothing but a blow-hard. I did not take him seriously. This is, and has been, very often my mistake. Because I 'think' something would be wrong, does not necessarily keep it from happening.
A few months later, I received word that this 'closeted wanna'-be' had put in an offer. I began taking down paintings from the walls.
Then I heard that this 'very important person' wanted to talk to me. He'd been told of my long history with Falcon Lair. There was a meeting scheduled, and he arrived with the attitude that he had the 'upper hand.' (Please, I've dealt with the best of them in my time.) This guy wasn't even a good imitation. Give me MAYER, ZANUCK, COHEN, GOLDWYN...even DISNEY. This guy was laughable, and I did laugh at him the entire time.
However, the end result was, I agreed to stay and work for a very good salary, plus all expenses paid. I was told that he actually wanted to restore Falcon Lair to its original standing. That statement, and that statement alone, made me agree to remain. Now, I knew he was ingenuous, and terribly affected; but I had NO idea he was such a liar.
Fortunately for me, everything to do with Falcon Lair took weeks to get accomplished. I understood more and more the problems that Mr. Blount had endured. And I definitely knew why he'd given up. Though I was, and still am....VERY sorry.
In any case, we continued. As soon as the papers were in his hot grubby hands, he made an appointment to have me walk him through the remaining grounds. All along the way, I explained and described each and every bench, statue, finial; and often certain trees, or cactus plants. Over the years I had been told of how most of these objects came about. How they were used, and which of these things were VALENTINO'S favourites.
Many of the trees and bushes had been planted by VALENTINO himself. Especially the orange trees in VALENTINO'S private garden. That garden area still held the energy, and the aura of RUDOLPH VALENTINO.
With beautiful wide steps on either side, one could walk down to the table where RUDY drank his tea underneath a wall fountain. The sound of which, had to have soothed his nerves; as MR. VALENTINO had much on his mind at the time he resided at Falcon Lair.
The garden was perfectly placed for hours of peaceful tranquility. When one sat there, you felt as though a table had been set for you in the middle of a forest. Complete with a family of live deer. Through the years I must have encountered several generations of the same family.
I can't describe the gardens, and forest, and really do it justice. No wonder VALENTINO called it a Lair. A Lair it was. Even if I went up to a party, I could always follow the paths to some area that transported me to somewhere else, or another time. There were all kinds of 'spots' that one could engage. For instance, there was VALENTINO'S Prayer Altar. A private area that was set up for RUDY'S prayer time.
When DORIS DUKE owned the estate, her adopted daughter used the altar for her own version of saying prayers. When I eventually returned to the scene, in '03, there were all sorts of candles placed about. Cobwebs joined them in a certain pattern, with a broken area in one corner that allowed the bees to come and go from the hive they had built.
Still, amongst the dust, wax drippings, and dead dried flowers, were three or four roaches. Not the kind that crawl; but the kind some people smoke. Still and all, it was a magical space. I always felt the aura of VALENTINO about me. And, I think 'he' saved me from the ultimate evils that the new owner created.
I know it sounds strange, but especially in the evenings, when I was alone, I could sense the sadness of his spirit over what was happening. No one, or no thing could accept gracefully, the devastating changes the new owner was ordering.
Possibly, what upset me the most, was that this guy was doing things without obtaining the proper permits. HIs attitude was, that he was impervious to rules, regulations, and laws of any kind. 'He' was above that. Imagine, having nearly 150 trees, some of which, we knew were at least 85 years old (as VALENTINO planted the when he began designing his gardens and forest) cut to the quick. All that beauty. All that majesty, gone. No more privacy; and all the noise of the traffic on Benedict Canyon to be heard, morning, noon, and night. All of a sudden it was like sleeping on the freeway. It was hardly a Lair anymore.
In addition, this guy was/is so paranoid, he had huge lights, and cameras that surveyed each and every corner, installed at every turn. So, if the noise didn't keep me awake, the spotlights, making it seem like a 24 hour sunrise, did. I even had neighbors, residing throughout the canyon, drive up, ring the bell, and complain about the intrusion on 'their' sleep. Now, if people from way across the canyon could complain, you can imagine how it all affected me with a light attached to each of my bedroom windows.
Naturally, the order to tear down the main house (Falcon Lair, itself) was a terrible blow. Maybe even worse, for me, was the re-designing of VALENTINO'S private garden and Prayer Altar.
All that peacefulness and beauty was destroyed. The space for praying became a bar, stocked with alcohol, and a stereo system with very loud speakers. Instead of the restful garden, we now had thee coldest looking area I've ever seen. All kinds of chrome objects, coolers for a paltry wine collection, modern tables and umbrellas, and a huge TV screen were now housed in this once beautiful spot. Ultimately, instead of calling it, VALENTINO'S Private Garden, I referred to it as, The Liberace Lounge. It was ugly, distasteful; and in the end, it didn't work. The coolers somehow boiled the wine and food that was stored. With no trees, the plants and umbrellas flew all over the palce when the winds blew throughout the canyon. The area seemed to sit in a vortex. In any kind of climate change, all kinds of destruction occurred. Personally, I felt like it was RUDY, getting even. And, he had every right to do just that, as far as I was concerned.
Not only was the new owner base, tyrannical and obnoxious, so were most of the people who worked for him. Some, worked on the Falcon Lair project only. Others worked for this ego-maniac in his everyday business. The lines were often crossed, and I had to listen to everyone... and then be admonished by the 'Big Man' that everyone had misunderstood him, and why had I let them 'go ahead?' In dealing with him I could easily see why anyone and everyone would misunderstand this guy. He usually spoke in riddles; and obviously, often changed his mind mid-stream.
Much later I was finally informed by his secretary that the man drank at all hours of the day. It didn't have to be dinner, and it didn't have to be a special occasion.
When The Liberace Lounge got to a certain point, his highness decided to have a party. He combined his birthday, along with VALENTINO'S, and sent memos, along with invites to one and all. I expressed to the foreman of the 'takeover project,' that I didn't care to attend. "You'd better!," he informed me. Evidently, I would be dismissed if I chose not to mix with this man's 'friends.' What to do, what to do? I decided I would ask BARRIE (CHASE) to attend with me; and then at some point, we would escape and I'd take her to dinner.
What a silly, overblown evening ensued. Employees from 'The Big Guy's' Company arrived, set up tables, and pulled out their lists. No one would listen to me and hire a valet service. After years in the canyon, I knew how hard it was to park on Cielo and Bella. This BIG, important wealthy man, didn't think it warranted the expense. Really? Just think about the enemies this guy made throughout the canyon on that day. Cars were parked everywhere, and blocking everything.
Of course, one neighbor that would not, and could not, be deterred, was the horrible hag from across the road. Without being invited, she 'crashed' at the gate, announcing that she lived across the way, and needed to meet the host. Unfortunately, the host's idiot son was standing by, and took the troublesome witch to his father. Thankfully, BARRIE and I had left by then, so I didn't have to witness anymore crass behaviour. However, I heard ALL about it.
I had placed a huge potted plant in the entrance to my quarters, and just hoped and prayed that no one would enter. BARRIE and I took off for a pleasant dinner in Beverly Hills; and I heard, the next day, that most of the guests continued to behave as though they'd had no education or upbringing at all. None, however, behaving worse than our closest neighbor, "Harriet Hitler, the Horrible Hag." I'm told she got very drunk, very loud, and even displayed her tacky tattoos. Usually, only shown by certain low-life visitors in the night. As COLE PORTER would say, "What a swell party this is."
I must say, it was VERY sad, seeing this low class group gather amongst the grounds that housed the parties I'd seen in the past. And certainly those that VALENTINO had hosted in his day. What a come down. The GREAT days of Falcon Lair........never more. Not with THESE people.
Pictured, is what was left of Valentino's garden, before the big 'make over.' It used to be that you couldn't even see those houses, for the many trees that stood. Where you see dirt, used to be trees. It was, indeed, a forest. The two orange trees on the near side of the wall, were those planted by Valentino. I was told he brought the trees over from Italy. In '24 and '25, I guess you could do that.
From the street, you could not see this area at all. Not for the many trees. So many neighbors came up and complained that the trees were cut, that the homes of the birds, and fauna had been destroyed. This man did NOT care. I advised him not to plant Avocado trees, as the deer would eat them. He paid no attention to me; and when the deer indeed began to feed, he started devising plans on eliminating the deer. Good lord, if ANY living thing should be eliminated......
Scroll down for PART 5.
Originally posted: October 27, 2012 by CHRISTOPHER RIORDAN
The imminent end was still not in sight, however. There was more suffering to endure. What a double edged sword; living at Falcon Lair as the sole resident, and yet, having to put up with the quirks of the new ownership.
One Christmas I decided to have a little holiday party. Not a lot of people, just a few favourites of the moment. Naturally, I invited BARRIE. Two other couples that were neighbors, KATHE ORRISON, the writer, LOUISE CURRIE, the actress, and her friend, Tim Torrance (whose family founded the city of Torrance,) Carolina Barrie, my friend, Jeremy Hobbs, and his assistant; and maybe two or three others. I hired someone to park the cars, and permit entrance. My son, Sean, and his girl-friend (at the time) prepared the food. (Incidentally, Sean is a GREAT chef.)
Well, I got 'told' the next day. The cameras had picked up that there was activity at the Lair overnight. You see, not only could this guy spy on every movement during the day in his office; but all comings and goings were recorded. I began to wonder, 'where AREN'T there cameras installed?'
I was told I should have asked permission. Really? For having a handful of respectful guests in my home for cocktails over the holidays? I now understood the stories my 'dad' had relayed about the early days in Russia.
On top of all the other nonsense that this new owner was creating, he was causing Mr. Blount, the former owner, a lot of trouble as well.
What it really came down to, was that Mr. Crass wanted 'everything,' but he didn't want to pay for it. Very soon we all realized that this guy was a fairly well-healed crook. Sleazy, is probably the best way to describe him.
He charmed the weather-vane flag out of me by telling me he was going to restore Falcon Lair to precisely the state it had been in when VALENTINO died.
The vane had been sitting in my living room as protection. This is the decoration that RAMON NOVARRO had given to VALENTINO when the house was bought.
Also in my living room, was one of the remaining statues that used to stand in the courtyard garden (among many others that were now destroyed, or missing.)
I had remarked to Mr. Blount, that this 'fellow' had always been my favourite. "Have it taken upstairs with you," he said. "Before something happens to it." As soon as the new guy took over, he ORDERED it out of my living space. Only to be stored where it could be injured and affected by the elements, and neglect.
I now knew we were dealing with a very sick and insecure mind.
I felt bad about letting the weather vane go. It kind of hurt me that my favourite statue had to leave my living room, to be placed among remnants and garbage. But, at last, I had some satisfaction when I learned that this over inflated ego had crossed Mr. Blount, one too many times.
Tom was not NOT turning over the Falcon Lair front doors. Nor, was he going to hand over the parts and plans for the Napoleon Room. (At some vague time, VALENTINO had secured the actual walls, pillars, etc. from Napoleon's War Room. All of this eventually made up the library at The Lair. And I knew where some of the parts were, and how they should be assembled.) Hell, I had/have pictures of almost every detail pertaining to Falcon Lair. And at this point, I was NOT 'giving' anything to this armadillo in drag.
My son warned me, "If you hate him, he'll sense it." Well, I couldn't have hated him more. He's show NO respect for VALENTINO, for Falcon Lair, or anything that those grounds had ever stood for. Never mind that he his family, or his employees ever showed any respect for me, whatsoever.
I began to act very dumb. No one was going to get any information out of me at this point. I was tired of taking the brunt and being accused of all sort of things.
One day, they were playing around with statuary from the private garden. Again, no one listened to me in regards to organizing the storage. Now, this body-double for SIDNEY GREENSTREET was ranting and raving because he thought one of the pieces was missing. He then ordered his foreman to come upstairs into my quarters, and 'look for the missing statue.'
I will say, the foreman was embarrassed. I, on the other hand, was furious. And I made him go ahead and look into every corner, crevice, and sock drawer. At least he apologized when he walked out my door and down the steps to report his findings. But, I did ask him, "Did you want me to empty my pockets?" Such classless idiots.
And, had I picked up a stone and took it into my 'home,' wouldn't all those cameras have picked up on that?
One thing the cameras didn't pick up; or if they did, it was never mentioned... and that was the Friday morning my ride to the studio showed up early to take me to work. I had auditioned for a role on the TV Comedy, "Ugly Betty," and I'm told, out of fourteen other actors, I got the part.
My morning came, the ride arrived; and I discovered my scene was being shot on one of the same sound stages that I had worked on in many of the AIP Beach Pictures.
All my scenes were with the wonderful Scottish actress, ASHLEY JENSEN. MS JENSEN and I hit it off immediately. She told me she had looked me up, and was very impressed with my credits. Between set-ups, she had MANY questions for me; all regarding my early days in Hollywood films. Our scenes flew by, and we had a great time working together. When we were through, ASHLEY went up to the Director/Producer and said, "We HAVE to have CHRISTOPHER back."
After completing all my work, I received applause from the crew; and some of the crew members came up to me and thanked me. They mentioned that, 'for once,' they were gong to get a full weekend. "We don't always get actors that know their lines, hit their marks, and cause no trouble."
As my luck runs, however, "Ugly Betty" moved to New York, and so 'The Collector' was never seen again. However, I will say, the Director/Producer has hired me since, and upon his return to Los Angeles.
And so, after about three and a half years, putting up with a lot of rudeness, double talk, lies, and surprise visits (many in the middle of the night) I was unceremoniously informed by a letter delivered via Fed-Ex, that I had until the end of the month to vacate.
The owner had been cutting corners everywhere. I had now become, 'one of those corners.'
Well, he certainly didn't need me to tell him what Falcon Lair once looked like. The new Falcon Lair would have NOTHING to do with RUDOLPH VALENTINO. It was now 'all about HIM.'
What an EGO. He acted as though VALENTINO never existed. His friends, family and associates had been versed to do the same.
Never, amongst any of them was the respect for what this property once was, was EVER expressed. I could tell I was being made fun of, because of my concern for history. My son kept telling me, "Let it go, Dad. These people have money, but no class." Truer words were never spoken.
The owner brought his married mistress up to sip wine in the now, Liberace Lounge. She was a woman who always seemed like a fish out of water. Uncomfortable, badly dressed, and lacking the basic knowledge of manners.
A son, who brought his girl friends up at all hours; demanding attention, and acting very grand. Especially when he had secured his father's Bentley (unbeknownst to the father, of course.)
Then there were the employees. ALL of whom, hated this man. None, more so that the secretary. From the moment I met her, I knew she was in love with the boss. From her, I herd ALL about 'the girl friend.' and how he had eluded permits, laws, etc. in the past. She hated him. But mainly because he wasn't in love with her in return.
What a sick group of people I had been balancing.
In this photo you see the kitchen door, and what remained of the little patio that used to belong to Sean. Those windows upstairs, with the balcony, were my living room. I could see all over Los Angeles, and below was Benedict Canyon. Where you see dirt, there used to be flowers and trees. That driveway was only built to put in a retaining wall. Where you see the little white fence with what's left of some original palm trees that I tried to save, is what used to be just outside of the kitchen. The dirt beyond that, is where VALENTINO'S bedroom used to stand. And the flat area before the view of L.A. was the rose garden that my son brought back to life. When last I heard, this entire space was going to be a theatre. However, it has all pretty much stood just like this since I left. I can only hope that RUDY'S spirit is preventing any more success in the new owners destruction.
Scroll down for PART 6.
Originally posted: November 5, 2012 by CHRISTOPHER RIORDAN
While I hated leaving The Lair, I looked forword in being rid of so much sickness, hate and nastiness.
So, I had 20 days to find a new home. As it stood, and as I always stated to friends, "He could have given me 20 minutes."
During those 20 days no one came to The Lair. None of the workers that were operating without permits. Not the foreman of the job, or any of the owner's regular employees. Certainly not the owner himself. He was suddenly invisible and totally silent. And thankfully, I didn't see any sign of the badly behaved son, and his string of half clad girl-friends. It was pretty obvious that they were afraid to face me. I don't know why; I doubt as they had enough conscience to be embarrassed by how they'd handled things. Perhaps they were afraid of what I might say. Once I'd reached a certain age, I began to express my feelings exactly how I 'saw' them. I don't usually hold much back.
The packing began; and along with that, I started to take slips from certain plants. I even stowed familiar rocks. Stones I knew from the gardens. Tiles, and pieces of broken pillars. All things that had been earmarked for 'trash.' Trash to 'him,' but treasures to me; and part of my past. In those last days I often stood on my balcony, or in the space where the main house once stood. I could walk to each room, without it even being there. I'd imagine it all as it once was. I'd re-live the parties, and the dinners, and see all the glamorous guests that once graced these grounds that were at one time so beautiful. I'd follow the new pathways. Those that were so slick and shiny now, with their chrome-like railings. They stood out in the night. Originally you couldn't see the paths. Not for all the trees that literally made the grounds of Falcon Lair a forest.
How I missed those beautiful huge stones that used to take you to all the secluded areas. I couldn't believe this much beauty had been destroyed. And I couldn't help but think of all the famous feet that had trod their way through The Lair over the many years.
Moving day arrived, and my son, along with some friends helped me transfer my things to the new place. Over half of my belongings had to be put in storage.
Before we left, Sean came upstairs again and walked through every room. He had a strange look on his face, and I asked him, "What are you doing?" He looked at me and said, "Saying good-bye to Falcon Lair." Quite unlike Sean. I'm usually the one who would do and say such a thing.
Unfortunately, we had to take just about the first apartment we saw. To begin with, the place was too small. Wonderfully located in West Hollywood, but that area is no longer what it once was. In a 16 unit complex, I had a loud and classless woman living across from me, with a barking dog. Though, I was not allowed a pet.
Below me, a loud and pretentious fellow who smoked cigarettes all the time. And, he had to have two air-conditioners running all day and all night, seven days a week in all kinds of weather. Something was definitely wrong with this guy.
Dope dealing was obviously happening in one unit. Across from me, a deaf Russian woman, who only watched Russian television....very loudly. Then two guys in another unit; and the one guy couldn't speak in a decent tone, or without 'F' being placed after every other word.
Just ask me if I missed the great hilltop house that sat alone on all those acres.
The Manager of this building was, as one person put it, 'weak as water.' A lousy manager who was afraid to do anything. Couldn't even face you to tell you that the water would be shut off for a couple of hours. And, he had some mentally imbalanced guy living with him. The looney did all the grunt work, in between disturbing the tenants with his loud early morning singing, and the sounds of his bodily functions sounding off like a sub-machinegun. He also physically assaulted a man from the neighborhood one morning. At that point, Sean instructed me not to even look at the guy.
Through most of my tenancy I was busy on the TV Series, "Outsourced," so I shined the problems during most of my tenure. As soon as the show ended, I began looking for another place to live. Especially when the neighbor downstairs was permitted to have another air-conditioner installed right under my bed. Mind you, the entire time I lived there, I never once turned on 'my' A/C.
And so we come to the present. My goodness, what's it all been about? I was born out of wedlock. I guess that makes me a bastard (I've been called that a few times.) I was one out of eight children, I would later learn. I grew up in a home where I knew, and always felt....I was not wanted. I had grand ideas growing up. I always knew I was 'not of these people.' So, at 15, when I was told of my adoption, I was somewhat relieved. I was disrespected at home. I was also bullied and abused. Not only in the house, but at school, as well. After graduation, and a step-father destroying all my belongings, I decided to leave my hometown. Originally I wanted to go to New York. After all, I did have nearly 15 years experience in stage work behind me.
After visiting the bank, I discovered that another step-father had stolen all my childhood earnings. And so I thought I'd go to Hollywood. "What will you do there?," people asked me. And when I answered, they'd say to me, "Well, you THINK you'll get into the movies, meet FRED ASTAIRE, go to the Academy Awards..... but that will NEVER happen. Everybody has THAT dream."
However, as I've recorded; I was working in a film on my second day in town. Right away, I met the great ones (PAUL NEWMAN, ELIZABETH TAYLOR, MONTGOMERY CLIFT...) And I was not only introduced to FRED ASTAIRE, I was discovered by FRED ASTAIRE.
I landed in Hollywood in early '56. In early '57, I was attending my first Academy Awards presentations. IMDb says I have nearly 100 film and TV credits to my name. That's only counting the titles, not the number of episodes. Nor does it count the stage plays, Vegas performances, or night club appearances.
Yes, you'd think after all this, I'd be a star 'by now;' instead of just 'dancing around it.'
I certainly had all the opportunities. But somehow all that promise, and all those promises, never gelled.
There was a lot of confusion in my life when I arrived in Los Angeles. I was thrilled to be free of irrational alcoholics governing my every move. On the other hand, I had never been instructed on much in any subject. I literally did not know how to use a pay phone, or write out a check. And I was definitely a virgin.
Of course, I thought I knew about Hollywood. In reality I knew nothing; except for a great deal of its history. As I've said, I'm sure, now, that the M-G-M executives must have been laughing at me on that first day ("Here I am.") I hate to say it, but I'd venture to say (certainly at this writing) that MR. CLIFT was no doubt trying to seduce me when he offered a 'role' in his movie. I really didn't understand anything about that in those early days.
I grew up being told I was stupid. Eventually, I was informed that I am Dyslexic. But growing up, my dyslexia wasn't understood. Over the years I've learned to deal with it. I still have problems (especially with instructions) but it's been many years since I was accused of not being intelligent.
I was also told that I wasn't very good looking. I actually believed that until the likes of ROBERT TAYLOR told me I was an extremely good looking young man. I was then reminded that I could hardly be considered as the son of MONTGOMERY CLIFT and ELIZABETH TAYLOR, were I truly unattractive.
Along the same lines, I tried learning Spanish in Jr. High School. I was told by the teacher that I would NEVER understand a foreign language, and that it was futile to remain in the class. I dropped out. But, some 43 years later, I learned to speak Spanish quite well.
Also, our music teacher (same school) told me when I auditioned for the choir, that I couldn't carry a tune, and to forget about singing. When my reviews came out after I opened in my first Vegas show, I tried sending a copy to said music teacher. I later learned that she had died at a rather early age. Alcoholism. Perhaps that's why she couldn't hear my tune.
So no wonder, I guess, that when I auditioned for FRED ASTAIRE, and he hired me; I HAD to explain to him that I was probably not as good as the dancers he was used to working with. "On the contrary, my boy," he replied, "You're a dancer. The best dancer we've seen for this job." 'This job' was in effect, to replace FRED ASTAIRE, as the partner to BARRIE CHASE, MR. ASTAIR'S last dancing partner.
Again, when I was divorced and left with an infant son, everyone said to me, "But you don't know anything about babies. How are you going to raise a child by yourself?" My answer was, "I don't know. But I think if I do everything the opposite of how I was brought up, he'll be alright."
As it turned out, my son became my greatest accomplishment. A better person you'll NEVER meet. My greatest role: FATHER. Or, father and mother, as it turned out. Not having had a whole and complete family my entire life, I put everything I had into caring for my boy.
I turned down Italy when HERMES want me to go there and perform with BARRIE. I was afraid to leave Sean in the States, and afraid to take him and have him cared for by strangers.
Whenever I was asked to appear in regards to a film or such; if my son had a game, or a function, I always chose my boy's activity.
Not smart career-wise I guess. However, it's paid off handsomely. Sean is most attentive and generous. I don't know a better son.
I gathered great friends in my day. SOME I made, I considered 'my family.' Case in point; LEWIS MILESTONE became my father. BARRIE couldn't be more of big sister to me; and several of my son's friends became my own boys as far as I was concerned. Each of them came to us at that special age when life begins to change considerably. In addition, most of them had something extra dramatic occurring at the same time. Alcoholism in the family, a mother on drugs, the death of both parents, even a parent murdered. Thus, my family grew.
And as the family got larger, my career kept stumbling along. Small parts, bigger parts. No billing, single card billing. Some roles, I was very proud of. Others, I was embarrassed about. But never ashamed of being a dad, a guardian, protector, or even just a parent that a kid could talk to.
I can also say that I did what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to work in the industry; and so I have. And, I toiled in many different fields. Acting, dancing, singing, writing, choreography, producing, directing; whatever called, and whatever paid.
I've won awards for my stage work. However, not even a nomination for anything on film. Still I feel my efforts have been appreciated from time to time.
True, I've sometimes felt disappointed that I didn't become more famous. Yet, to be honest, I've never met a big star that was completely happy, or always comfortable wearing the crown of stardom. Even my gracious, and seemingly always content, AUDREY HEPBURN. AUDREY confided that she was always nervous and anxious, for fear that her children might be kidnapped. Were it not for her fame, no one would care about her sons. And she felt badly about that fact.
That was one of the things I didn't have to worry about. I was able to come or go, work or not work; and go through life occasionally being recognized.
I admit..... I am one of the lucky ones. I've done what so many wish they could have experienced. I've known, and/or worked with some of the most wonderful, exciting and interesting people we know of. So, while I never achieved great stardom, I worked consistently. And even when it wasn't my favourite film, or show, I reminded myself that I was being chosen to do what SO many wished they could be a part of.
Yes, in many ways, it's been a charmed life. But like everyone else, I've had some bad times, too. Some of these have been recorded here. Some, I've kept to myself. What I've tried to do, however, is to tell you of the interesting things. I hope I've succeeded. All my life, people have approached me by saying, "Christopher, please tell us about...."
And so I have tried. Though, by no means is this all there is. If you like this, perhaps I should say, "You ain't heard nothin' yet."
And so, until.......... this is....