Several weeks ago we held one of our group's first historic walking tours of both Franklin Village and the Bronson Sci-Fi caves in Griffith Park which was an overwhelming success (despite a handful of less considerate new members who were no-shows which prevented other members from attending) and one of our most popular, successful and interesting events to date. We will now return to Hollywood's Franklin Village and pay a special visit--including a V.I.P. walking tour followed by Sunday brunch--at the famous Château Élysée.
(NOTE: TO PREVENT MEMBERS FROM R.S.V.P.ing THEN BECOMING "NO SHOWS" AS WITH OUR RECENT FRANKLIN VILLAGE TOUR, DUE TO THE LIMITED NUMBER OF MEMBERS WE CAN INVITE TO THIS VERY SPECIAL EVENT--YOU MUST FIRST PRE-PAY JONO FOR A $18 BRUNCH DEPOSIT VIA PAY PAL--SPECIAL REQUIRED INSTRUCTIONS FOLLOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS LISTING--IF YOU DO NOT PRE-PAY THAT DEPOSIT YOU CANNOT ATTEND THIS EVENT).
The historic Château Élysée (now the Church of Scientology's Celebrity Centre) was built in 1927 by the widow of movie mogul Thomas H. Ince--a silent film actor, director, screenwriter and producer of more than 100 films and pioneering studio mogul. Known as the "Father of the Western", Ince invented many mechanisms of professional movie production, introducing early Hollywood to the "assembly line" system of film making and was a partner with D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett in the Triangle Motion Picture Company, and built his own studios in Culver City, which later became the legendary home of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
According to urban myth, Ince was mistakenly shot and killed by newspaper magnate and multi-millionaire William Randolph Hearst while on Hearst's yacht with a number of other early Hollywood luminaries. As story goes, while the yacht was in international waters off the coast of Southern California, Hearst had actually intended to shoot womanizer actor Charlie Chaplin who was reputedly having a tryst around that time with his paramour actress Marion Davies (pictured in the 1924 photo to the left ON HEARST'S YACHT holding balloon's for Ince's birthday just before he boarded the vessel)--but somehow got confused in the heat of anger and shot Ince instead.
This story was recreated in the 2001 indie art film "The Cat's Meow" directed by Peter Bogdanovich. After this mishap, it is claimed, that Hearst in a gesture of remorse, built both the nearby Villa Carlotta for Mrs. Ince and later the French Normandy style Château Élysée. In contrast, the L.A. Times reported that Ince died of a hear attack as reported from a San Diego area hospital where Hearst's yacht had an emergency landing after Ince's death (though some claim that even that local hospital medical staff was paid off to support that claim). Hearse was so powerful at the time and he was so fixated over Davies, that whether that story is true or not is a matter of speculation, but one thing is for certain, Hearst did pay outright for the building of the Villa Carlotta and Marion Davies ended up living there as well as his ever popular newspaper employee gossip columnist Louella Parsons (who was even married in the lobby) and worked for his Herald Examiner newspaper in downtown L.A. Hearst later financed the construction of the Château Élysée for Mrs. Ince that was built by the same architect as the Carlotta named Arthur E. Harvey and contractor Luther T. Mayo.
More fascinating details about the mishap and period photos from the incident can be found at the following blog weblink:
[Sidestory: About 15 years ago when Jono bought and renovated his 1921 California bungalow home in nearby Los Feliz, one of his carpenters who built his front yard fence and driveway gate turned out to be the son of the popular silent film actress Vilma Banky (who unfortunately never survived the talkies because of her voice). He told Jono that his mother claimed (though unreported) that she was on Hearse's yacht at the time of Ince's shooting and swears that everyone on the boat was sworn to silence about the incident and handsomely paid off accordingly to "keep their mouths shut and Hearse out of prison"--a sum of money that lasted Banky for many years].
It should also be noted, however, that the Ince family's original estate was located partly on the site of where the Château Élysée was constructed and encompassed what is now part of the adjacent Hollywood Freeway.
At the Château Élysée, Mrs. Ince provided a home for many of the artists that were then being drawn to Hollywood. Residents included some of the most famous names of the 1930s and 40s--most notably Bette Davis, Errol Flynn (room 211), Edward G. Robinson (room 216), Carol Lombard (room 305), Edgar Rice Burroughs (room 408), Humphrey Bogart (room 603), Clark Gable (room 604), Ginger Rogers (room 705), Ed Sullivan (room 501), Gracie Allen and George Burns (room 609) along with Lillian Gish, Katharine Hepburn, George Gershwin, and Cary Grant.
Over the years, however, the grand hotel was eventually converted to an apartment and like many similar landmarks had fallen on hard times. The Church of Scientology rescued the building from demolition when they bought it in 1969 and in September 23, 1987, the City of Los Angeles declared the building as Historical National Monument #329. Later in 1992, it went through a major restoration--becoming what is now known as its Celebrity Centre and is now used by Scientology for some of its traveling higher ranking members. And during this time period, its conservatory building was adapted to house its French rococo-styled restaurant called the Renaissance where we will have brunch immediately after the tour.
Please be aware that the tour will likely include references to both L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology. They are our host, so we need to be polite, respectful and allow them to share background information about their organization. They are understandably proud to have saved and restored this landmark which they deserve great credit for. Our tour guide is their executive Margaret Marmolejo who helps manage the building on a daily basis and she is taking part of her Sunday weekend time off to personally take us on an extended 45 minute tour around the property. Margaret is aware of our group's historical interest in the building and intends to share what degree of knowledge she has about its illustrious past and we are grateful to her and the Church for providing access to our group.
Brunch at Renaissance costs about $15 and include all food items and coffee (mimosas are extra which you can pay for separately at the restaurant)--however we are including an additional $3 per person payment to go toward the cost of inviting actor/historian Don Paul as our group's brunch guest. On some Sundays the Renaissance provides live music entertainment. They may offer brunch guests optional presentations about the Church of Scientology, but guests are in no way obligated to participate in them and can simply enjoy the food and atmosphere.
If we are fortunate, our guest of honor Don Paul might honor us after our Chateau visit with a special surprise "add on" visit of the private lobby of another historic nearby landmark?
OUR LONGER TIME MEMBERS--WITH THE REPUTATION FOR HONORING THEIR R.S.V.P.s will be given first preference to attend this event--so will those members who recently attended our recent Franklin Village tour. All members (except guest Don Paul) must prepay a $15 deposit via Pay Pal to Jono's account which is [masked]
Unlike our more usual outings--FOR THIS SPECIAL EVENT--when you R.S.V.P. online you will be requesting the chance to attend--BUT NOT CONFIRMED--organizer Jono will update the R.S.V.P. list about one week before the tour based upon pre-payment status and longevity with our group. Any turned away members will be then provided instant Pay Pal refunds electronically back to their bank or credit card accounts. If you instead wish to mail a check payment contact Jono at [masked] for further info.
If you are interested in attending please pay your $18 brunch deposit at www.paypal.com from the homepage you will see a drop down icon that reads "TRANSFER" then "Send Someone Money"--just follow the step by step instructions. Our brunch guest of honor will be actor and Villa Carlotta historian Don Paul.
FREE PARKING FOR OUR MEMBERS is available in the Celebrity Centre's parking lot which is accessible from Bronson Avenue just south of Franklin.