Saturday September 21, 2013 09:30 PM EDT
Bob Hope House For Sale at $27.5 Million
by Stephen M. SilvermanDolores Hope wanted to live in Beverly Hills, but her funnyman husband, Bob Hope, had other ideas.
"Every time I mentioned Beverly Hills, Bob would go out and buy another piece of property here," Dolores would say, waving a hand to indicate the vast spread that the two of them inhabited in the San Fernando Valley's Toluca Lake starting in 1939.
Eventually the grounds surrounding their English-style manor swelled to 5.16 acres, and the family grew to include four children. The house grew, too, to 15,000 sq. ft., leaving Bob to joke that he needed a map just to find the way to his room.
But now, with Bob's death in 2003, at 100, and Dolores's, in 2011, at 102, their home is for sale. Asking price for what family friend Phyllis Diller liked to call "King Bob and Queen Dolores's Palace": $27.5 million.
Mills, who shares the listing with Drew Fenton, president, estates division for Hilton & Hyland, likens the Hope property to "a private park" – one that includes Dolores's prized rose garden and Bob's one-hole golf course.
In and around the house, which shed its English look in the 1950s for a more contemporary design, are a hotel-caliber kitchen, Olympic-sized swimming pool, a two-suite guesthouse, indoor pool and whirlpool, and a sprawling living room where the Hopes entertained dignitaries of all stripe, from nearly every President to athletes and actors … namely, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.
With privacy an issue for any celebrity, a high fence and a security team kept out curiosity seekers – though at Christmas, while Bob was entertaining the troops overseas, Dolores would set up a religious tableau on the front lawn for passersby to enjoy, just as Halloween meant a generous disbursement of candy to kids from the surrounding blocks.
Additionally, Dolores, a devout Catholic, would attend Mass in Bob's library – after which she and the other worshippers (family members and houseguests) would retreat to one of the two cocktail bars in the house, for a Sunday-night ritual Kathryn Crosby, widow of Bob's frequent costar Bing Crosby, affectionately described as "M&Ms … Mass and Martinis."
The announcement that the Toulca Lake compound is on the market comes on the heels of Friday and Saturday's auction of the Hopes' art, antiques and memorabilia and last February's news that the Hopes' 23,366-sq.-ft. Palm Springs home, designed in 1973 by the California Modernist architect John Lautner, was for sale for $50 million.
As for who might purchase the Toluca Lake property, Mills – who has reportedly handled home sales for Jennifer Aniston, Britney Spears, Lionel Richie, and Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale – points to the proximity of the Hollywood studios and Lakeside Country Club and tells PEOPLE: "I think it will appeal to a celebrity. You have to make a lot of money to be able to afford and maintain it, so it will have to be someone who truly wants this property and is a really big star."
Talk about a tough act to follow.