Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rich Men's Playgrounds


"Rich Men's Playgrounds"," That all changed when, according to legend, a German prince's coal-powered Rolls-Royce broke down there.


Born into one of the oldest noble families in Europe (he was godson to the king of Spain), Hohenlohe was a successful businessman and notorious playboy, fluent in five languages and skilled at sports such as rally-driving and tennis.
 There he played host to a constant flow of glamorous visitors with names such as Bismarck, Metternich and Thyssen, many of whom eventually bought adjacent plots to build their own homes.
 In 1954 he sold his own home (to his friends the Rothschilds) and used other parts of the estate to build the famous Marbella Club, which quickly became synonymous with Europe's mid-century elite ""jet set"" lifestyle.
) Regular guests included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Formula 1 driver James Hunt, photographer Patrick Litchfield, actors Sophia Loren and Sean Connery and many others.
 As head of the Costa del Sol Promoters' Co-operative, he successfully lobbied for improvements to roads, airports and water supplies in the region.


By the late 1970s, however, Hohenlohe had become disenchanted with Marbella's move toward mass tourism and so he sold the club to a consortium of Arab businessmen.


One of Hohenlohe's famous quips was: ""I have lived in castles, in Venetian palaces and the world's finest hotels.
""

The latter group included Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, a Fiat heiress whom he married when she was 15, actresses Ava Gardner and Kim Novak, with whom he had affairs, and actress Jackie Lane, whom he married in 1970.


Bel Air and Alphonzo Bell Sr

Los Angelenos describe the three neighbourhoods of Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills and Bel Air as the ""golden triangle"".
 And Bel Air, on the west side of the city, was the brainchild of Alphonzo E.


Bell was born in 1875 into a family of entrepreneurs; his father created Bell Station Ranch, now the City of Bell, in Santa Fe Springs, while his uncle was Ed Hollenbeck, founder of the First National Bank and a driving force behind the creation of LA's first public transportation system.


But his life changed dramatically in the early 1920s after oil was discovered on his land.
 Inspired by the views from this house, he realised he could use the land to create a magnificent, upscale community. 


Engineer Wilkie Woodward planned the houses and roads, while landscape architect Aurele Vermeulen co-ordinated the plantings.
 Huge iron gates marked the entrance to the new community and uniformed guards checked in visitors, a novelty at the time.
 He also built the elegant Bel Air Beach Club in Santa Monica and the Bel Air Country Club in 1924.
 Nowadays, the community's architecture ranges from classic Californian to mid-century modern and contemporary.


Belgravia and Richard Grosvenor

The UK's Grosvenor family, currently headed by the 6th Duke of Westminster, dates back to the Middle Ages.
 As the city grew, the land quickly became prime real estate, laying the foundation for even more wealth and more titles.


The first neighbourhood the Grosvenors developed, in the 17th and 18th centuries, was Mayfair.
 So he turned to another area he owned: a rural swamp south-west of Buckingham Palace known as the ""five fields"" and the ""lagoon of the Thames.
 He did and then commissioned master builder Thomas Cubitt, who would later be responsible for the east front of Buckingham Palace, to lay out the new neighbourhood, Belgravia.


Grosvenor himself continued to live in Mayfair, in Old Grosvenor House, on Upper Grosvenor Street, overlooking Hyde Park, which was eventually demolished in 1927.


Monaco and Aristotle Onassis

Monaco has been ruled as a constitutional monarchy by the Grimaldi family - originally from Genoa in Italy - since 1297, when François Grimaldi disguised himself as a monk and seized it.
 The upper classes that had frequented its clubs and beaches before the war emigrated or lost their money.
 Its swimming pools had no water and it was rumoured that the income from the casino barely covered the electricity bill for its chandeliers.
 This changed when ""Ari"" Onassis arrived in the early 1950s.
 He then emigrated at the age of 16 to Argentina, where he laid the foundation for his fortune by selling Turkish tobacco and investing the proceeds in several old tankers, which would soon be carrying Allied war materials across the Atlantic.
 His fortune grew to a then-almost unimaginable sum of $1bn.
 In fact, he saw an investment opportunity and acquired a 52 per cent stake in the Société des Bains de Mer, which owned major parts of Monaco, including the Hotel de Paris, the Hotel Hermitage, the casino, the opera, restaurants, bars and land, for the unbelievably paltry sum of $1.
 He subsequently put more money into renovation and restoration of the properties and encouraged the construction of the high-rise apartment buildings that now dominate the landscape.


Onassis himself usually lived and held court in the Hôtel de Paris and also stayed at the legendary Château de la Croë, now owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, at Cap d'Antibes.


Rainier and Onassis later had a rather dramatic falling out, disagreeing on their visions for Monaco's future and engaging in a fierce legal battle, which Rainier eventually won.


 But his impact was undeniable.