The eastern portion of LA’s iconic Sunset Strip is a hotbed of tourists and celebrities and assorted debauchery. Nightclubs. Drugs. Sex. Mechanized bulls. Some rather puritanical folks might term it a cesspool of sin. Of course, it’s all one big happy playground for the paparazzi. They’re lurking in every corner out there, foaming at the mouth for a drunken A-list actor to stumble outta the bar or an attention-seeking young socialite to pull up at the Roxy, inadvertently flashing her chonies as she emerges from her low-slung sports car.
Looming over the glittery madness is the seriously legendary Chateau Marmont.
Just behind the ghostly hotel is a steep residential road. They call it Marmont Lane, appropriately enough. As uncomfortably narrow as it may be, this roadway attracts car traffic. A whole lot of car traffic, actually. Not only does it link the Strip with other residential Hollywood Hills roads, it is also the location of several celebrity-owned homes. Kendall Jenner, Jimmy Kimmel and Sandra Bullock all own houses on this lane. Creakkk go the rickety tour buses as they haul a new load of sightseers up the hill every half-hour.
The very first house on this street, the one directly across from the Chateau, is almost always ignored by tourists and residents alike. But because Yolanda enjoys venturing off the beaten path now and again, this is the property we shall discuss today. (The beaten path meaning celebrity houses, natch…)
Maybe a few folks driving by are aware this house was once owned by James Franco. A handful may even know that he completely remodeled and renovated the once-dated residence, endowing it with the slick, chic look it sports today. But most of them simply trundle on by without regard, focused on something, anything, just not this thing.
The few who are observant (or bored) enough to notice the residence may recognize certain fairly odd features of the property — the mountain of semi-concealed security cameras monitoring every inch of the premises, the Tesla SUV with the limo-tinted windows parked ’round back. But this is LA and things that might seem incongruous almost anywhere else are not only common — they are almost expected here. Yolanda thinks that might be why the owner of this house was drawn to the neighborhood.
You see, unlikely as it may be, that house — located smack-dab in the bustling heart of the Sunset Strip — is the current residence of one of the most mysterious people Yolanda has ever encountered. Her name is Alba di Angeli. And she’s a ghost! No joke.
Compared to Alba di Angeli, Ms. Trahan is a rank amateur in the industry of secrecy.
But we already digress. Let us start where we should always start – from the beginning.
Back in September 2015, Our Mama reported that TV show writer/producer Joe Keenan and his and his husband Gerry Bernardi had put a large chunk of their longtime residential compound on the market. Mr. Keenan, if you didn’t know, is best-known for his work on the gone-but-not-forgotten ratings juggernauts Desperate Housewives and Frasier, the latter of which scored him five Emmy awards. His house — which he owned for nigh on 20 years — is located on a wooded knoll in the Studio City hills.
Measuring a spacious but not massive 5,297 square feet, the 1930s Colonial ain’t at all visible from the street, thanks to an ultra-private lot measuring nearly 1.5 acres.
Among the many creature comforts of the estate are a gym, an outdoor dining area, a galley kitchen with skylight, a double office and a library. And let’s not forget the two guest suites or the fabulous master with wood-paneled walk-in closet. Or that otherworldly master bath! Why, that thing could be the star of its own bathroom TV show. What a personality.
However, the centerpiece of the estate has got to be that beautiful Old Hollywood-style oval pool. Scrumptious. Ever since she was a mere tot, Yolanda has had a strange and unnatural fascination with oval-shaped things. Don’t ask ’cause we don’t know.
But we digress yet again. As we say, the house went up on the block last year for $6,750,000 — a very big number for the Studio City area. By the dawn of 2016, the ask had dipped dramatically to $5,900,000. But then, suddenly, the house disappeared. Yanked off the MLS under the cover of darkness, it was.
Did Mr. Keenan & Mr. Bernardi change their minds about selling? Hardly.
Imagine Yolanda’s surprise when we discovered 1) that the house had very quietly transferred that same month (February 2016) for a neighborhood record-destroying price of $7,400,000 — way, way more than the last official ask — and 2) that the new owner was a mysterious entity calling itself “JA Berry LLC”. Berry, just so y’all know, is the name of the street on which this house is located. But what in the gosh-darn world could JA stand for? Hmmm.
Well, the oddly huge sale price was quickly explained by the fact that the sale included not only the big main house but also the small house next door — a property also owned by Mr. Keenan and Mr. Bernardi that had never been (puclicly) listed for sale. But the identity of the estate’s new owner was much harder to suss out.
Now, kiddies, a sale price of $7.4 million may not seem like all that much to you jaded real estate watchers. But make no mistake, that’s huge money for Studio City — the most ever paid in the area up to that point, like we say. We were also intrigued when we heard that the new owner has stationed 24/7 guards on the estate. Bodyguards are de rigeur in places like Beverly Park, but not so much in Studio City.
Naturally, both Yolanda and Your Mama quickly rallied the troops. We hopped on the horn and reached out to our different hodge-podge networks. “Tell us who bought that house or perish for eternity!” we wailed. Lo and behold, much to Yolanda’s surprise, we both quickly came back with the same name: the name of a woman (apparition?) who — for online intents and purposes — does not exist. Alba di Angeli.
Try Googling this lady. We dare you! Apart from her association to a bizarrely-named corporation, she’s non-existent. No social media, no apparent family, no pictures, no nothin’.
But there are still scraps available here and there, and we’re here to sort out the puzzle pieces.
As far as we can tell, Ms. di Angeli suddenly appeared in Los Angeles back in summer 2008. She came from nowhere, with nobody. We aren’t certain, but we think she may have emerged from the grey, ghostly old steamer ship that appears out of the mist and docks at the LA port on the same day every year. You know the one. The one with the screaming and moaning from yonder dark, dripping corridors and the lone, withered old man with no eyes who greets Ms. di Angeli when she raps three times on the hidden door in the belly of the beast. That one.
But what we do know is that Ms. di Angeli quickly plunked down $4,000,000 (in cash, apparently) for a privately-situated house located in the celebrity-stocked Hidden Hills community out in the San Fernando Valley. Guard-gated Hidden Hills is, of course, most famous for being the longtime family seat of the kooky Kardashian / Jenner clan.
It should be noted that Ms. di Angeli’s name does not appear on the deed for this property. Nor does it appear on any of her other homes or in any public records database at all. Property records simply show that the house was acquired in July 2008 by something called the “AAHH Trust”.
Scarcely a week after buying her Hidden Hills house, Ms. di Angeli formed the aforementioned bizarrely-named corporation: “FMCMB, Inc.”. Yolanda has no idea what the purpose of this business entity is and we also lack a clue as to what FMCMB stands for. Fill My Chunky Monkey Basket? Might be!
Now then. For some unknown reason, Ms. di Angeli very quickly tired of her Hidden Hills house. Maybe she realized it was too suburban, too laidback, too far from the hotspots of LA. And yes, traffic down that 101 can be a real pain in the tushie. Take it from Yolanda.
Whatever the case, within a year Ms. di Angeli was back on the hunt for a new house. Eventually, as we’ve already told you, she settled on James Franco’s compound just above the Sunset Strip. Ms. di Angeli paid $3,300,000 for that property in February 2010 through her “AMHH Trust”.
There are 3 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, trendy ebonized wood floors, a pool, a spa, lots of old Hollywood details, and a hideously expensive La Cornue range in the kitchen.
And apparently Ms. di Angeli likes Mr. Franco’s old house, because she’s been living there ever since.
As for the Hidden Hills joint, m’lady dumped it later in 2010 at an utterly bone-chilling $1.2 million loss. Egads!
Hold on a moment and let’s review. Ms. di Angeli appeared out of nowhere in 2008. For all intents and purposes, she’s unGoogleable. Though she is relatively young still — we think — she has no readily apparent family or friends, but a whole caboodle of money. And though she lives in a very public location, she ain’t never been seen. Nobody Yolanda knows has ever laid eyes on this lady, though we talk as if we know her.
Yes, we already know what you’re thinking. Does Ms. di Angeli actually exist? And the question is valid.
The answer is yes. She does exist. But the only reason that Yolanda can tell you that for certain is because there is someone — a living, breathing human being — who knows Ms. di Angeli very well. That person is a West Hollywood personal trainer and part-time model named Johannes Brugger. Yolanda has done her homework and Mr. Brugger is a very real man. He played college football for Duke University, worked as a male model on The Price is Right, was previously married to someone else, and now trains a variety of bigshot and/or celebrity clients in the WeHo area.
Mr. Brugger is a very real man. And he is married, so we’ve been told by Mr. Deep Throat, to Ms. di Angeli. By default, wouldn’t that make Ms. di Angeli a real person, too? We think it would. Marrying spirits has not yet been legalized, after all.
We think – call it an assumption based on vague intel – that it was sometime in either 2013 or 2014 when Ms. di Angeli and Mr. Brugger tied the knot. We only mention that because 2013 is when Ms. di Angeli began upping her real estate spending.
That April, Ms. di Angeli spilled out $1,825,000 for a 1930s duplex building in the central Beverly Grove area near West Hollywood. For the records, the property was acquired through her “104 N Harper LLC”.
Yolanda hasn’t the faintest idea why this property was purchased by Ms. di Angeli (and Mr. Brugger, though she is the one writing the checks). In any case, she extensively renovated the two-unit, 6-bed 4-bath abode and tossed it back onto the market earlier this year (2016). It sold last month for $2,480,000.
Now kiddies, here’s where things get interesting. Back in July 2015, the house immediately next door to Ms. di Angeli’s Marmont Lane crib came up for sale. Several potential buyers fought over the property, and the sale price of 2,155,000 is a significant $155,000 over the ask. According to our Mr. Deep Throat, it was none other than Ms. di Angeli who won the bidding war, though the buyer is carefully cloaked behind another LLC.
Why would Ms. di Angeli expand her Sunset Strip compound — which has now cost her nearly $5.5 million — and then, barely six months later, splurge on a huge Studio City compound? Like most everything about her, the answer is murky at best. All we know is that for whatever reason and/or purpose, Ms. di Angeli currently owns nearly $13 million worth of luxury LA real estate.
So you’re probably wanting a happy ending to this silly tale. An ending where Yolanda explains away the fog of mystery and tells y’all what’s what. Sorry to disappoint, but we don’t have that. We’ve tried, but the origins of Ms. di Angeli and her sources of wealth remain a secret guarded with Fort Knox-level security. Or something.
Here’s what Yolanda thinks. We think Alba di Angeli may not actually be the name on this lady’s birth certificate. Names can be changed, babies. People do it all the time for all sorts of legitimate reasons. Yolanda’s high school Italian is a mite rusty, but we’re pretty sure Alba di Angeli roughly translates to “dawn of the angels”.
It’s worth noting, however, that both the Studio City compound and the Sunset Strip compound are both registered to a New York City-based wealth management firm. According to their website, one of their main client group happens to be inheritors of wealth — wealth from “a trust created by a parent, the estate of a loved one, a divorce agreement, a judgment or the lottery”.
In any case, it’s just another mystery. A history! The dawn of a new oddity among many oddities in the city of angels, just a blip in this horrible, wonderful, spinning world.
Selling agent (Studio City compound): Heidi Lake, Sotheby’s International Realty
Alba di Angeli’s agent: Brett Lawyer, Hilton & Hyland