Buster Keaton built a grandiose home in 1926, on 3.5 acres of land, high on a knoll with a magnificent view of lust gardens and a magnificent staircase down to a lavish swimming pool. Keaton lost the home in a contentious divorce from his wife, who immediately sold it to an MGM dance team. Once leased by Barbara Hutton for Cary Grant and sold twice again, lastly by a philanthropist for $250,000. It was 1948 when Pamela Mason saw the house and fell madly in love with it and negotiations began. Finally, in January 1949, James Mason, who could not justify the selling price due to the enormous amount of the maintenance would cost, they made the purchase for a mere $85,000. James was not only a great actor he was adept at negotiating.
During the time James and Pamela lived in the villa, they made many major changes which culminated with subdividing and selling off the lower level to accommodate 3 luxury homes. The home original address was on Hartford Way which now became Pamela Drive in her honor. The Masons eventually divorced the assets were divided equally between, James and Pamela. She often credited a relatively unknown attorney, Marvin Mitchelson, for James receiving all their European property and Pamela was awarded all American properties. She often described her then unknown attorney, Marvin Mitchelson, as the lawyer she made famous. Which indeed take him to become known as the attorney who pioneered palimony.
My stint as private secretary began during the mid-sixties; my office had been converted from an elegant breakfast area to my office. A semi oval room with floor to ceiling glass windows which opened to the front courtyard. The view from my desk was an enormous entrance area, which once had a children’s carousel, to the gigantic formal dining room. It also was a path to the kitchen and my days was always beyond boring.
We had a guesthouse above the three car garage, which was often occupied by celebrities from many parts of the world. George Martin, son of Ross Martin, Rachel Roberts one of Rex Harrison’s several wives, Stewart Granger, an English actor who was forced to change his birth name from James Stewart was a frequent guest. Pamela would leave me notes to advise who was the current occupant so I did not go into shock when opening the front door. Many others who I have either forgotten or did not make an impression.
Although there was a 3 car garage, all three of the Rolls Royce cars were always parked in the front courtyard. The newest was a 1960ish baby blue which only was driven by Pamela. The 1940ish forest green was a gift from Portland’s maternal grandfather which he shipped from England for a birthday present. The last was a 1950s dark maroon which was kept for guests or if any of the others were not available. Although I was given permission to drive the maroon rolls for errands if I desired. However, I never could do it, as I was terrified is any damage or an accident. Their son Morgan was still too young to drive and had to wait until he turned 16 when Pamela bought him a spanking new white Mustang which he managed to destroy very quickly.
We also had an extremely large collection of unwanted cats living out in the garden and often residing in the very large sun room. Violet the live in housekeeper was in charge of feeding them and a select few slept in her private room, next to the tennis court. At one time I did know all their names, but have forgotten many now. I do remember we had a set of black triplets, you, me and I and of course a James.
Never a dull moment at 1018 Pamela drive.