When Kanye Became A Billionaire, He Bought Something Fans Never Could Have Expected

Hip hop star and fashion mogul Kanye West is rich. Like really, really rich. So rich that there probably aren’t many things in the world that he can’t afford – or hasn’t already bought. A $34,000 gold-covered skull for Jay-Z? He’s got one! A $39,000 fur coat in all the colors of the rainbow? The perfect Christmas gift! A $3 million diamond engagement ring? Got, got, got! But these are all objects you’d almost expect the extravagant star to buy, right? So when West recently bought a relatively inexpensive and unglamorous item, the emotional purchase left his fans totally shocked.

After all, we’re talking about a man who Forbes, in April 2020, declared to be a billionaire. And even though the magazine said West was worth “a bit over $1 billion,” the star argued that the figure was actually more like $3 billion. But whatever the exact sum, his hard-won fortune is undeniably huge. The musician’s marriage to Kim Kardashian in 2014 also confirmed his place in one of the celebrity power couples of our age.

Forbes has even valued Kardashian West – alone – at $780 million. That’s a heck of a lot of money all under one roof! On the one hand, you’ve got arguably the most famous reality-star-turned-business-magnate on the planet. And on the other, you’ve got a rap star with a sneaker empire. There is little that they can’t afford, so it would take a very unusual purchase to surprise fans at this point.

The pair haven’t been reluctant to enjoy their wealth, either. Seriously, “shy” is not an adjective you’d ever associate with them. They live in a lavish, renovated multi-million-dollar house in Hidden Hills, California. How much was it, you ask? They reportedly purchased the house in 2014 for $20 million – and have spent a further $20 million improving it. The work has now made the abode worth $60 million, according to Kris Jenner – Kardashian West’s mom.

In all fairness, though, West has worked hard to build up his vast fortunate over the years. Starting as a music producer for other artists, in 2000 he secured a job at iconic hip hop label Roc-A-Fella Records. Here, West worked on the album The Blueprint by one of the label’s co-founders, Jay-Z. The collaboration was a huge success, and West’s reputation as a producer was secured.

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Although sought-after in his behind-the-scenes role at Roc-A-Fella, West wanted to become a rapper himself. But not fitting the industry’s image of a gangsta rapper, he struggled to get record labels to see him on the other side of the microphone. Ultimately, however, Roc-A-Fella decided to give him a chance to prove his rapping skills rather than potentially lose him to another label.

But in the end the inspiration for his first album didn’t come out of his struggle to be taken seriously as an artist. Rather it was the result of a horrific car crash when he fell asleep at the wheel driving back from a recording studio in 2002. West’s jaw was broken and had to be wired shut for months to repair it. Yet to help block out the pain, the star wrote the track “Through The Wire.”

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The song, which later featured on his 2004 album, The College Dropout, was a hit. In fact, it was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance – and was only beaten by the seminal track “99 Problems” from former mentor and friend Jay-Z. Still, The College Dropout went platinum three times and launched the star as a globally credible rap artist. And set him on his way to the billionaire club.

His next album, Late Registration, would also go multi-platinum. It featured lush string arrangements and collaborations with artists including Maroon 5’s Adam Levine (on the single “Hear ’Em Say”) and Jamie Foxx (“Gold Digger”). The playful video to the album’s single “Touch the Sky” saw Pamela Anderson acting the love interest to West’s Evel Kanyevel. He was in the big leagues now.

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The critically acclaimed Late Registration won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 2006. West’s success then saw him take part in a global tour with U2 – before releasing the number-one single “Stronger” from the follow-up album Graduation in 2007. Another successful record – 808s and Heartbreak – followed. But it was perhaps his infamous stage invasion at the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards that cemented his reputation as an unpredictable figure.

You remember that, right? When Taylor Swift came on stage to accept her award for Best Female Video, West rushed up as well. He grabbed the microphone to claim the gong should have been given to Beyoncé for “Single Ladies.” Wounded by the fallout from the widely condemned stunt – Swift, after all, was only 19 years old at the time and a relative newcomer – West fled to Hawaii. There, he started designing clothes. And this turned into a spin-off empire that has become even more lucrative than his music.

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By 2010, West had become so internationally recognized that his fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, largely dealt with the themes of wealth and fame. It included the epic single “All Of The Lights” featuring Rihanna and Kid Cudi. Three years later, sixth album Yeezus and a tour of the same name cemented his global brand. His bank balance was looking pretty good, too.

Yet West’s private life had become as talked about as his musical genius. This is understandable considering that he was aligned with a worldwide reality phenomenon. Yes, West and Kardashian had a child, North, in June 2013 and tied the knot in May the next year. So if West had been famous for his undeniable and lucrative music talent before, he was now a regular in the gossip columns, too.

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He had competition in the money-stakes as well. Because not only is West’s wife extremely rich, but other members of her family are also equally – if not even more – wealthy than her. In January 2020 his supermodel half sister-in-law Kylie Jenner was briefly named the world’s youngest self-made billionaire by Forbes. And although the magazine now believes Jenner is worth only $700 million, that’s still not a small amount of money.

The other Kardashians and Jenners aren’t doing too badly, either. Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian are each worth between $35 million and $40 million, according to the Evening Standard. Kris Jenner is in the same ballpark, too, while Kendall Jenner has a net worth of roughly $22 million. But West has shown that he won’t be outdone by his famous relatives in money matters.

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A recent Business Insider article revealed that the rapper was now the highest-earning hip hop star on the planet. That means that he has overtaken Jay-Z, who is the second-highest. Yet the article reported that West’s money wasn’t made from his music – but from his fashion line, Yeezy. So where has he spent most of his cash?

Well, West has bought multiple properties. Aside from his Hidden Hills mansion, he has not one but two ranches in Wyoming. Together, they are thought to be worth approximately $30 million. And when you have a ranch, you need livestock. So West has reportedly spent $200,000 on farm animals. He has also invested in land and property in California, Miami and New York.

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Besides snapping up real estate, there are plenty of ways that West splashes his cash. We’ve seen that he enjoys to spend plenty of dough on his wife and family. And apart from buying Kardashian West that multi-million-dollar engagement ring, the doting husband also gifted her a $240,000 Mercedes truck. He can’t resist showering his children with presents, either.

Before daughter North turned two, West bought her a $62,000 diamond-encrusted tiara, according to Business Insider. He also splashed out on a $12,000 toy model of an SUV he owns. That would be in addition to the almost $4 million worth of full-size luxury cars that Forbes reckons the star owns.

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The rapper, of course, hasn’t always been the billionaire that he is today. And he has also used his profile to give back to those who need it more. The star has, for instance, publicly declared that Chicago, Illinois, is a city very close to his heart. That’s because he moved there at the age of three, following the divorce of his parents.

His father, Ray West, had been in the Black Panthers, and mom Dr. Donda West was an English professor. Before giving up academic work to manage her son’s music career, Donda West even worked as chair of the English department at Chicago State University. In 2007, though, Donda died at the age of just 58 from coronary artery disease and complications of cosmetic surgeries.

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His mom’s death hit West hard, as they were particularly close. Aged ten, he had accompanied her to China when she secured an English teaching post there. Ten years later, though, she was upset when West quit college to pursue his rap career. But she later told encyclopedia Icons of Hip Hop, “It was drummed into my head that college is the ticket to a good life… but some career goals don’t require college.”

She continued, “For Kanye to make an album called College Dropout, it was more about having the guts to embrace who you are, rather than following the path society has carved for you.” After her death, West renamed the charitable Kanye West Foundation, which he had established in 2003 in Chicago, to The Dr. Donda West Foundation.

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West’s collaborator and friend Rhymefest also started “Donda’s House, Inc” with him. The foundation aimed to teach music to disadvantaged young students, based on learning approaches adopted by Dr. West. This organization had an upheaval in 2018 – but we’ll get to that in a minute. West also established creative company DONDA in his mom’s name in January 2012.

This leads us to West’s recent purchase. We’ve discussed how West has bought numerous mansions. He even told DJ Charlemagne Tha God in 2018 on the radio that he wanted to be “one of the biggest real estate developers of all time, what Howard Hughes was to aircraft and Henry Ford was to cars.” So his next purchase is a bit of an anomaly.

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In April 2020 West bought another property. It’s not quite in the ilk of his huge ranches and lavish L.A. houses, but it’s one very close to his heart. West spent $225,000 on the home where he grew up in Chicago. While this might in itself seem like an unremarkable purchase, the state of the house is not what you might expect.

Clearly a once-handsome, even imposing, suburban property, it had fallen into a worrying state of disrepair. No proud homeowner had been living there for a while. Doors and windows were boarded up or painted over, and a padlock adorned one door to stop intruders from getting in. Hardly what you’d see on most celebrity homes…

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The outside of the house was littered with waste and debris, and the structure itself looked to be becoming unstable. Tiles were missing from the roof, and panels were seemingly broken on the front exterior wall. The metal rail leading up the front steps worryingly appeared to be coming apart.

Inside the house, there was little to tempt you to come in. The property was empty, except for the remnants of broken electrical appliances, a discarded door and a bed frame. Paint peeled from the ceiling, which in parts was riddled with mold. All in all, there seemed a huge amount of work to be done to make it habitable again.

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You might question if there was much argument against ripping down the house and rebuilding it. But seeing as the purchase is obviously an emotional one for West, one might assume that he would want to restore it to how it was when he was a child. That’s perhaps why $60,000 worth of permits were provided for renovations.

Back before, Donda West bought the house in 1980 when she first moved to Chicago with her son. The mother stated in her memoir that the young West spent about eight of his formative years living in the property. Yet Donda didn’t sell the place until 2004 when she relocated to L.A. to live closer to West.

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So this was certainly a sad state of affairs for the house. It had actually been bought in 2016 by West’s former collaborator, Rhymefest – the friend who set up Donda’s House charity. The rapper, who also goes by the name of Che Smith, had grown up alongside West in Chicago, and West’s mom took him under her wing.

Smith was evidently grateful to his friend’s mom. That’s why he wanted to use music to provide young people in need with a route out of poverty or hardship. The idea seems to have been that the house would become the foundation’s headquarters. A recording studio and museum were planned.

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That was until West and Smith had a falling out a couple of years ago. After West purportedly chose not to support the non-profit financially, Smith tweeted in 2018 that West was “abandoning” the charity. Kardashian West quickly came to her husband’s defense, accusing Smith of lying. “Truth is you haven’t been able to sustain the foundation,” she tweeted back.

When Kardashian West said they’d take over running of the non-profit themselves, Smith gladly accepted the threat. “If you and Kanye want us to dissolve the organization so that you can do the work, we welcome that,” he replied. Kardashian West didn’t seem to respond, but the foundation has since ceased running under the name Donda’s House.

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“This has been an incredibly difficult decision but the social media quotes from Kim Kardashian West, as well as the expressed interest of her family running the organization, has brought us to this decision,” a final statement from the charity read. It added that it “encourages Kim and Kanye to indeed pick up the baton of service.”

Since then, thankfully Smith and West seem to have made peace, resulting in West buying the house back. Smith told newspaper The Sun, “He came to my house in Chicago, we sat down and had dinner and talked about how to move forward through love. My plan was to turn it into an arts hub, but that may not have been Kanye’s vision for his childhood home.”

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Smith added, “I don’t know what he’s going to do with it, but I see he’s going somewhere with it, and it’s better than what was happening, it was on the demolition list for the city. Once we sold the property back to him, Kanye made a promise to me he would do something constructive with it.”

It’s unclear what West has planned for his childhood home now. Donda’s House, Inc, is now called Art of Culture, Inc. And West has spoken about his desire to move back to Chicago, telling a crowd at a gathering of Chicago high-school students, “I’ve got to let you know, that I’m moving back to Chicago, and I’m never leaving again.”

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Kardashian West was reportedly unhappy about the possible move, though, calling it her “breaking point” in an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Fortunately for her, the impulsive decision seems to have been forgotten about for now. But even if West was planning on relocating with his family, the billionaire is unlikely ever to move back into his modest childhood home.

But at least West has managed to keep the place from being demolished. You see, somewhere the glamorous villas of Beverly Hills’ rich and famous elite lies a decrepit building. The mansion was once the home of talented Hollywood director Vincente Minnelli and his family – but it has since been abandoned and left to decay. And its crumbling walls and overgrown gardens are a sorry testament to the legal battle that seems to have engulfed the place.

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Vincente Minnelli made a name for himself in the movie business during the mid-20th century, helming multiple classic musicals. For instance, in 1951 he sat in the director’s chair for An American in Paris – a film that later took home the Academy Award for Best Picture. And seven years later, he repeated that success and also earned the Best Director award for his work on Gigi.

Vincente entered the world in Chicago in 1903 but spent much of his childhood moving around Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Eventually, the family set up home in Delaware, but the future director returned to Chicago after graduating from high school. And it was there that he immersed himself in the theater, taking jobs designing costumes and sets.

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This passion for the stage culminated in Vincente’s first directing gig: a musical titled At Home Abroad. The production started in 1935 and ran successfully for two years. Vincente’s reputation flourished in tandem, and in 1940 he took a job at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Studios – cementing his future in the movie industry.

Over the course of his life, Vincente married four times. Indeed, he tied the knot with his first wife, accomplished actress and singer Judy Garland, on June 15, 1945. Like her husband, Garland was involved in many movies throughout her career. She received considerable recognition for her work, too, picking up a Golden Globe and Special Tony among other awards. The star is perhaps known best, however, for her role as Dorothy in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, for which she earned a Juvenile Oscar.

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Garland met Vincente while working on his 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis. And she would go on to collaborate with him twice more over the next few years. The actress found success in the music industry, too, producing a handful of studio albums. In 1961 she even became the first woman to take home the Grammy for Album of the Year. What’s more, two years later, the star hosted an Emmy-nominated TV show called The Judy Garland Show.

Vincente and Garland had one child: Liza Minnelli. Born on March 12, 1946, Liza would grow up to become a star in her own right. Indeed, she bagged an Academy Award for her role in the 1972 film Cabaret and is also widely celebrated for her singing voice. Some of Liza’s more famous performances took place at Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall in the late ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s.

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But alas, things didn’t end happily for Vincente and Garland. In 1951 the couple divorced, and their struggles were supposedly sparked by Garland’s streak of self-destructive behavior. Wracked by insecurity, anxiety and depression, the actress reportedly took sleeping pills and amphetamines. Eventually, she suffered a nervous breakdown and even made two attempts to take her own life after MGM terminated her contract. The star also started having an affair – spelling the end of her marriage.

As previously mentioned, Vincente married three more times before his death, wedding his final bride – Lee Anderson – in 1980. Six years later, the director passed away from pneumonia and emphysema in his Beverly Hills home, aged 83. And in the years since his death, the ownership of his mansion has proven to be controversial.

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Indeed, Vincente left his property – said to be worth some $1.1 million at the time – to Liza. But he also left lifetime use of the house to Lee. So, while his widow continued to live there, his daughter apparently paid the bills. Then in 2000 Liza put the house up for sale, apparently without Lee’s knowledge. And as recompense, Liza offered her stepmother a $450,000 condo – yet Lee refused to leave.

Even when the house finally sold a couple of years later, Lee still wouldn’t vacate the property. Liza supposedly responded by ceasing payment of the mansion’s electricity bills, and she also fired the staff who were employed to take care of it. As a result, Lee filed a lawsuit against her stepdaughter, kicking off what would ultimately be a short legal battle.

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The lawsuit in question alleged that Liza had breached a contract and brought emotional anguish upon Lee. Indeed, the court papers ascertained that moving the then-94-year-old “will no doubt be the death of her.” Liza’s 2002 wedding to David Gest added further fuel to the fire too.

For one thing, the lawsuit caused Liza to withdraw Lee’s invitation to the wedding. But it was the lavishness of the festivities that apparently drew the most ire from Liza’s stepmother. In reference to the wedding, you see, the lawsuit read, “While the defendant is honeymooning all over the world, having fed 850 of her closest friends a 12-foot cake, [the] plaintiff is alone in a cold, dark house at age 94.”

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Liza responded to the lawsuit in April 2002 – a month after her wedding. Speaking to Army Archerd, who was a writer for Daily Variety, she explained, “My father left me the house, saying, ‘It is my wish if you sell the house that you move [Lee] to a residence.’ I finally got a nice offer to sell it and offered her a $450,000 condo tax-free. She won’t move. I’ve been supporting her forever. I did exactly what my father asked me to do. And now we can’t go into escrow because she won’t move. I am willing to give her a happy life.”

Despite the fracas, though, the legal battle came to a conclusion fairly quickly. Lee in fact dropped the lawsuit a month later after Liza had reportedly reached out to her and invited her to dinner. The pair then came to an arrangement over the mansion: Liza would pay rent to the new owners while Lee continued to reside in the property. And after Lee’s death, the buyers could finally take full control.

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In 2006 – four years after the buyers made their offer – the house finally closed escrow. And three years later, Lee passed away – less than a month after her 100th birthday. It was at this point that the new owners could take residency of their $2.75 million purchase. First, though, they discussed plans to renovate the property.

Ultimately, however, the new owners’ plans seemingly fell through the cracks – and no restoration supposedly ever took place there. And rumored visions to scrap the property and construct a new estate on the same site never materialized, either. As a result, the mansion appears to have since been home only to squatters.

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But let’s take a look at the property’s history. The home was first built in 1925, which was around the time that Spanish Colonial Revival architecture was apparently coming into fashion. The hallmarks of that style include smooth plastered walls, terracotta features and flat roofs. However, the mansion was renovated and redesigned between 1944 and 1953 by John Elgin Woolf – this time in the French Louis XV style.

In total, the house – which is situated at 812 N. Crescent Drive, CA – boasts 19 rooms, six of which are bedrooms and another six of which are bathrooms. The mansion is set over around 5,900 square feet on a lot that spans a whopping 42,500 square feet. It’s an enormous space, then, and certainly fit for a celebrity. Vincente moved in shortly after his split from Garland in 1951.

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As a child, Liza alternated between living with both her parents. She therefore spent half of the year at her father’s mansion. And she undoubtedly enjoyed her time there. After all, Vincente reportedly adored his daughter. He commissioned an artist called Tony Duquette to build her a huge playhouse in the property’s backyard, for instance.

In addition, Vincente reportedly had multiple outfits fashioned for his daughter, making her house a popular hang-out spot for her friends. And star of sitcom Murphy Brown Candice Bergen recalled as much in her autobiography. She said, “I remember always asking to go to Liza’s to play dress-up because in her closet hung little girls’ dreams.”

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At the turn of the millennium, the Los Angeles Times profiled Lee Minnelli and painted a grand picture of the mansion in which she resided. As well as describing “python-skin-covered walls” and “vast dressing rooms,” the story highlighted the various designer outfits that hung in Lee’s wardrobes. Her own suite was apparently “smothered by books, papers, catalogs and, of course, many framed photos.”

In fact, even after her husband’s death, Lee apparently changed very little in the home. Vincente’s easel and paint were, for example, said to be exactly where he had placed them. And the house still contained a room showcasing relics from the director’s illustrious career, including his Best Director Oscar that he had won for Gigi.

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With all that in mind, then, it’s not hard to imagine that the house was once an impressive sight. Yes, when Vincente first purchased the mansion back in the 1950s, it was likely something to behold, particularly when considering Woolf’s then-recent renovations. Nowadays, though, the property looks much the worse for wear.

The images that are available of the house in its current state, you see, paint a much more depressing picture than what is conjured in the Los Angeles Times article. The years since Lee Minnelli’s death have not been kind to the mansion, it seems. The grass and trees are overgrown and untended, for instance, suggesting that the property has been absent of a groundskeeper for some time.

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What’s more, located in among the enormous plot’s untamed vegetation is an outdoor swimming pool. But just like the rest of the property, it’s a shell of its former self. Devoid of water, it looks more like a huge cavern in the ground. Seeing it empty is strangely eerie, particularly when you remember the glamorous people by whom it would have once been enjoyed. Now, the pool is simply a remnant of a time long since passed.

The rest of the grounds aren’t much prettier, either. Debris and rubble are littered around, while marble columns lie toppled and strewn. In fact, such is the state of the house’s exterior surroundings that it’s hard to believe anyone of note ever lived here. You’d certainly never guess that it was once the home of some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

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Unfortunately, the inside of the house doesn’t spin a different tale. The kitchen, for instance, is in a sorry state. Cupboard doors are torn off their hinges, while drawers have been pulled out and stacked haphazardly. Broken furniture, dishes and other detritus are scattered here and there, and the dirty sink is in desperate need of attention.

The vastness of the property and its general state of abandonment seem to make for unnerving viewing. Yes, there’s an inherently creepy feeling to the crumbling walls that’s palpable even in the images. The parts of the carpet that have remained intact are filthy, and though some sections have been torn away to reveal the old padding underneath, that too is now aged to red dust.

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Upstairs, the words “Judy Garland” are scrawled across one of the walls. There’s no way to know who penned them, but it’s not hard to imagine someone getting wind of who used to live here and coming to scribble the name. Regardless, it’s a much-needed reminder of the lofty figures that were once associated with the now-abandoned house.

Really, almost the entire home appears to be in a terrible state of disrepair. There are holes in the walls, doors coming away from their hinges and piles of papers littering the rooms. And while we can’t say for sure, it’s unlikely that the house was in this state when Lee Minnelli passed away. Over the years, then, it has probably been subject to the whims of curious passers-by and squatters.

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This sense of squalor doesn’t improve in the master bedroom, either. While some parts of furniture remain, most of it is long gone – including the bed and bedside tables. More trash covers the floor, and the room is horrendously dirty. Plaster is falling from the ceiling, too, and there are yet more holes in the walls.

In other areas of the house it’s more difficult to distinguish the rooms as having any particular uses. In one space, for instance, there’s a bathtub, a mattress and an exercise bike – along with more random objects, such as a fire extinguisher. Given the eclectic nature of these items, it becomes difficult to piece together a coherent image of those who once resided here.

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But this doesn’t mean that people don’t try. With the house now abandoned, there’s nothing to stop members of the public from poking around. And that’s exactly what one YouTuber – with the username adamthewoo – did in 2014. During his exploration of the house, he discovered that there’s no running water. That’s hardly surprising, though, when you consider the fact that the home hasn’t been lived in since 2009.

Old television sets and VHS tapes are scattered in another room, along with a multitude of other belongings. Perhaps, then, Liza had no interest in coming back for her or her stepmother’s possessions after Lee’s death. Well, that’s adamthewoo’s theory, which he explained in a post for Abandoned Explorers – a website that’s dedicated to urban and industrial ruins.

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“Maybe Liza retrieved some things she wanted from the home, but she certainly wouldn’t be interested in old furniture [or] TVs,” adamthewoo wrote for the website. “So those were probably just left since the house needed a complete renovation anyway, and that was up to the owners.” Alas, it seems that the new landlords never got around to the essential restoration that the house desperately required.

In another room, meanwhile, there’s a fireplace that’s certainly seen better days. However, according to the two guys touring the house in the 2014 YouTube video, there was evidence that it had actually been put to use not long before their visit. This lends credence, then, to the suggestion that squatters have lived in the house at some point since 2009. What’s more, behind this fireplace lies a wall that’s covered in dirty, mirrored glass.

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As the video continues, so does the guys’ tour, and on it, they find few traces of the grandeur that the property had obviously once enjoyed. In the dining room, you see, only a few cushions, a couple of chairs and the old TV set remain. And even more random furniture lies askew in other rooms, including a lurid, bright-green couch. Elsewhere, large sections of the ceiling are in fact missing.

Nevertheless, it does appear that some work has actually been done on the mansion since 2009. There are, after all, aerial photos of the property on Bing that show a utility truck and dumpsters parked outside the house. Whatever work was planned, however, clearly never came to fruition. And it’s thought that the local authorities may be preventing the current owners from tearing the mansion to the ground in order to start afresh.

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In fact, Abandoned Explorers posited that this may be the reason the home was left deserted. “Was this why it had been basically left open to squatters for years in hopes it would be accidentally burned down or be destroyed by vandals beyond repair?” the author pondered. Whatever the case, the house has again been left to decay – despite once being home to some of Hollywood’s most famous clientele.

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