It is a measure of what drives Gordon Hall that he has been known to exaggerate about the house he shares with his second wife, Stacy, and their three children. Newspaper reports about the 32-year-old Mormon multimillionaire indicate that he tends to overestimate his house size and cost. Now of course we are all prone to embroider a little, now and then. It’s just that when you have a house like Hall’s, exaggeration becomes redundant. Crouching on six palm-planted acres of Paradise Valley—a Phoenix suburb—and looking like a shopping mall surrounded by a racetrack, the object of Hall’s pride features (pause here for deep breath): 16 bedrooms, 25 baths, six dining rooms, 14 fireplaces, an outdoor swimming pool with waterfall, an ice-skating rink, a 14-car garage with its own filling station, six kitchens, one of which has seven freezers and 11 ovens, a portico with 7,250 light bulbs and a hair salon. To protect it all: 49 cameras with infra-red detectors.
And, lest anybody look upon it and wonder, a 44-foot-wide black sign on the roof, “GORDON HALL MANSION.” Says the owner simply: “I want people to know who lives here.”
Gordon Hall says that his 52,800-square-foot home is the biggest in the western U.S. What seems obvious is no matter how big it is, it is too small to house his ambitions. His real estate company, MGM, is building the biggest commercial development in Utah. It is also planning: a) the tallest building in Arizona (in Phoenix), b) the biggest mall in the world (also Phoenix) and c) the biggest mall in Europe (West Germany). Hall plans to be a billionaire by 1990 and a trillionaire by 2012. And, oh yes, he would also like to be world bodybuilding champion. “God,” explains Hall, “said multiply your talents, don’t bury them under a rock or I’ll take them away. So I say to myself, ‘The biggest and the best.’ That’s what I’m here to do.”
In cases such as this, the assumed cliché is that the protagonist has risen from humble circumstances; as we shall see, Gordon Hall has never gone out of his way to avoid a cliché. Born in San Diego, he grew up in a tract house where he shared a bedroom with four brothers. For a long while his progress was unremarkable. After high school he worked as a commercial fisherman before joining the Army for a stint of exactly three years, three months and three days. “It wasn’t anything planned,” he says disapprovingly of the numbers. “And that’s not something to be proud of. Because failing to plan is like planning to fail.”
Despite this lapse Hall came out with $2,800 in the bank, worked in a Colorado Springs health club and quickly planned his way to manager. When—a stroke of luck—the club went up for sale, he mortgaged his small house, took out a $25,000 loan and bought it. “Luck,” says Hall, “is where preparation meets opportunity.”
Right. In any case, within a year he had sold the place and founded a health club chain, “24 Hour Nautilus,” in L.A. He also got into real estate. “You see those seminars and books that say you can buy real estate with nothing down,” says Hall. “All you have to do is get into homes, and from homes you get into commercial buildings and bigger and bigger profits. Being successful is not so difficult as people say.” In two years he was a millionaire.
Four years ago Hall was quite a bit more than a mere millionaire—a rough estimate of his worth now is $60 million. Having been divorced from his first wife in 1978 and remarried, he was now in the market for the perfect little home. And here in Paradise Valley, right next to Sen. Barry Goldwater’s land, was just the one he wanted. Built in 1965 by Arizona investor Walker McCune for his new bride (So much for planning: She divorced him before it was done, and he lived out his life in the guest house), the 90-room monster was Hall’s for a mere $2 million. Once in possession, like many new owners, Hall made some improvements. Like the racquetball court, the tennis court, the 14-person Jacuzzi in the master bath, and the exercise room, whose bathroom doors sport life-size portraits of Arnold Schwarzenneger and ladies’ body-building champ Lisa Lyon. The price for the art: $150,000. Total renovation estimate: $1 million plus.
“Plan,” says Gordon Hall. “If you have plans, your life can be that way.” As such formulations may suggest, Hall has read a lot of self-help books and, he says, “I believe that stuff.” As a Mormon he neither smokes nor drinks and is up at five every morning to work out. Eventually he plans to fill the mansion with “a minimum of ten children” and accompanying governesses, “to make sure we have time for ourselves.
“If you know where you’re going, you can get there,” Gordon Hall adds. “Groucho Marx said the problem with not knowing where you’re going is you’re never going to know when you get there. That’s the point, isn’t it?”
How’s that? Oh, sure. We were just woolgathering, trying to imagine Groucho Marx at large in the Gordon Hall Mansion. No exaggeration: That would be priceless.