Martha Smilgis
April 07, 1980 12:00 PM

Pickfair, where Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks reigned during Hollywood’s golden age, is “a steal” at $8 million. For a buyer who is willing to do a little renovating, there is the estate of the late Conrad Hilton—a “fixer-upper” for only $15 million. Bargain of the month: O.J. Simpson’s spread in Brentwood Park, which he bought two years ago for $700,000. The rent-a-car superstar, recently divorced, is willing to unload the house for a paltry $2.5 million. These are just a few of the listings handled by Elaine Young, whose flamboyant style has earned her a reputation as the Dolly Parton of the booming Beverly Hills real estate game.

In fact, it was her flamboyance—including a white Rolls-Royce convertible, plunging necklines and diamonds drilled into her long, red nails—that helped get Young fired from the conservative Mike Silverman realty office two years ago. The ax fell shortly after she admitted on 60 Minutes that there is “hanky-panky” in the real estate business. “I was with Silverman for 15 years. I wasn’t even married to four husbands that long altogether,” groans Elaine. “He wanted a bun and glasses. He thought he was running the Bank of America.”

After “a good cry,” Elaine joined with two partners to form Alvarez, Hyland and Young just four doors down from her old boss. She wrote an autobiography (with Ray Loynd), A Million Dollars Down, and is now working on a how-to-sell manual. Young’s first sale was to Tuesday Weld, her first lease to Warren Beatty. “Warren was chasing me around the desk,” she recalls. “I said, ‘This is going to be fun.’ ”

Eleven years ago Young leased the Bel Air estate fated to be the site of the Manson murders. Elaine remembers “stepping back and letting Sharon Tate show it to Roman Polanski. She was so beautiful, skipping through the house.” At the time it was worth $250,000, “but right after the murders people called in—this is how bizarre people in this town can be—willing to pay $450,000 for it!”

Elaine has also leased houses to John Kennedy and Elvis Presley. “Elvis wanted a bed that slept eight,” she recalls. “I never knew if it was for eight people or if he just wanted a big bed.” In 1963 she showed actor Gig Young a house and ended up proposing to him six months later. For two years out of their three-year marriage he was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, but later resumed drinking, and Elaine was left alone to raise their daughter, Jennifer, now 16. (In 1978 Young shot himself and his new wife of three weeks in New York.)

Elaine’s father was an executive at Universal Studios. After Hollywood Professional School, she attended UCLA and majored in political science with the intention of becoming an international lawyer. The closest she came to that goal is dealing with cash-heavy foreign investors. Although “I can’t do math and my fingernails are too long for a calculator,” Elaine knows her numbers. “Iranians will buy a $1 million house and it is nothing to them,” says Elaine. “In the last four years the market has quadrupled. Nothing stops it—fires, floods, earthquakes. You can’t get anything decent under a million and a half.”

Young’s commissions generally run six percent on a sale or 42 percent of a month’s rent on a lease. Requisites for sybaritic clients these days include Jacuzzis, pools, north-south tennis courts and wet bars in the bedrooms. His-and-hers bathrooms at $30,000 are common. Says Elaine: “Just a few years ago a married couple could brush their teeth in the same sink.”

Although a millionaire who owns eight houses in Beverly Hills, Elaine lives with Jennifer in a comparatively modest two-bedroom house that she admits “buying nine months ago on spec to make a fast $200,000.” At the office by 7, she survives on three hours of sleep and 20 cups of coffee daily. Weekends are spent showing houses. Even parties are strictly business; she rates them by the number of cards she gets to hand out. “When people go to a party here,” she observes, “all they talk about is where they live and what they paid for it or what they drive and what they paid for it.”

After shedding her last husband, Elaine is now looking for another. “All you have to do with a man or a house in Beverly Hills,” she smiles, “is pick one out and wait.” Elaine rarely waits for anything, however. At 6 a.m. she can be seen jogging through Beverly Hills spying for overgrown lawns or empty garages. “When someone passes away, I say, ‘533 Rodeo died,’ ” she confesses. “I guess I’ve been in real estate too long.”

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