The longtime Malibu resident and Realtor, who had recently moved to Washington where he died, is remembered as a dapper ladies’ gentleman, who went to any length to close a deal for his clients.
By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times
Former longtime Malibu resident Mike Silverman, Hollywood insider, legendary ladies’ man and self-titled Realtor to the Stars, died this month at the age of 90.
Silverman died April 17 of congestive heart failure at his home with wife Davey Davison near Bellingham, Wash.
Raised in the Bronx, Silverman was the son of a poor tailor who escaped the sweatshop working conditions in which his father labored by enlisting to fight overseas during World War II.
He ended up in Los Angeles in the late ’40s, working as a graphic artist and living in a dollar-a-day rooming house, when he met a real estate broker who convinced him that Beverly Hills was just another name for the land of milk and honey. The kid from the Bronx got his Realtor’s license.
Gossip columnist Louella Parsons introduced Silverman to Hollywood high society, where, despite a speech impediment, he quickly became an insider’s insider. His extraordinary good looks -shades of Tyrone Power mixed with Cary Grant-were matched by impeccable haberdashery, excellent taste and a gift for discretion prized by both women and men. Cary Grant was his first client.
He squired some of Hollywood’s most beautiful leading ladies, from Joan Crawford to Marilyn Monroe, while maintaining friendships with industry power houses like Frank Sinatra and Tony Curtis. He would go to extravagant lengths to suit a client’s wishes, including flying to a cholera-quarantined Madrid to get a signature on an escrow document. When police tried to detain him, he eluded their grasp, ran to the airport and managed to get on the plane and back to Los Angeles in time to close escrow.
Silverman rose to the top of the house selling business in California’s most expensive ZIP codes by relentless self-promotion, including hiring an elephant to sport a huge “Mike Silverman Realty” logo in city parades. His office was always staffed with attractive, smart, energetic young people-usually women-who were subject to the same discipline Silverman practiced himself. His motto was, “I am available for my clients 24/7.”
An attention to the minutest of details is what kept Silverman in demand and no effort to intrigue a new customer was deemed outrageous. He would fly one prospect in a helicopter over a property to get a proper perspective and deliver a newly purchased home to another client wrapped in a giant red bow. He once made four separate commissions on one of Frank Sinatra’s properties, selling it and buying it back from the famous singer throughout the rigors of various divorces.
Silverman resided in Malibu for the better part of two decades. His home on the beach was located next to some of the more infamous summer “party” houses filled in recent years with raucous surf boys and third-generation starlets —all of whom welcomed the aging, but dapper, Silverman as the genial elder statesman of Hollywood high life.
“Mike was a fixture in Malibu,” neighbor John Garcia said. “He will be sorely missed.”
Though Silverman had been somewhat frail in recent years, he could be found on pleasant days working the room at local restaurants and cafes, his wardrobe, as usual, spotless and sparkling.
Silverman and Davison, his wife of 13 years, left Malibu before Christmas to spend the holidays in upstate Washington. They decided to stay for the Olympics, an hour away in Vancouver and were, Davison said, enjoying a peaceful quiet the restless Silverman didn’t always get to enjoy in the more active atmosphere of Southern California.
“These last few months, Mike was maybe the best I’ve ever seen him,” Davison said by phone. “He wasn’t worried about closing a deal. He knew he wasn’t in the best of health, but he told me he was so happy, he wanted more time.”
His wife, nieces and nephews, and cousins in New York survive Silverman. There will be no memorial service. “Mike said that when he goes to that big escrow in the sky, he didn’t want a memorial,” Davison said. “But I take comfort in the old saying, ‘In my Father’s house, there are many mansions.’ I bet Mike has a sign on every one of them.”