Malibu writer mines Beverly Hills for tales of ‘love, lust and land’


    Malibu writer David Weddle was not satisfied with the original ending he wrote for his second book, “Among the Mansions of Eden-Tales of Love, Lust and Land in Beverly Hills.”

    Then Weddle saw an extraordinary piece of property.

    The late Mark Hughes, Herbalife’s charismatic and conflicted leader who died in his Malibu home, had left a 157-acre empty piece of property in the Beverly Hills Post Office section of Los Angeles County, 1,300 feet and a universe above the rest of the world. Hughes also left plans for a grand, San Simeon-esque palace and a model of his outsized dream.

    The $80-million plan died with its creator.

    A visit to Hughes’ barren mountain provides the end of a perfect arc in Weddle’s book. Using real estate as a springboard, Weddle wanders deliciously through the fabled city of Beverly Hills, its history and secrets.

    Weddle was touched by seeing Hughes’s abandoned personal effects-including photos of Hughes with his son-at the executive’s Beverly Hills mansion, Grayhall.

    “It sums up the whole pathology,” Weddle said at his home in Paradise Cove, recalling the utter desolation of the “cardboard mockup of a San Simeon that would never be.”

    Beverly Hills-chic for sale

    The “pathology” of which Weddle writes is the desire to buy the chic and cachet of Beverly Hills, to put it on like a coat of armor and to proclaim to the world that you have Made It.

    “Beverly Hills represents a vision of the American Dream that is not particularly healthy,” Weddle said.

    Weddle, who gives prodigious credit to his collaborator, Howard Libes, is a keen observer of human nature. He describes people as he sees them, pretty or not.

    In the chapter “Bachelor in Paradise,” Weddle allows Hugh Hefner wanna-be Norm Zadeh to skewer himself with irritating nonstop monologue and dominance over his Barbie-doll companions. That chapter appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, March 16, 2003, titled “Living Large in the Bimbo Vortex.”

    “I heard from one person [in the book] who was very upset, but I can’t talk about it,” Weddle said. He also writes of things noble. As a result of his wrenching Feb. 3, 2003, L.A. Times Magazine cover story “Through Their Eyes,” about the “lost boys” of the Sudan, an entertainment industry executive adopted two Ethiopian orphans.

    Weddle, 47, is not eager to join the ranks of the “mansioned.”

    “I would be happy to live here the rest of my life,” he said, “in Paradise Cove in a doublewide. I want to be respected and well thought of.”

    Weddle was born in Irvington, New York, graduated from California’s Corona del Mar High School in 1974, spent two years at Cal State Fullerton studying communications and graduated from the USC film school in 1978. He always wanted to be a writer.

    Sneaks in to meet Marty Feldman

    “I am a huge silent film fan,” Weddle said. “My greatest aspiration was to be a gag writer for a comedian.”

    He snuck onto the Universal Studios lot to meet comedian Marty Feldman, who did routines for the BBC. After working at his job as a “go-fer” for Dino de Laurentis on Canon Drive, he would go to Feldman’s office to work on a script about Buster Keaton.

    Weddle worked in the film business, wrote screenplays and wrote and directed equity waiver plays. Information he soaked up about gang life from fellow employees at the Sunset Marquee Hotel enabled him to sell a cover story to L.A. Weekly at Christmas of 1984, called “This Fighting Life.”

    He was there to watch the newspaper load up the delivery trucks with bales of that issue, all with his story and name on the cover.

    “It was a great moment,” he said.

    Weddle later became an executive story editor for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

    His first book was “If They Move…Kill ‘Em!” the biography of western director Sam Peckinpah. Weddle’s family had been friends with the Peckinpah family; he rented the mobile home at Paradise Cove that belonged to Peckinpah’s daughter Kristin, her husband, Gill, and their baby, Dennis. It was 1988.

    “I fell in love with Paradise Cove,” Weddle said. “After a year I bought one. It was a single-wide that since has been expanded.”

    Advice from Ken Kesey

    Weddle decided to heed his friend Ken Kesey’s warning- “Writers without a family often don’t make it.”

    He placed an ad in the Los Angeles Times Personal section in 1994: “Writer lives in Malibu. Loves to kayak. Has red hair.”

    Risa Parness read it and left a message: “My name is Risa. I love red hair. Call me.”

    Their first date was at the then-Sandcastle Restaurant.

    They married in April of 1997.

    “Mansions” is dedicated “To Risa, a beacon in the dark.”

    Weddle gained Risa’s daughter, Lexie Quartararo, in the bargain. His latest L.A. Times Magazine piece is inspired by her experiences in film classes at UCSB.

    He is working on a two-hour pilot for TNT about NASA’s future, fictional first journey to Mars.

    “Everybody wants to go to Mars,” he said.

    His pilot, he said, is realistic.

    “No talking apes or giant sand worms.”

    “Among the Mansions of Eden – Tales of Love, Lust and Land in Beverly Hills,” by David Weddle, 2003, William Morrow, New York, on the L.A. Times Best Seller list.

    “If they Move…Kill ‘Em-The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah,” by David Weddle, 1994, Grove Press, New York.