How Brett Ratner Got 'Grease' Mastermind Allan Carr's Infamous Party House

Brett Ratner - Wolfgang Puck Hollywood Walk of Fame Celebration - Getty - H 2017
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With entourage in tow, Brett Ratner will attend Wednesday's Outfest premiere of The Fabulous Allan Carr — Jeffrey Schwarz's new documentary about the caftan-wearing Grease mastermind who was run out of Hollywood in 1989 after producing the Snow White Oscars debacle. (Snow White broke her decades-long silence to The Hollywood Reporter in 2013.)

A keen chronicler of some of Hollywood's greatest camp triumphs, Schwarz next tackles one of the most beloved "bad" movies of all time in Goddess: The Showgirls Chronicles. (Showgirls director Paul Verhoeven has given his blessing and already contributed a tell-all interview about the 1995 turkey.)

As for Ratner, who figures in Schwarz's current film, he never actually met Carr, but lives in the producer's Hilhaven Lodge in Beverly Hills, acquired in 1999.

"I wanted a house with some provenance — an old Hollywood house," says the Revenant producer, who was fresh of the success of directing Rush Hour and living at the Beverly Hills Hotel at the time. "My broker, Kurt Rappaport, said they don't sell those houses, meaning someone has to die. So I said, 'I'll wait.'"

Six months later, a call came to his hotel room. "It was Kurt. He said, 'Get over to this address — somebody died,'" Ratner recalls. "The morgue had just picked up the body. They were carrying him out of the house."

That somebody was Carr, who succumbed that day to liver cancer at age 62.

It was out of his budget, but Ratner had to have the house — especially after he saw the full-scale discotheque Carr had installed in the basement. "So I paid the asking price: $3.8 million-something."
For that price, Ratner got not just the five-bedroom, stone-and-redwood home owned by Ingrid Bergman in the 1940s — and Kim Novak in the 1950s — but all of the furniture, art and personal belongings Carr left inside.

That included a collection of over 1,000 caftans and, oddly enough, a large number of paintings of Roy Cohn, the notorious attorney and Donald Trump's onetime mentor. ("Those are kind of bizarre," Ratner says of the Cohn portraits. "I guess they were good friends.")

The only item not included in the house sale was a Plexiglas grand piano that sat in the middle of the living room. "It looked like it belonged to Elton John or something. They were asking $75,000 for it. I was like, 'Just take the piano,'" he says. The rest of the memorabilia currently sits in storage. Ratner thinks he'll one day stage an auction. "It will be amazing!"

An ambitious restoration of the home placed keen emphasis on returning the basement disco — decorated like an Egyptian hookah lounge — back to "its original luster. The room was like a time warp out of the ‘70s. It was so classic and still was functioning."

"Everybody in Hollywood used to go to Allan's parties," he continues. "He used to have 'A through L' and 'M through Z' parties. If your name didn't start with the right letter, you couldn't come in. There were hot guys in togas serving drinks! Everybody fell in love in that disco. That disco was the place."

Ratner took extra care to ensure all of its original elements remained, including neon signs that said things like "Allan Carr Disco" and "The Bella Darvi Bar" and plaques that reserved couches for disco-era VIPs like singer Regine and Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell.

The entire house was outfitted with a state-of-the-art security system. "That was paranoia or just voyeurism," Ratner theorizes. "There were cameras everywhere. The disco had multiple cameras — so I guess Allan could be up in his bedroom and watch. He liked to watch."

But Ratner loves being in the center of the action. "At my 40th birthday, I had Mick Jagger, Eddie Murphy, Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, Brian Grazer, Edward Norton and me dancing in the disco," says the director-producer, who, at 48, concedes he now uses the playroom "less and less."

Still, he's confident he's done the previous owner proud. "I think Allan is watching and going, ‘He's making the best of this house.'"

A version of this story first appeared in the July 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.