Pia Zadora destroyed Pickfair because it was haunted


Pia Zadora confesses and admits a ghost made her destroy Pickfair


By Allan R. Ellenberger

Remember Pickfair?


It was the historic estate bought in 1919 by silent film actor, Douglas Fairbanks for his new bride, Mary Pickford, known to everyone as “America’s Sweetheart.” Pickfair had four stories, 25 rooms, stables and tennis courts. Doug and Mary lived there as husband and wife for the next seventeen years until their divorce in 1936. During that time they entertained heads of state, royalty and Hollywood royalty. Some of the world celebrities that visited Pickfair included George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, H.G. Wells, Lord Mountbatten, Amelia Earhart, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Noel Coward, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor, Charles Lindbergh, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Edison, and The King and Queen of Siam.


Pickford kept the house after the divorce and lived there with her third husband, actor Charles “Buddy” Rogers until her death in 1979. Afterward, the house stood vacant for a few years until it was sold to Los Angeles Lakers owner, Jerry Buss, who continued to update and care for the historic estate.


In 1988, Pia Zadora, the even-then-so-called actress and singer, and her husband at the time, Meshulam Riklis, bought the home from Buss for $7 million. Two years later, Miss Zadora revealed that instead of renovating Pickfair, she had it razed and constructed a huge purported “Venetian style palazzo” in its place. Zadora was immediately criticized for destroying an irreplaceable part of Hollywood history, and rightly so. Defending herself, she claimed the house was allegedly in a run-down condition and was riddled with termites. When asked, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., said in a public statement: “I regret it very much. I wonder, if they were going to demolish it, why they bought it in the first place.”


On a recent episode of the Biography Channel’s, Celebrity Ghost Stories, Zadora changed her story and claimed the real reason that Pickfair was destroyed was because the house was haunted.


Zadora said in the interview that as soon as she and her family moved into the house, a female ghost appeared to her children at night and would frighten them. Within time, she too, saw the ghost—a woman dressed in 1920s attire who was always laughing (the ghost evidently watched her performance in The Lonely Lady). Zadora says that she did her own research (really?) and determined that the ghost was the mistress of Douglas Fairbanks, and the woman actually died on the estate. She doesn’t name the woman, say how the woman died or how she came to this conclusion.


Zadora brought in an exorcist but that didn’t help and ghost continued to visit her. She decided the only thing to do was to level the house.


“It was a difficult decision, but we had to live in it and we couldn’t live in it with what was going on,” Zadora says in the episode. “This is the first time I’m coming out publicly saying that termites weren’t the real reason we had to raze Pickfair. If I had a choice, I never would have torn down this old home. I loved this home. It had a history; it had a very important sense about it. You can deal with termites. You can deal with plumbing issues. But you can’t deal with the supernatural.”

It’s not like people were dropping like flies at Pickfair so shouldn’t it be fairly easy to identify this laughing ghost? I’m not an expert on Pickfair but I don’t recall anyone dying there (if someone knows the answer, please post it here), not even Pickford, who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage there but died later at Santa Monica Hospital. Wouldn’t a death at Pickfair have made the newspapers unless it was covered-up by Fairbanks and Pickford? If so, how did Pia Zadora find out the “truth” in her so-called “research?” Once again, she doesn’t say how she came by that information in the interview, but producers of the show recreate a scene of her reading through books and paper.


Pia Zadora will be criticized from all sides for this new revelation—first by those who don’t believe in the paranormal, and by those who do, who may question how razing a house will remove a spirit. While the paranormal interests me, again, I’m no expert, but wouldn’t the ghost just move in to the new house? All I know is that supposedly Pickfair is gone because of a ghost. I hope people don’t start using that excuse to destroy other Hollywood landmarks, if so preservation in this town will not have “a ghost of a chance.”



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34 Responses to “Pia Zadora destroyed Pickfair because it was haunted”

  1. Maybe Jack Pickford’s wife,Olive Thomas is haunting Pickfair?

  2. Scatter says:

    I saw the TV show you referenced…….you’d think even Pia could come up with a better cover story than this.

    An attempt to disguise the fact that it was her lack of taste, class, and intellect that led her to raze the Hollywood equivalent of Buckingham Palace by blaming GHOSTS? Please.

  3. Melissa says:

    What Scatter said. I so remember this when it happened and have been quietly (or not so quietly) cursing these two ever since. After reading your (most excellent) article, all I can think of is why in the hell didn’t these two self absorbed greedy people just MOVE? They could have easily lived somewhere else, whereas Pickfair (as is/was Falcon Lair) a ONCE. The aforementioned comments were edited with extreme self control and all screaming frustrated obscenities were modified.

  4. Anne says:

    What a shame to destroy such an amazing landmark, marking the glories of Hollywood. Thanks again Allan for such an excellent article. Some individuals taste seems to be arrested in their toes!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Not defending her at all, but to your point about ghosts leaving the house once it’s torn down, the only example I can think of is Clifton Webb, who supposedly haunted his beloved estate on Rexford Drive until it was demolished, whereupon he moved his haunting act to the halls of the Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum where he is interred. At least, according to the books.

  6. d.w. says:

    Olive Thomas, Jack’s wife passed away in Paris.
    I believe Mary wasn’t happy that Jack married Olive.

  7. Lisa says:

    A laughing ghost? IF there was a ghost on the premises and it was in a good mood, then where is the threat? People have lived in haunted dwellings and gotten used to the activity, so long as nothing was terribly disturbing.
    If it was that much of a nuisance, it would have been easy to sell Pickfair for a pretty penny. A historical dwelling AND it’s haunted. There are many people who would have been happy to keep it as it was.
    Although, it’s more likely that Pia Zadora is making a weak attempt at excusing poor judgement, while hoping to get her name publicized once again.

  8. Jim Davis says:

    sad pathetic talentless Pia Zadora – must have a CD coming out – Pia Sings Rusty Warren

  9. Barry Lane says:

    Jim Davis–

    Yes, to your thought.

  10. landman says:

    This is too nauseating to read about the “nothing” Pia!! What a likely story about Pickfair. If it was that bad, why not sell it and move? That mansion should still be standing as an icon to Hollywood old Style. New mansions can be built anywhere, but not on the precious site of the once great estate of Mary Pickford! Shame shame shame on you Pia!!!!!!!!

  11. Tracy says:

    Great story Allan. Pia Zadora will go down in Hollywood History as one who destroyed Hollywood history. It’s as sad as Pia’s shelf life as an actress.

  12. Josh says:

    I actually taught piano lessons to Pia’s daughter a few times at the new house. Back in the early 2000’s.

    Pia was very nice, but I was indeed shocked that she razed the entire historic property that was the original Pickfair! Real shame.

    The interior of the new place is totally devoid of all charm and grace that I’m sure the original home had.

  13. Katie says:

    As someone with a particular interest in the paranormal, I find the destruction of this home appalling. Pia Zadora should really be ashamed of herself (honestly, for a number of reasons). She had something wonderful and one-of-a-kind, and she tore it apart like a petulant child. I kind of hope she ends up in a tenement.

  14. rockandrollmom says:

    I am only 50 years old, but I loved the classic, great actors. I had the Hollywood dream, itch to go there, explore. I’d met DF Jr while working @ a local TV station in FL. Pickfair was always a dream destination, it held much magic. It had held the love affair of Hollywood’s sweethearts. To make a very long story short, I was there during the 1984 Olympic’s. A director pal asked me to go see the women’s basketball competition @ The Forum. He picked me up in a limo (thrilling of course for a young girl, would have been enough!) then said we were picking up his friend. When I saw the gates that said Pickfair I almost had a heart attack! We were picking up Jerry Buss! I was gobsmacked to say the least! I remember being impressed with first the kitchen. I was shown several rooms, my memory is a bit cloudy as I was so in awe to actually be there, but I feel like I remember a circus room or wall paper looking like that?? I remember going up to Jerry’e suite for a few short minutes. His what, man servant?? showed us up. I remember him helping him with his jacket and brushing it off. Also scoffing & giggling to myself a little @ that pomp, lol. I asked if they’d excuse me as I’d love to see the grounds. I walked way out to where the pool was and the rose gardens. Not sure if it was where Ms Pickford had her’s originally. But it was beautiful & magical. I just stood there drinking it all in. Imagining the people that had walked where I was standing. I felt exhilerated and blessed to have experienced my dream visit without ever even having asked. It was so karmically cool. I know it was just a house, and the actors were but human. But omg, it was spectacular. And I remember almost bursting into tears when I read Pia Zadora had it torn down. Let me tell you, when I was there in 1984, the place looked immaculate. A wonderful, grand house & home. Lost forever. Shame on you Pia. Jerry never should have sold it to them. Thanks for hearing my small part of Pickfair memories.

  15. Diane M says:

    I think all your tidbits of Hollywood History would make a great book. Yes?!

  16. Kayte says:

    Wow a talentless actress with a delusional mind how sad to tear down such a beautiful house with such history

  17. Cindy says:

    Perhaps the spirit was attached to one of them, and tearing down a house won’t rid them of it. Kinda LAME !

  18. Greg M says:

    “Actress Pia Zadora and her husband, Meshulam Riklis, then bought the house and started refurbishing but soon learned that the house had to be torn down, due to termites. The house was subsequently rebuilt but needs renovating again, real estate sources say.

    There are 17 bedrooms and 30 bathrooms in Pickfair. There are elevators, a ballroom, a glass-domed spa, a gym, a home theater, a disco and parking for 30 cars. The house sits on 2.7 acres.”


  19. Greg M says:

    So many historic homes were lost in the 80’s and 90’s. Throughout that period, foreign-born Israelis like Riklis (Turkey) were buying BH mansions and doing this same thing. Homes were being razed and hideous, trashy new ones were being built right to the property lines. The uproar reached a peak when this same thing happened to the Dorsey brothers estate… a tragic loss due to an idiot with no American history in his blood but who had lots of money.

    That was the last straw for the BH city council, which finally passed a law requiring owners to apply for a permit before substantially altering any structure in certain areas of town. I hope it has stopped the insanity.

  20. Although I have searched all over the next, I couldn’t find anything on Buddy Rogers’ (he died in 1999) reaction to the demolition of Pickfair or claims of haunting there; other then a hearsay report saying he saw Mary’s apparition there? Does anyone having anything more specific on what he did or might have known about Pickfair having ghost problems? It’s very strange also he didn’t write an autobiography (at least if he did I am not aware of it.)

  21. brin gaines says:

    I would have sold Pickfair. Some people do not feel the presence of spirits in the way others may. I have felt their presence and seen them, but am still not sure of what happened. We lived in a house where I believe a spirit (the builder) was trapped or wanted to be there. All I remember (at the age of 16) was that it changed my father ( a horrible mean person) into a lovable father figure for the short time we lived there. This spirit tormented my father. When we moved ( out of fear) my father went back to his horrible self. I will never understand what happened and if it really effected my father.

  22. Garbo says:

    You know good & well she never had any interest in living in Pickfair. She destroyed an irreplaceable piece of Hollywood history & is still catching grief about it to this day… as she should. She just brought it up to get a little publicity for herself. I’m sorry but a person who would build the current tacky & gaudy home would never be interested in Pickfair except to raze it. She should have kept the termites excuse bc at least that was a bit more believable. I’m not saying that ghosts weren’t there but destroying the home wouldn’t do much. It was an old home & termites could have done unfixable damage but she went with an excuse as outlandish as the new home. She basically destroyed the west coast White House.

  23. Meloni says:

    Jerry did not live in a wreak of a house – pickfair was history. I believe Pia and her husband are liars when they said they leveled it because of ghosts. If that were true they should have done the decent thing and moved and saved the house as a part of history. It sure looks ugly now…

  24. mark says:


  25. Alan R. Henry says:

    Bad judgement by people with no love of history. Money rules their lives. I agree, if you don’t want to keep the house, go somewhere undeveloped and build your dream McMansion.

  26. History Lover says:

    Trash with cash, destroying an iconic landmark. What’s new?
    Seen any of the fugly, modern, oversized, boxes “developers” build in L.A. for millions now?
    Guess that vulgar dump they replaced Pickfair with, fixed everything. Hmm?
    Taste, class & historical preservation mean nothing to current robots who can’t get their noses out of their “stupid-phones” even when having dinner with friends and/or family. Enjoy your “smarthouses” when your kids are grown enough to ignore you.
    Cats-in-a-Cradle lyrics may never cease to apply.

  27. W. O’Hara says:

    “Mark”. In regards your clumsy attempt at shaming some of the vitriolic comments on here, I could not disagree with you more. People commenting here are clearly fascinated by history. Pia Zadora and her husband were public figures, making public statements about a decision that affects many interested parties. Movie fans, Hollywood historians. It was not “just a house” to them, even if it wasn’t their property. They are angry, justifiably so, that history can be so callously disregarded. It is a public issue, like it or not, and free speech allows people to express their disappointment about an irreplaceable loss. You want to feel smug and judgementsal, fine, that’s your business, but it seems to me that you are being dismissive and patronizing about sincere statements of regret and anger. Don’t they count as much as Pia Zadora’s sense of embarrassment? Food for thought.


  28. Sessa Dianne says:

    Let me say this – I spent a significant amount of time at Pickfair in my youth, as I was friends with Jerry Buss’ son. While I disagree completely with the house being demolished, it absolutely WAS haunted – undoubtedly. So many things happened, day and night in front of many people. The Buss’ knew it was haunted. I will also say this – I was very unhappy that it was torn down, as previously stated it was a landmark of Hollywood history. It was also beautiful with hand-painted art filled ceilings and beautiful details. In any case, if you were never inside the home, you don’t know, do you?

  29. Sascha Carter says:

    I have only just come across this story whilst researching Mary Pickford. How utterly awful that a glorious, historic mansion like that should be destroyed. From my research, Pickford herself spoke of hauntings, and I wonder if Zadora knew that this would go some way in explaining her vandalism. However, others say that this was not the case. Whatever, wouldn’t it be marvellous if that great house still stood and was perhaps renovated (by someone with a brain cell and taste) and opened to the public, or at least kept for the nation?
    I am British and adore old Hollywood which I think is definitely due for a huge revival in interest. Surely a marvellous, atmospheric biopic could be made about these great old stars? And in a way, Pickfair live again………

  30. Kate says:

    A two bit golddiger tears down a Hollywood legend’s house. Disgusting.

  31. Susan says:

    Two bit whore looks like a street walker , no talent bimbo

    Kate, gold digger and whore, both nailed that! 🙂

  32. big o says:

    If theres a ghost there laughing or scary.How can you live
    there especially with young children.I couldnt live in the same house as a ghost

  33. orin gordon says:

    How can you live with a ghost in your house when you have small children.What else could she do if she wanted to stay there with her young children.

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