This story is too good to be true, and I doubt I have all the details right. So my apologies to Bert Fields if I have it wrong . . . to his now or one-time neighbor . . . and to the biographer who wrote this anecdote in the first place (and deserves credit for it, if he did). This whole thing comes from the memory of a friend who says she read it in a book called The Sunset Bomber, which appears to be out of print. Yes, with time I could research all this, but the story is, ultimately, harmless enough and — who cares. So here it is. Even in Malibu this couldn’t be true. Could it?
It seems that famous Hollywood lawyer/agent Bert Fields had (has?) a home in Malibu.
In much of Malibu, the homes are very, very close together, side by side (and squeezed in the other two directions by the Pacific Coast Highway at their portals and the Pacific Ocean at their pools). This is precarious, expensive living, to say the least.
Anyway, one day, Bert got a call from his new neighbor informing him that Bert’s house had been built too wide, and encroached on his neighbor’s property by half an inch. Bert would have to tear his house down or make some sort of huge settlement.
Instead, Bert shaved his house down by half an inch. Literally: some kind of grinder grinding half an inch of stucko into dust. (Remember: I’m not saying I have this story 100% accurate. This is, supposedly, the gist.)
Can you imagine?
So now, a few months later, Bert runs into his neighbor at a party. The neighbor says something like, “Well, sorry we had that little problem, but it’s nice to have it behind us.”
“Not exactly,” says Bert.
“What do you mean, ‘not exactly?'” asks the neighbor.
“I had my house shaved three-quarters of an inch, and you built yours right up flush to it. Your house is encroaching a quarter inch onto my property.”
Supposedly, this is all true. Supposedly, the neighbor had to pay a large cash settlement in order to keep that quarter inch.
So maybe it’s not precisely true. Neither was Titanic. This is Hollywood.
(I assume one of you, if not Bert himself, will fill us all in on the real story. By all means — bring it on!)