Real estate is "the contemporary version of pornography, drugs, sex, rock and roll -- a subject of obsessive fascination," said author and chronicler of all things social Michael Gross in a sit-down interview with The Huffington Post.
The writer has just released his sixth book, "Unreal Estate," which covers 16 homes located in Los Angeles' Platinum Triangle -- Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills and Bel Air -- what Gross calls the bedroom communities of "the billionaire's belt."
In "Unreal Estate," the New York-born social historian takes on the Western Frontier like a modern day cowboy -- seeking, searching and taking no prisoners. His portrayal paints a gripping picture of what made Los Angeles what it is today.
"The thing that was so attractive about the history of L.A. is that it was open to anyone," Gross said. "All you needed was a dollar and a dream."
He begins the tome with an epic battle inside the gilded-walls of the elite real estate development, Beverly Park. The contenders? Actor Sylvester Stallone and Suge Knight, the co-founder of Death Row Records.
Apparently, Stallone found out that Knight was a potential buyer for a home in the neighborhood -- and that didn't settle well with the "Rocky" star. Sly's solution was to buy the property lot in question for "all cash," offering up $1 million more than Knight.
Gross' take on this? Suge Knight, with his criminal past and gangster rap affiliations, "was nothing new," he writes. "If you scratched the surface of LA -- you'd see Chicago, Hoffa, the descendants of Capone, the mob, and its pimps and murderers." In fact, Beverly Park was so beset with mob activity that it was once known as "Bottom Feeder Land." Since then, Beverly Park has become home to famous (but in their own right, controversial) faces such as Sumner Redstone, Barry Bonds, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Rod Stewart and two of Bravo's "Real Housewives."
Once called a "professional sh**-stirrer" by his former colleagues, Michael Gross has tackled upper-crust New York numerous times. His controversial bestsellers "740 Park" and "Rogues' Gallery" invited threats of libel lawsuits and were reviewed dismissively as lurid gossip by The New York Times.
Still, there's no denying that billionaire brawls and unresolved scandals permeate Beverly Hills, and Gross has made it his mission to expose it all. This town feeds on gossip -- call it social Manifest Destiny, if you will -- and whether it is Ned Doheny's unsolved death at Greystone, the history of the McCarthy salad at the Beverly Hills Hotel, or the alleged illegitimate daughter of Dolly Green, it is clear that the talk isn't going anywhere. Especially since it has been optioned by Joel Silver and HBO.
"Unreal Estate" is currently available through Random House.