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Set Pieces: The 'Harry Loves Lisa' house

October 26, 2010 |  7:07 am


It's hard not to like "Harry Loves Lisa," the TV Land reality series about actors Harry Hamlin and wife Lisa Rinna. Though there is drama -- he blows auditions and she decides to have a lip reduction -- they are good parents and great friends who still remain easy on the eyes.

The couple's 5,000-square-foot hilltop home is equally attractive. With a lush Franco-Tuscan take on classic California decor that includes a romantic outdoor room, above, the house is so camera-ready it looks like a set decorator fluffed it.

"Absolutely not," said Hamlin, who once dreamed of being an architect or designer. "The only thing that might get fluffed around here is Lisa's hair."

In the mid-1980s, Hamlin bought the property, which was built in 1939 for James Roosevelt, brother of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. "It was kind of a dump," the actor said. Hamlin restored it, designing the outdoor living room around wisteria that was original to the property. 

In the fourth episode of "Harry Loves Lisa," which airs at 10 p.m. Wednesday, the couple celebrate their anniversary by rekindling the same beeswax candles that Hamlin had made for their wedding reception. (Is that sweet or what?)  

Hamlin furnished the outdoor space with a wicker sofa bought decades ago at Bountiful in Venice. New cushions were made at Rafael's on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood using a striped Sunbrella design found at Diamond Foam & Fabric. He collected the rustic tables from visits to the Rose Bowl Flea Market. The brass and copper table lamp has been in his family for generations. "It was sitting on a table in the living room of the Pasadena Craftsman house where I grew up," he said.

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Harryloves lisa copy "My first love has always been design," said Hamlin, who got "sidetracked" by theater, which he recalls in the memoir "Full Frontal Nudity," his recently released literary debut.

"I have a certain love for creating living spaces that are comfortable and interesting."

He also designed the interior of Belle Gray, Rinna's Sherman Oaks retail store.

"I went to Home Depot and built it myself," Hamlin said.

Rinna, likewise, has the decorating gene. She designed the family room L-shaped chenille sectional, shown behind the couple.

"It's from Sofa U Love," Hamlin said.

He purchased the twine-bound pottery lamp in Orange County while filming "Laguna Heat."

The portrait above the lamp is of the stallion Mambrino King, a famous trotter. The artwork was commissioned by Hamlin's great-great grandfather, who owned the horse.

The phone is a land line. "I don't like cordless phones," Hamlin said. "They don't work."


Harryloves lsas copy The formal living room of the house, left, has another painting of Mambrino King above the fireplace.

When they are interviewed on camera, "Modern Family" style, Harry and Lisa often sit on an ornately carved bench camelback with a cane back and arms, which is another Hamlin heirloom.

So does he gravitate to things with a connection to his family's past?

"Well," Hamlin said, laughing. "They are cheap."

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credits: TV Land


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Burton B. Roberts, model for judge in 'Bonfire of the Vanities,' dies at 88

October 25, 2010 | 10:21 am

Burton B. Roberts, the outspoken judge who was the model for the cranky jurist in "The Bonfire of the Vanities," has died in New York City. He was 88.

The Hebrew Home for the Aged in the Bronx said Monday that Roberts, a resident there, died Sunday.

Roberts spent a half-century in public service law as a prosecutor, judge and chief administrative judge in the Bronx.

Roberts was the model for Myron Kovitsky, a rare hero in Tom Wolfe's acclaimed novel "The Bonfire of the Vanities." Both the real and the fictional judges were famous for their tempers and rants from the bench.

But Roberts was also greatly admired for his compassion, his sense of justice and his legal acumen.

"He's one of the great figures in New York," Wolfe has said of Roberts, to whom "Bonfire" is dedicated. "Probably the greatest single figure I've run into."

Roberts' career began as a Manhattan prosecutor in 1949. He became Bronx district attorney in 1968 and a Bronx judge in 1973. He became the county's administrative judge in 1984. The position largely involved staffing, scheduling and assigning cases, but Roberts also occasionally presided over contentious trials and hearings.

One of the most notorious was the 1991 trial of Julio Gonzalez, who killed 87 people by setting fire to an illegal social club called Happy Land. With the courtroom packed full of sobbing, angry relatives — many of them Honduran immigrants — and reporters fighting over scarce seats, Roberts made a daily practice — at top volume — of lecturing lawyers, cutting off rambling witnesses and chewing out journalists for rustling their papers.

It was like a scene right out of "Bonfire."

"That case had to be run in a fashion so that both sides would receive a fair trial," Roberts said. "No histrionics. No emotion run amok. I know how to control the condition of a courtroom. I can be tough when it's important to be tough."

He left the court in 1998 at the mandatory retirement age of 76.

But retirement for the indefatigable Roberts lasted only about as long as other people's vacations. Three weeks after walking out of the courthouse, he walked into a new job in Manhattan at the heavyweight, politically connected law firm of Fischbein Badillo Wagner Harding.

It was the first time he had ever worked in the private sector. Yet within a year, he had turned his legal smarts into an incredible legal coup: He masterminded a successful effort to move from the Bronx to Albany the trial of four police officers charged in the notorious killing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant.

Roberts, working for the defense, argued that pretrial publicity made it impossible for the cops to get a fair trial in the very courthouse where he himself had worked for decades.

An appeals court agreed and took the exceedingly rare step of granting the change of venue from a mostly minority county to a mostly white county.

"If ever a case warranted this extreme remedy, this is it," Roberts said.

The officers eventually were acquitted.

Roberts held degrees from Cornell University School of Law and New York University School of Law. He served in the Army in Europe for two years during World War II.

He is survived by his wife, Gerhild. The couple had no children.

-- Associated Press