February 23, 2016
Giving It Away: Big Lebowski House Promised To Los Angeles County Museum Of Art

You can't take it with you, and the owner of the Big Lebowski house isn't even going to try. On February 17, fashion-forward real estate mogul and art collector James F. Goldstein announced his intention to bequeath his home and its contents to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. So what, you ask? It's not just any old house. The place he's leaving to LACMA is a movie star.

Located on Angelo View Drive in Los Angeles' posh Beverly Crest neighborhood, the gravity-defying residence features prominently in the Coen Brothers' cult classic, The Big Lebowski. The hillside habitat also made more than a cameo appearance with Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz in the 2003 cinematic romp, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. As if that were not a glamorous enough pedigree, the modern architectural marvel has also been the setting for a number of high-end fashion photography shoots.

"For me it ranks as one of the most important houses in all of L.A. and as one of the most L.A. houses, because of its connection to the view, that long view toward the ocean," LACMA museum director Michael Govan told the L.A. Times.

Designed by architect John Lautner in the early 1960s, the futuristic home, party venue and Big Lebowski movie set was built in Frank Lloyd Wright's oh-so-recognizable American Organic Architecture style. Lautner was an early apprentice and dedicated protege of the famed 20th century architect.

Known in architectural circles as the Sheats-Goldstein residence, the marvelously modernistic glass, steel and concrete Big Lebowski house offers a sky-high panorama of the city below. In addition to its movie-worthy view, the 4,500 square foot home boasts a triangular swimming pool with underwater windows, a private nightclub dubbed Club James and a coffered ceiling that streams sunshine and moonlight into the living room by way of some 750 skylights made entirely of drinking glasses.

Future philanthropist James Goldstein paid $185,000 for the five bedroom, four and a half bath home in 1972. Although a mere 11 years old, the house and property were on a definite decline. Shortly after purchasing the run-down residence, the new owner started making repairs and improvements that continue to this day.

Goldstein installed hundreds of tropical plants and hired the home's original architect to "perfect" the property. Lautner's involvement with renovating and remodeling what would eventually become the Big Lebowski house lasted more than two decades, until his death in 1994. Lautner's final design contribution, a sizable entertainment annex inspired by the main house, is still under construction as of February 2016.

Upon hearing about Goldstein's intention to bequeath the Big Lebowski house to the Miracle-Mile museum and gallery, actor Jeff Bridges, better known to Coen Brothers fans as "The Dude," expressed his delight to Chi-Yong Kim, editor at LACMA Unframed.
"How wonderful, James Goldstein gifting Jackie Treehorn's house to LACMA. What a present! Architect John Lautner was one of the greats. I sure wish Ben Gazzara was around to celebrate."
Gazzara, who passed away in 2012, perfectly portrayed sleazebag loan shark and pornographer Jackie Treehorn in the offbeat 1998 film that also starred John Goodman, Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi and David Huddleston as the bigger of two Lebowskis.

In addition to the Big Lebowski house, James Goldstein's generous posthumous gift to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will include an extensive art and fashion collection, John Lautner's architectural models of the house and a 1961 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Even without the pricey car and priceless artwork, the mid-century marvel is valued at more than $40 million, according to Fortune.

At the time of this writing, James Goldstein has no plans to move out of his glass-walled, hill-hugging home, but did say that he will allow LACMA to offer occasional tours of the celebrated Big Lebowski house for as long as he continues to live there.

[Image via Polygram Filmed Entertainment, Working Title Films]