While the new decade has only just begun, Bill Maher has wasted no time in securing himself a quiet retreat to enjoy the Roaring Twenties redux, free from the typical L.A. bustle. The stand-up comic and longtime TV host forked over exactly $1 million for a cozy vacation pad within a gated community in Avalon, Calif., on fabled Catalina Island.
Since the 1920s, when it was first developed as a tourist destination by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., Catalina has been a magnet for visitors from all walks of life. The 22-mile-long island lies only an hour by ferry or 15 minutes by helicopter from Long Beach, and is home to all manner of wildlife, including a bison herd and bald eagles. Most of the land is administered by the Catalina Island Conservancy, while nearly all of the island’s roughly 4,000 residents live in the town of Avalon. There are very few cars on the island — and the ones there are mostly of the offbeat variety — as most residents travel strictly by golf cart or on foot, something unheard-of in SoCal.
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The Catalina pied-a-terre in question is located about 1.5 miles north of the epicenter of Avalon, in a gated neighborhood known as Hamilton Cove. Here there are several condo complexes, most of them developed in the early 90s and all constructed in a vaguely Southwestern style, with red tile roofs and whitewashed walls.
Maher’s new two bed, one-and-three-quarters bath condo is an ideal size for the lifetime bachelor, of course. The 1,367 sq. ft. unit was built in 1991, records show, and was sold by a non-famous couple who had owned the property for many years. The unit does not appear to have ever been renovated — the interiors, while comfortable and roomy, are distinctly 90s in look and vibe. There are off-white tile countertops, wall-to-wall beige carpeting and medium-brown wood trim around the doors and windows.
A light-flooded living room has views over the rugged Catalina mountains and opens to long, narrow deck with picturesque vistas of the ocean. Just beyond is a formal dining area attached to the petite kitchen, which offers medium-grade stainless appliances and an eat-in breakfast bar. The master bedroom is relatively spacious and opens — via French doors — to the same balcony, while the master bath has dual vanities and a somewhat compact built-in soaking tub. There’s also a guest bath and a secondary bedroom that could easily be converted into an office or media room of some form. Best of all, the unit transferred with a deeded parking space for a golf court, a boon in this tightly-packed neighborhood.
Residents and visitors in Hamilton Cove also have access to a variety of communal amenities that include an ocean-view swimming pool, tennis courts, grassy lawns and a sandy volleyball court. For these and other resort-like features, Maher will shell out a not-inconsiderable $840 per month, according to listing details.
Although Catalina doesn’t sport many full-time celebrity residents, the island long ago earned its place in Hollywood lore. Marilyn Monroe briefly lived in Avalon during the 1940s, while married to her first husband, and Natalie Wood notoriously drowned under mysterious circumstances just off the coast of Two Harbors.
And when he’s not sunning himself on Catalina or off gallivanting in Hawaii, Maher primarily resides in the mountains above Beverly Hills, in an neighborhood known as Beverly Hills Post Office. His longtime estate sprawls across 3.2 acres, sports at least four separate ranch-style structures and encompasses three contiguous parcels, the largest of which was purchased from Ben Affleck back in 2003. One of Maher’s nearest neighbors is fellow comedian Amy Poehler, who happens to live directly across the road.
Launch Gallery: Bill Maher's Catalina Island House