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August 27, 2014

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LIVING LAS VEGAS:

‘Elvis House’ has a storied past but a sullied present

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Steve Marcus

The backyard of the Elvis House, 2520 Castlesands Way, has fallen into disrepair. The home was last listed for sale in March 2011 for $225,000 by Tiffany and Tandi Huizenga, who had tried to sell the property three years earlier for $877,000.

Penthouse suites, nightclubs and limos. They all have dark, sordid secrets in Las Vegas — but they’ve got nothing on the abandoned house near Eastern and Twain avenues.

Before it was littered with garbage and dog droppings, before the ceiling collapsed, before the front-yard cactus withered, before vandals ransacked the kitchen, the two-story home was a party pad, a place where Strip headliners, during the mob days, could hide from crowds and do what they want.

Lore has it that Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe and other celebrities stayed at 2520 Castlesands Way, that Middle Eastern renters later turned the stylish house into a brothel, that people stuffed cash into a drop-box upstairs to buy cocaine. Just a few years ago, some women from Atlanta tried to turn it into a swingers pad.

Built in the 1950s, the 3,300-square-foot home a few miles east of the Strip is ancient by local standards, its style and architecture a far cry from the cookie-cutter stucco residences that now blanket the valley. But that hasn’t stopped the property from rising and falling with the rest of the valley’s real estate market.

Its sales price almost tripled last decade, and the buyer tried to double that, a failed effort that ushered in a string of reductions that sunk the listing price almost 50 percent below what she paid. When the economy crashed, she came under heavy pressure from banks, filed for bankruptcy and, amid a heated feud with a neighbor, packed up and left.

Today, beer cans and bottles, candy wrappers, cigarette packs and other trash are strewn about the property. Crude fire pits have replaced expensive palm trees. The driveway gate and side gate are gone. The drained swimming pool has grimy water and trash at the bottom. A padlock hangs on the front door handle, but the door is unlocked. Neighbors say there probably aren’t squatters there, though police officers have swung by at least a few times to check.

The house hasn’t been listed for sale since spring 2011, about a year after the last people lived there.

“It’s one of those countless homes here that’s stuck in limbo,” local real estate agent Jack LeVine said.

The house is as unique as they come in Las Vegas, with slate tiles, glass block windows, lava-rock walls, a spiral staircase, a waterfall bathtub and tiered walls facing the street. The style seems a mix of mid-century modern, Southwest adobe and Middle Eastern fortress.

Much of its sordid past is all but impossible to verify, passed on by a recent occupant and others who know about the home. But even if a fraction of their tales are true, the house has a colorful and bizarre history fit for Las Vegas.

• • •

The home was built in 1954, county records show, a few years after the Sands opened on the Strip and a year before the Dunes. In 1962, Allen Stewart sold it to a company called Robello Inc., which may have had ties to casino developer Kirk Kerkorian.

LeVine, who specializes in older neighborhoods, has written that the former International Hotel, which Kerkorian opened in 1969, owned the house and used it as a secluded retreat for headliners. In homage to one purported guest, the residence is known as the “Elvis House,” according to LeVine.

In 1974, Joe Macchiaverna, a talented musician and poker player who wore a military gas mask at casino tables to protest smoking, bought the house for $50,000 at a foreclosure auction. In the late 1980s, he turned the land surrounding the home into the Macchiaverna Villas subdivision, selling the parcels to National Heritage Corp., which apparently built the new neighborhood.

Macchiaverna, a tough, well-dressed guy, moved out of the Elvis House by the late 1980s but rented it to others, including one person who kept 11 Great Danes on site, neighbors said.

Macchiaverna died in 1999, and his wife, Darlene, sold the property three years later for $154,900 to Michael and Kelly Michaels. In 2006, Michael Michaels, who is said to have been an Elvis impersonator, sold it for $435,000 to Tiffany Huizenga, who lived there with her then-domestic partner, Tandi Huizenga.

Much of the supposed debauchery happened during the Rat Pack days and with Macchiaverna’s renters, but the legend apparently lived on. A year or two after the Huizengas moved in, a trio of women from a swingers group offered to rent the house for $8,000 a month. The Huizengas, after hearing what the women planned to do there, refused.

• • •

The couple had bought the house near the peak of the boom years and spent about $150,000, maybe more, on upgrades and renovations, Tandi Huizenga said.

They also tried to sell for a big profit.

Click to enlarge photo

The Elvis House, 2520 Castlesands Way, sold for $50,000 at a foreclosure auction in 1974 and $435,000 in 2006.

The Huizengas listed the property in March 2008 for $877,000. They lowered the price to $700,000 just two months later and continued slashing it for the next three years. The last time it was listed, in March 2011, the price was $225,000.

Tiffany Huizenga obtained two loans in her name from Silver State Mortgage to finance her purchase — one for $87,000 and another for $348,000, county records show. Less than a year later, she also got a $162,000 mortgage from Countrywide Financial Corp.

As the economy worsened, so did her financial woes. In August 2008, a notice of default was filed against the property in connection with the bigger Silver State loan, and less than four months later, a foreclosure auction was scheduled. In March 2009, Huizenga filed for bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, Silver State lost its mortgage broker license and shut down in 2007; a year later, Bank of America bought Countrywide. As part of Huizenga’s bankruptcy, BofA obtained court approval in 2010 to foreclose on her house.

Clark County records, however, show that the property remains in Huizenga’s name.

• • •

Sam Pergola moved across the street from the Elvis House in 1987. The retired music teacher and Strip percussionist has heard about the celebrities who stayed there and wouldn’t be surprised if it had been a brothel at some point, too.

He also had a close-up view of the turmoil between the Huizengas and their next-door neighbor Zheng Mobley.

“They had a real feud going,” he said. “It was down and dirty.”

Court records show that a Metro Police officer arrested Mobley, also known as Zheng Mou, shortly after midnight on April 5, 2008, on charges that she intentionally damaged the Huizengas’ motor home. Tiffany Huizenga testified in court that she and Tandi had “ongoing incidences of harassment against us” by Mobley, and that they got her arrested for trespassing the same day Mobley allegedly threw rocks at their RV.

Mobley pleaded not guilty to a felony count of injuring or tampering with a vehicle and a felony count of destruction of private or public property. The case went to trial but was settled in May 2009, as Mobley paid her neighbors $1,000 in restitution, court records show.

A few months after she was arrested, Mobley sued the Huizengas in Clark County District Court. She claimed that her neighbors had dug dirt away from her foundation, planted trees next to her home, painted part of her house and drilled several holes into the side of her home to either anchor the trees or invade her privacy.

Mobley accused her next-door neighbors of calling the police, making false claims and verbally harassing her. One day in May 2008, according to the suit, Tiffany Huizenga followed her as she ran errands. At a CVS Pharmacy on Desert Inn Road, Huizenga allegedly tried to run Mobley over with her truck and, after she failed, punched and kicked Mobley until she “passed out.”

Mobley sought more than $40,000 in damages and a protective order against stalking and harassment, but District Judge Abbi Silver dismissed the case. Tiffany Huizenga did not return a call seeking comment for this article. Mobley, who still owns the house next door but apparently does not live there anymore, could not be located for comment.

• • •

Tandi Huizenga said she and Tiffany loved the house and wanted to retire there, but the disputes with Mobley were too much to handle and prevented them from being able to sell the place.

They moved out in 2010, and the house has been empty ever since.

“We just had to walk away,” she said.

Even though it’s abandoned, some people have looked into buying the house.

One Las Vegas man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, moved to the valley four years ago and wanted a unique house, not the usual Las Vegas cookie cutter. He eventually toured the Elvis House with a real estate agent. The home was a bit dated and needed some upgrades, but overall, it was in great shape.

He didn’t buy it, but still intrigued, he visited the home a few months ago. A door leading to the backyard was unlocked, and when he walked inside, he found the house had been trashed. The kitchen was stripped bare, there were gaping holes in the ceiling, and dog droppings covered the floors.

There’s no way he’d buy it now, and he’s not sure anyone else would, either.

“Who wants to take on a house that’s been allowed to decay to the point that this one has?” he asked. “It’s sort of sad.”

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