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Nicholson, Beatty & Brando: The Bad Boys of Mulholland Drive

Steve Palace
Image by Getty

The street names of Hollywood have become as famous as the movies the community is known for. While Mulholland Drive was immortalized in 2001 as the location of a surreal mystery thriller by David Lynch, the actual Drive played host to its own saga of debauchery and nightmares.

In the 1970s Mulholland Drive became associated with not one, not two, but three legendary Tinseltown hellraisers: Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and Marlon Brando. The street was actually renamed “Bad Boy Drive” in their somewhat dubious honor.

Mulholland Drive signpost.

Mulholland Drive signpost.

All were famous for a catalog of outrageous exploits, but the men themselves were arguably very different. Nicholson reportedly ran an open house, bought with the proceeds from the drug-fueled yet generation-defining road movie Easy Rider (1969).

In a 2009 article for the Express, promoting author Richard Sellers’ book Bad Boy Drive, Nicholson’s unusual approach to housewarming was revealed, where he “spent three months walking around completely naked from dawn till sunset whether he had visitors or not.”

Jack Nicholson signing autographs at a ceremony for Dennis Hopper to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo by Angela George CC BY-SA 3.0

Jack Nicholson signing autographs at a ceremony for Dennis Hopper to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo by Angela George CC BY-SA 3.0

The laid-back star had no shortage of callers, drawn to the secluded nature of the property. It was “Tucked away in a private canyon” and soon became “the epicentre of the era’s drug-soaked social scene… its owner has described it as a ‘goofy little tiny mountain cabin.’”

However, the decadent vibe turned dark during a visit by director Roman Polanski in 1977. Polanski brought with him an underage model and the result was a situation where he fled the United States, following charges of rape.

Roman Polanski in Paris at the lunch of the César awards nominees. Photo by Georges Biard CC BY-SA 3.0

Roman Polanski in Paris at the lunch of the César awards nominees. Photo by Georges Biard CC BY-SA 3.0

On a lighter note, Marlon Brando was known to drop by for a snack or two. It was something he found difficult in his own place, owing to the lock he’d placed on his own fridge. Brando had to be forcibly separated from food and constantly battled his cravings. When Jack went out for a stroll, Marlon went in for a bite.

Marlon Brando. Photo Lou Wolf49 -Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Marlon Brando. Photo Lou Wolf49 -Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Unlike Nicholson with his welcoming hideaway, Brando lived in what was described as a “fortress, protected by vicious dogs and armed guards.” It was probably appropriate, as the house saw some violent behavior over the years. As with Nicholson and Beatty, Brando was a womanizer, but his romantic inclinations would sometimes produce disastrous consequences. His relationship with actress Rita Moreno being a case in point.

Rita Moreno, 1963. Photo by Jac. de Nijs / Anefo – Nationaal Archief CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

Rita Moreno, 1963. Photo by Jac. de Nijs / Anefo – Nationaal Archief CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

A 2017 Vanity Fair article quoted Moreno, who talked about her dramatic association with the master method actor. She said that “meeting him that first day sent my body temperature skyrocketing as though I had been dropped into a very hot bath… He broke my heart and came close to crushing my very spirit with his physical infidelities and, worse, with his emotional betrayals.”

Cruising at night in Los Angeles it can get confusing which way to go at some of these intersections.

Cruising at night in Los Angeles it can get confusing which way to go at some of these intersections.

Brando was already cheating on his first wife Anna Kashfi. When he decided to move on from Moreno however, he got more than he bargained for. The devastated actress “tried to kill herself on his doorstep,” according to the Express.

Even worse was to come in the shape of a tragic homicide at the house involving two of Brando’s children, Christian and Cheyenne. Believing Cheyenne was being abused by fiancé Dag Drollet, Christian shot and killed him in 1990. The bride to be was reportedly suffering from mental health issues, and Christian claimed what happened was an accident. He received a five year sentence for manslaughter.

Jack Nicholson Mulholland Drive Estate – a modest 4 BR 3 BA 3303 square foot home. He is known to jump from the second floor balcony directly into the pool, and loves to smack golf balls into the canyon below. Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images

Jack Nicholson Mulholland Drive Estate – a modest 4 BR 3 BA 3303 square foot home. He is known to jump from the second floor balcony directly into the pool, and loves to smack golf balls into the canyon below. Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images

Whereas Nicholson was comfortable in his unconventional domestic environment and Brando put up walls to keep people out, Warren Beatty was less of a homebird. He’d resided in hotels before heading to Mulholland Drive. The Express mentions that he “moved to number 13671 in the mid-Seventies to be near his pal Nicholson.”

Scenes from the movie Bonnie and Clyde with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Produced by Warner Brothers Studios. Getty Images

Scenes from the movie Bonnie and Clyde with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Produced by Warner Brothers Studios. Getty Images

There are serial seducers and then there’s Warren Beatty. Biography.com states he “has been linked to numerous co-stars and other celebrities. He had a romance with Natalie Wood, whom he’d met while filming Splendor in the Grass.” That ended when Beatty skipped dinner with Wood to have a 3 day romp with an employee of the restaurant they were in.

Biography writes he has “created a lasting legacy for his many dalliances with his leading ladies and other high-profile women.” His eventual settling down with Annette Bening, coupled with Brando’s passing, has left Nicholson the last of the so-called Bad Boy trio.

Read another story from us: Glitz, Glamour and Debauchery – Inside the Legendary Chateau Marmont

Mulholland Drive is a less exciting place now. But listen carefully and you may hear the echoes of former triumphs and tragedies, generated by these three extraordinary individuals.