Forbidden Passion At Greystone Mansion?

As February is the time we celebrate the triumphs of love, I thought perhaps to examine when love  (or the scandal of love)goes awry.

Perched haughtily above Beverly Hills sits the imperious Greystone Mansion, this mock Tudor pile seems immune to time, and to scandal; yet in 1929, only a few days after Valentine’s Day, a bloody murder -suicide was committed leaving  both Master and servant dead.


ca. 1930

On February 16th 1929 Edward (Ned) L. Doheny Jr., son to the oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny Sr was left dead and  bloodied on the floor of the ground floor guest room, his chauffeur/personal secretary (Theodore) Hugh Plunkett also  lay dead.

Ned in foreground, Plunkett (face down) in the hall

image source

Edward L (Ned) Doheny Jr.

b. 6th November 1893

d. 16th February 1929

Theodore Hugh Plunkett

b.28th March 1895

d. 16th February 1929

Almost from the beginning scandal ensued, was this some lingering repercussion to the Teapot Dome scandal which seemed to implicate the senior Doheny? Had Plunkett succumbed to madness? Or was the relationship between the two more then platonic? a jealous rage? implicating  perhaps even Ned’s wife Lucy?

I don’t know.

Beverly Hills doesn’t seem very interested in uncovering what happened. The facts seem shady, and the case seems quite cold.

What I do know is that in the first floor guest room where the  incident occurred, there exists a decorative tile wall mural that certainly incriminates. The panel situated  in the  adjacent bathroom, is oddly perverse.

Decorative Wall Panel

situated in bath adjacent to first floor guest room

Greystone, Beverly Hills

image taken by author

What seems at first glance to be a rather awful bit of Neo- Renaissance fluff,  upon closer examination reveals quite a bit of blatant homoeroticism.

This detail offers a closer look:

detail of mural

It is difficult to ignore the priapic herm perpetually ejaculating.

Was there really no other suitable decorative panel?

Why two male herms?

The female winged beings ( uncomfortably close to the action) mere tokens of respectability?

When I first stumbled upon the murals I immediately brought it to the attention of The Friends of Greystone, an organization devoted to preserving the house; they hadn’t noticed the mural. I was incredulous, I felt the mural  clearly indicated some deeper explanation of the relationship Doheny and Plunkett shared. I had been told that the guest room was actually used by Plunkett to fulfill his duties as  personal secretary to Mr. Doheny. Why would such sexual imagery be chosen for a mere employee?

The house is loaded with these tile murals, I worked as a decorative painter at Greystone for a Designer Showcase a few years back;I had full access to many of the nooks and crannies found within the house . But I hadn’t found another  tile panel with such blatantly erotic imagery.

I of course was no closer to understanding what really happened that evening then those before me, many have written about the incident, I recommend this USC link as an introduction.

What the mural did do was provide artistic inspiration for my decorative contribution to the designer showcase. I found the exoticism (eroticism) of the panels suitable for the decadent atmosphere we were looking to achieve.

Who ever picked out that naughty panel?


Decorative Wall Panels by the Author

Oil painting, early 20th cent., artist unknown.

If interested, the  poor fellows are buried quite close to one another at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale; as to be expected,  Ned\’s memorial is far grander then  Hugh. What is interesting is that Doheny, of the deeply devout Catholic Doheny clan, is buried in a secular cemetery. What sin kept him out of sacred ground?

With that,

Good Night,

Babylon Baroque

8 Responses to “Forbidden Passion At Greystone Mansion?”

  1. LOVE your interpretation! Gorgeous! And you managed to get rid of those menacing harpies trying to interrupt our boys!

    You’re so very talented, Leonard! bravo!

  2. babylonbaroque Says:

    You are the best!
    And yes about those menacing harpies 🙂

  3. Deliciously interesting as always.

  4. stella-rondo Says:

    Isn’t the tile border kinda obvious as well? Maybe my mind is just playing seek-n-find, but it sure looks like a repeating pattern of someone lying on a green pillow with buns in the air. Or maybe a cigar is only a cigar.

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      I think you are correct, I too see some sort of polymorphous-perverse ornament going about.
      I don’t believe a cigar is ever a cigar:)

  5. that was very keen observation and an interesting piece…keep them coming! 😀

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