In an effort to take you beyond the listings and the most interesting homes in America, I want to answer all the questions you have about a property—queries like “What celebrities lived there?” and “How much did the current owners pay for it?”
Occasionally those innocent inquiries lead to way juicier answers than I bargained for.
Listed for $3,795,000, the “iconic ranch is originally owned by Cecil B. DeMille,” notes the listing. The ranch is also “known for decades of film production, private celebrity music festivals, and weddings.”
The private property is surrounded by the Angeles National Forest, the listing adds. Also, the “property was overcome by a fire. The main structures burned and the areas are cleared, ready to be reimagined.”
This “piece of Hollywood history” clearly offered some fascinating nuggets to be mined. When I started looking into them, I found the details weren’t even close to what I’d imagined.
I sought to clarify which movies were shot on the ranch, how DeMille was connected to the property, and which movie stars spent time there. The questions were simple; the answers were anything but.
It should have been easy to find out when (or if) DeMille owned the ranch. But I couldn’t find any record of the famed film director owning a property at this address.
However, he did own a more prominent, 600-acre movie/equestrian ranch about 4 miles up Little Tujunga Canyon Road.
It’s possible that this 40-acre property could have been part of DeMille’s ranch and was sectioned off and sold at some point. This happens to be the current owner’s story—and she’s sticking to it.
While the theory does make sense, I couldn’t find information on any DeMille-style movies shot on the premises. All I could find were some Z-list pictures I hadn’t heard of, like “Bigfoot vs. D.B. Cooper” and “A Talking Cat!?!”
I reached out to the listing agent, Nathaniel Getzels of Compass, for more details.
Contains adult content
“Oh, yes,” he confirms. Movies were filmed on the property, but many were the kind not mentioned in polite conversations.
“Lots of things were shot there,” says Getzels. “In addition to Penthouse and Barely Legal stuff, they shot everything from unsolved mystery re-creations, to Hallmark Channel romance movies, to action and helicopter shots.”
The current owner said that when Tom Sizemore shot a movie there in 2005, he loved it and moved into the guesthouse, according to Getzels.
“Forget about the Tom Sizemore stuff,” I told Getzels. I wanted to know more about the ranch’s ties to more prurient material.
Ranch Indian Springs had ties to many of the greats in the adult entertainment industry, including Hugh Hefner, Bob Guccione, and Larry Flynt, Getzels says.
And to think I imagined that DeMille’s former ranch might have ties to Hollywood legends like Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg.
The real lowdown
As it turns out, Ranch Indian Springs was quite the production hub for adult entertainment. The current owner, Gail Thackray, wrote all about it in her book “Running With Wolves: A Woman’s Memoir of Sex, Scandal and Seduction.”
Much of what she writes about in the book took place at the ranch, which she’s reported to have purchased in 1991 for $73,320. These were among the more provocative excerpts from the online book summary:
- “How did a young girl from England end up owning the largest erotic library in the world? From creating a multi-million-dollar phone sex biz for the mob to shaking up Larry Flynt’s enterprise…”
- Gail shocks the world with her sexy tell-all book–from Playboy model to Hollywood Casting Couch to business mogul, to amassing an erotic library valued at $50 Million Dollars. (sic)
Ravaged by fire
Thackray eventually left her adult film past behind and became a spiritual guru hosting retreats on the ranch. Sadly, she told Getzels that much of that enormous erotic library and other footage shot there was destroyed in the 2017–18 Creek Fire, which devastated most of the ranch, including the studio.
A good portion of the property, which had become a popular production location and event venue, was destroyed. The main structures, including the ones that housed the archives and the studio, burned to the ground.
Now all that remains on the land are a two-bedroom cottage, possibly built in the 1920s; stables; a few outbuildings; and an additional house-type structure.
But the property’s natural features remain mostly intact, including private streams, hills, woodlands, horse corrals, bridges, and interior roads.
And because of the fire damage, the property is no longer permitted for most of its former commercial usage, as touted on the website RanchIndianSprings.com.
Ranch Indian Springs today
In light of that, I asked Getzels about the property’s $3,795,000 valuation. He says it’s in line with area comps. The property’s been on and off the market since June. The listing price was originally $3,995,000.
The agent reports quite a few people have expressed interest in the property, from rock stars to folks who want to use it for a religious retreat. Others have suggested operating a senior center there.
Getzels points out that the property’s privacy is unrivaled, as it’s surrounded by Angeles National Forest land.
“It’s hard for other people to get in there,” he says. “You can do whatever you want.”
It’s also located in an area known for horse ranches and is about a 30-minute drive to Hollywood and production studios, making it extremely convenient for entertainment production for all ages. Just know to expect the unexpected at this particular ranch.
As DeMille himself once said, “Legend rides high with history, but truth follows a lonely trail.”