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BHC - Rey 110504

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    Profile of:
    Joyce Rey

    By John L. Seitz – Courier Managing Editor

          “I have such a passion for my work that spending ‘eight days a week’ doing it just feels natural,” so says Joyce Rey, one of Beverly Hills’ preeminent real estate mavens who this past summer reached her 30th anniversary in the business.
          Month after month, year after year, this executive director of Coldwell Banker’s Previews division continues her amazing run as the realtor of choice for an immense array of demanding movers and shakers in such diverse fields as entertainment, politics and industry.
          “I’ve never seen anyone with a rolodex like Joyce’s,” exclaimed one admiring competitor. “I marvel that she can get just about anybody on the phone.”
          It could be Donald Trump calling about Palos Verdes property one minute, Wolfgang Puck regarding a Brentwood house the next , and very possibly the Schwarzeneggers about a parcel in Pacific Palisades after that.
          Her virtual “who’s who” of celebrity clientele also includes Goldie Hawn, Sandra Bullock, Tom Jones, Lionel Richie, Andy Williams, Ivan Reitman, Donna Mills, David Foster, Linda Thompson and many others.
          Asked about the challenges in dealing with such high profile personages, Rey stated she had learned early on to listen carefully to her clients, and bring out their individual needs, tastes and desires, regardless of what line of work they may be in. Once all that information has been vetted, matching them to their “perfect” dream home was so much simpler.
          Privacy and security are usually the prime cravings among the celebrity set so the realtor must have an acute awareness of landscaping and setbacks on the property for those who wish to evade the prying tour buses.
          Another difficulty in serving top movie and TV stars is an inate ability to surmount or convince a virtual army of lawyers, agents, business managers, and personal assistants - all of whom have an opinion about a possible house purchase and are not afraid to express it.
          “When I was starting out, you had more of a one-on-one contact. In fact, the late Lee Strasberg, founder of the Actors’ Studio, introduced me to Shelley Winters who became probably my initial real major star buyer and was a real kick,” said Rey. “The very first time I showed her a property in Beverly Hills, she suddenly dropped her mumu and dove au natural into the swimming pool to test it out.
          “Shelley must have liked the pool for she ended up buying the house.”
          Thoughout her life, Rey seemingly has made a success out of just about everything she’s tried, but it has never been easy!
          Born in Hollywood, she grew up in Orange County as the adopted daughter of Frank and Dorothy Bowman. Her attorney father, who was the long-time president of the Santa Ana City School District, died suddenly when she was 17-years old. Virtually overnight, her idealic childhood was turned inside out and the family struggled to make ends meet.
          Hitting the books hard, Rey graduated from high school with honors and was awarded a scholarship to the University of Southern California from which she earned bachelor of science and masters’ degrees. She also earned Phi Beta Kappa honors one year.
          She supplemented her college income as a sales clerk at Bullocks Wilshire, and as a Disneyland ticket taker “since the position of ‘Snow White’ was already spoken for.”
          Rey stated though her original ambition was to become a fulltime school teacher, her stint as a teaching assistant in USC’s Graduate School of Business ushered in a whole new chapter of her life.
          “I really loved this exposure to what for me was an all-new world of business and commerce,” she said. “Fortunately, I was able to combine it with my experience in the education field.”
          Once out of college, Rey taught business law classes and became a master training teacher in south Los Angeles, recruiting and tutoring educators for Manuel Arts and Dorsey high schools.
          Along with several other teachers, she was hired as a part-time, holiday and summer stewardess by Western Airlines. While on a vacation pass during a Thanksgiving 1968 flight to Acapulco, she met her late husband, actor Alejandro Rey, then co-starring with Sally Field in the hit TV series The Flying Nun.
          “I was very flattered because he moved from his seat in first class to join me in the coach section,” she said.
          The pair were married six months later with their 10-year long union producing a son, Brandon, who is now in the mortgage business on the Westside.
          After first living in the Sunset Plaza area and renting on Coldwater Canyon, the Reys purchased the Angelo Dr. home in Beverly Hills where Joyce has resided since 1974. The next year she took time off to become travel and appointments’ secretary to former Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown.
          Her friend, former actress Letinzia Gelles, suggested she would do very well in the real estate arena and proceeded to introduce her to Beverly Hills’ realtor Jack Hupp.
          After teaching herself and passing the state’s realty exam, she got her sales license and joined the Hupp organization, remaining there until 1979.
          “I soon discovered house hunting and house selling were a breed apart. The business was certainly not as easy as it looked,” she admitted.
          “One of the first escrows I worked on fell through when the buyers divorced right in the middle of it. Another of my early clients, a lawyer, sold his home, then decided not to, and backed out of the contract.”
          Still, it was during this period that the Joyce Rey “legend” took hold.
          “In 1978, I got a listing on the former Sonny and Cher Bono house in Holmby Hills,” Rey explained, “The price was set at $2.5 million, a huge number in those days - in fact the highest ever on the Westside - and there was a lot of interest.”
          One famous British rock star loved the place and came up with a virtual full-price bid but her clients, the sellers, happened to be vacationing in Europe.
          “As I eagerly forwarded the offer to them, it was just thrilling to have pulled off what I thought would be my first real big coup,” she continued.
          Much to her shock, however, the clients not only turned down the offer but decided to take the house off the market so they could reprice it at an astonishing $4.5 million.
          “I didn’t realize it at the time but that turned out to be the biggest break of my career as the home ended up selling quite soon for $4.2 million,” said Rey. “Surprising as it may seem based on today’s standards, this was the highest priced house ever sold in the United States - and by more than $2 million.”
          That one sale, together with the passage of California’s Proposition 13 and the arrival of many emigresfrom foreign lands the same year, literally revolutionized the real estate business, especially in Beverly Hills and the Westside of Los Angeles. Prices escalated to unheard of heights for the next dozen years.
          In 1979, she teamed up with Harleigh Sandler who at the time had a major residential real estate operation with dozens of offices. Together, they formed Rodeo Realty, the nation’s first “estates” firm specializing in residential properties priced in excess of $1 million.
          The operation was an immediate success, prospered and then in 1983 sold to Merrill Lynch.
          “Harleigh convinced me to take a percentage of the gross rather than equity position which turned out to be my single biggest mistake,” claims Rey.
          “That’s why Harleigh could retire at an early age and I’m still working. You live and learn.”
          Rodeo Realty was subsequently sold to Prudential in 1990. The firm then merged with Jon Douglas in 1995 and then became part of the Coldwell Banker empire and its Previews Division seven years ago.
          Through all those transitions and name changes, Rey has maintained her same Rodeo Realty door and time-honored desk.
          But she claims the business itself is definitely different thanks to the advent of internet, fax machines, computers and the ever-present cell phones have made a definitive impact.
          “When I started, every contract was usually a single page. Now because of litigation concerns, each one runs 20 or more with all the required disclosures, hazard items and the deposit receipts.”
          However, none of this red tape has slowed her down. She represented the highest recorded real estate transaction in Bel-Air for a decade, and three years ago closed a $29 million Beverly Hills listing, the highest sale in The City for that year.
          Rey is a four time recipient of the Pinnacle Award given to the top 10 real estate professionals nationwide; and one year was number one out of 34,000 Coldwell Banker sales agents.
          More honors were being named to the Mirabella 1000 as one of the most influential women in the USA; “Business Woman of the Year” by the Los Angeles Business Council; and the ADL’s Deborah Award.
          She has lectured before the National Association of Realtors, Women’s National Congress, YPO Graduate Forum and the Governor’s Conference for Women.
          Her memberships include Los Angeles Library Foundation, the Music Center Blue Ribbon, LA Alive, American Cancer Society’s California Spirit, the International Noel Foundation, and Children Uniting Nations from which she was selected as “Mentor of the year.”
          “I have been a long-time supporter of the Venice Art Walk and the Venice Family Clinic,” said Rey. “But probably the most special of all to me is the St. Joseph’s Center Child Care and Parenting program.”
          For the past 18 years, she and her friends, Cecelia and Clifford Waeschle, each November have raised scholarship funds for the center which benefits young children of the homeless and working poor. Last year’s dinner at Il Cielo Restaurant on Burton Way raised more than $32,000. (The next one is scheduled Tuesday, November 9.)
          “This usually falls on my birthday and I’m honored so many friends come together to assist St. Joseph’s Center,” Rey explained.
          A devotee of yoga, water skiing and hiking, she allows herself one foreign trip annually which has taken her to Sardinia, St. Tropez, Scotland, and a favorite Mexican destination, Careyas, and every August heads to Idaho for the Sun Valley Writers Weekend.
          A long-time, personal friend of Sen. John Kerry, she attended the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
          “It’s been a sensational life and I’ve met so many interesting people along the way,” Rey commented. “If I’ve been successful in this business, it’s because I love it and have always tried to put my clients’ best interests first.
          Obviously, for Joyce Rey, that formula has worked like a charm.

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