Every day at the Rialto Report, we get multiple requests to track someone down – and 99% of the time, it’s a female performer.
However there’s one search that we’ve been doing for years, and it’s not for an actress or indeed anyone from the adult film industry: We’ve been obsessed with finding the Italianate country mansion featured in Radley Metzger’s The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976). It’s a beautiful, sprawling property, and the epitome of a European country estate.
Except it isn’t in Europe.
And it isn’t even one estate.
In this Rialto Report, we finally visit the Misty Beethoven Roman mansion, and learn that it’s much closer to New York than Italy.
Use the sliding bar in many of the pictures below to see ‘before’ and ‘after’ views of the locations.
Big thanks to Jeff Mindham for his valuable and kind assistance with the article.
The Opening of Misty Beethoven
Longtime followers of The Rialto Report know that The Opening of Misty Beethoven is our favorite adult film. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s play ‘Pygmalion’ and its film adaption ‘My Fair Lady’, the movie tells the story of wealthy sexologist Dr. Seymour Love (played by Jamie Gillis) and his attempts to turn Dolores ‘Misty’ Beethoven – a common prostitute (played by Constance Money) – into a high-class courtesan fluent in sexual seduction.
After initial training in New York, Dr. Love brings Misty to a house in the countryside outside Rome to continue her carnal education. They drive up an elegant, tree-lined driveway that opens onto a long lane bordered by a 12-car garage on one side and a series of gothic-style porticos on the other. The porticos open onto a medieval cobblestone courtyard surrounded by an elegant country mansion made of traditional stone bricks. Whichever way the camera turns, classic architecture greets the eye.
The interior shots are no less dramatic: Expansive rooms with high vaulted ceilings, intricate inlaid wood, elaborate marble, ironwork, and large sun-drenched windows.
Over the years, we often asked Radley Metzger about the locations in ‘The Opening of Misty Beethoven’. We knew he traveled to New York, Paris and Rome to film it, but we wanted more details – and specifically where the beautiful country mansion was located.
Radley revealed that the mansion wasn’t in Rome or even Paris. It was stateside, in the wealthy summer community of Deal, New Jersey. Robert Kanner, a production manager on the film, had found the property early in pre-production, when the film was referred to simply as ‘Project 175’. When we pressed Radley for an address, or a clue that may reveal its exact location, he couldn’t remember any other details except for one: He’d heard a rumor that the house had been completely demolished a few years after the Misty Beethoven shoot.
Undeterred, we set about visiting the town of Deal, to see if we could find any clues.
Deal, New Jersey
Deal, New Jersey is an oceanfront community of just 1.3 square miles located a little more than an hour’s drive south of New York City. While only two miles north of Asbury Park, famed for a music scene that gave rise to Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny, Deal’s large mansions and wealthy residents make it feel a world away.
Founded in 1664, Deal took its name from a town in Kent, England from which the first settlers arrived. Up through the late 1800s, Deal was a modest farming & fishing village, but in the early 1900s, the area took a decided turn.
A landscape architect named Nathan Barrett and several partners observed that New York and New Jersey’s wealthier denizens appreciated the sun and surf of the Jersey shore but not the crowding and the hoi polloi. So the developers purchased much of Deal’s land and laid out a high-end residential community composed of imperial estates.
The town quickly become home to many of the most influential families of the time including Thomas Edison, F.W. Woolworth and the founders of Standard Oil, the first investment bank and Macy’s department store. Exceedingly wealth residents summered together, arranging garden parties, throwing charity events and generally enjoying what the have-nots lacked. By the 1970s, the exceptionally wealthy had given way to the merely rich, but to this day Deal still remains the 13th most expensive zip code in the United States.
Looking through local newspapers, we came across a short article entitled ‘Home in Movies’ in the Asbury Park Press newspaper from November 2, 1975. The article described how a local Rococo-style home called ‘Arcadia’ – belonging to a Doy Rittgers – was featured in an untitled movie referred to as ‘Project 175’ – the working title for ‘The Opening of Misty Beethoven.’ The address of the property was 124 Ocean Drive, Deal NJ.
Arcadia had a storied past, and was one of the more notable luxury properties in an already opulent area. It was constructed between 1907-1915 by Charles Kaye, a luminary in the New York medical industry. Built in the Spanish Mission style, the house was located on a 280 x 400-foot plot of land and included a main residence, a three-car garage and two greenhouses. Set behind the house were a sunken garden, rose and grape arbors, an array of fruit trees and a fountain-adorned fish pond.
The main residence was two and a half stories and composed of 14 rooms, 5 bathrooms, and servants’ quarters. Ceilings were 16 ft high and all rooms included wrought-iron features and elegant sconces. Located in the foyer, opposite the main staircase, was an elevator.
The dining room set once belonged to William Vanderbilt, and an Italian baroque style piano in gold could be found in the music room. The instrument – made by Steinway in 1859 for financier Jay Gould – won an award for the most beautiful piano in the world at the 1900 Paris Exposition. In 1928, the Kayes added a game room imported from a villa in France. The centerpiece of that room was a massive hand-carved marble fireplace decorated with gargoyles and other mythical creatures – all clearly visible fifty years later in Misty Beethoven.
In 1919, a 15-year-old local boy named Harry Tepperman delivered some hardware to the Kayes’ Arcadia residence. When Harry saw the house, he swore that one day it would be his. Thirty-three years later in 1952 he purchased Arcadia from the Kayes, making his dream house his family’s summer home.
By the time Misty Beethoven was shot at Arcadia, the owner of the mansion was Doy Rittgers – an extravagant interior designer who ran House of Tressard Fabrics – who had bought Arcadia when Harry Tepperman passed away in 1968. Thanks to the hugely popular fabrics he produced, Doy was a regular on New York’s fashion scene, socializing with designers, models and diplomats.
Doy lived at Arcadia for a decade with his partner, the prominent designer Louis Bromante, and the two threw extravagant parties at their home, attracting New York and New Jersey’s finest to join them for midnight champagne and omelette suppers. Their decadent soirees resembled scenes from Radley Metzger films, and were covered in detail by the local newspapers. At one zodiac-themed evening in 1974, attended by 150 guests, one of the attendees appeared in a diaphanous white toga, leading a woman to comment to her husband, “I don’t think he’s wearing anything under that.”
In 1975, Doy was approached by Robert Kanner who said he represented a production company scouting locations for an upcoming film. Kanner described the movie as a “love story/comedy”. He said that the film wasn’t going to star any major actors, but would be directed by a veteran filmmaker with “an excellent track record.” After some negotiation, Doy agreed to let the production film at his Arcadia home. The fee agreed was $300 per day, and Arcadia was taken over for six days of shooting.
After the film crew left, Doy was asked how it felt to have a movie crew around the house. He replied, “I don’t think I’d ever do it again. It was the biggest mess I ever saw in my life.”
During the shoot, Radley Metzger and the film crew stayed at the nearby Deal Lake Motel in Asbury Park.
Today, the Deal Lake Motel no longer exists. By the 1980s, the motel was advertised as ‘efficiency apartments’, and in 1993 it was donated to the Archdiocese of Newark when the owner died. The property soon fell into disrepair, but before it was finally razed for re-development, the Motel’s empty pool became a legendary skateboard site.
We visited Arcadia in August 2018, and the current owner confirmed Radley’s understanding that the entire original property had been demolished. In 1987, a public auction was held to sell off the original elements before the house was knocked down. The owner kept a few of the original features and incorporated them into the new Arcadia which was built on the same spot, but the pool table, large windows and elaborate fireplace featured in ‘The Opening of Misty Beethoven’ were all gone.
The Misty Beethoven Mansion Exteriors
After visiting Arcadia, we obtained plans and pictures of the original home. One thing was clear: the plot of the property was not big enough to have housed the exteriors that were featured so memorably in Misty Beethoven. The rolling tree-lined driveway, the row of garages, and the huge garden, could not have been filmed at Arcadia. It seemed that Arcadia had been used for the interiors of the Roman Mansion, but that a second property had been used for the outside scenes.
Radley had spoken about filming both the interior and exterior scenes at the Roman mansion at roughly the same time, so we assumed that the second house was also in Deal, or at least nearby. We drove every street of Deal looking for clues, but nothing in the beach town looked like the wooded area that surrounded the country estate in the film.
As a last resort, we turned to Google Maps and scoured satellite images of the surrounding areas looking for any telltale signs. It was slow, painstaking work but it finally paid off.
Looking at the film, we knew that the driveway that Seymour and Misty travel up to reach the house is reasonably long and ends in a curve leading to a 12-car garage and pointed porticos. About 12 miles north of Deal near Middletown, New Jersey, we came across a road near a country club with a similar shape. Leveraging the 3D view, we could see the signature brickwork and pointed archways of the Misty Beethoven property.
We traveled to the site, and as we headed up the driveway and rounded the curve, we were transported back to the days of The Opening of Misty Beethoven. There were no formally dressed servants being sexually serviced by the garage, but there was no mistake. This was the property we’d been looking for. The only surprise was that nothing had changed in the intervening 43 years.
We cautiously made our way onto the property, unsure of what or whom we would find. The grounds were quiet and tranquil on a hot summer day, and we were greeted by a small friendly dog who was lying asleep in the sun where Constance Money had once knelt.
Soon one of the owners of the property, Jeff Mindham, bounded out of the house eager to hear why we were there. When we started explaining that the property had once been used as a film location, Jeff quickly said “are you referring to ‘The Opening of Misty Beethoven’?” When we confirmed, he smiled broadly and offered to take us on a tour while he shared the history of the house, known locally as Cobble Close Farm.
Cobble Close Farm
Cobble Close Farm was built in the 1920s by Herbert Straus, son of Isadore and Ida Struas who co-founded Macy’s department store and perished aboard the Titanic when the ship sunk in 1912. Conceived as a European ‘gentleman’s dairy estate’, the house was designed by Alfred Hopkins, and architect who specialized in country homes and model farms for wealthy east coast families.
Courtyard of the Misty Beethoven mansion in 1930
Members of the Straus family at the Misty mansion, 1930
The French Norman-style buildings were largely made from dismantled European estates that were shipped to America and reconstructed over a period of eight years. The compound sits on 13 acres, which had once been part of a large 143-acre estate that was broken up and sold in 1949. Fred Century, one of the original buyers at the 1949 sell-off, still lives at the property.
1949 auction profile containing Misty Mansion
Jeff told us that in the two decades that followed the sale, owners rented the units “to a colorful cast on New York’s glitterati which included European royalty, a film star, society dames and even a woman whose claim to fame was that she befriended Hitler and spied on the Nazis.”
In the 1960s, the estate was converted into a four-owner co-op.
Resident Fred Century was around when Radley Metzger and the crew took over Cobble Close Farm for shooting in 1975. When Fred realized that it was a pornographic film – and that explicit sexual activity was being filmed in the courtyard, he acted quickly to intercept an older female neighbor who he feared would be offended if she stumbled into the proceedings.
Today, Cobble Close Farm looks much like it did when Radley was filming there. The buildings and cobblestones are well maintained, the grounds are beautifully manicured, a communal pool immaculately kept.
The extended property is still beautifully maintained to this day, offering a peaceful oasis to Cobble Close Farm’s residents.
The property is still used on a regular basis for commercials and fashion shoots. In fact, this month’s edition of Marie Claire has a fashion feature shot in the grounds – and it features one of Jeff’s friendly dogs.
Right before we left, Jeff opened up one of the garages that are now used for storage purposes. Hidden away in the back of the dusty space was the one-sheet for Misty Beethoven.
‘The Opening of Misty Beethoven’ poster in one of the 12-car garage stalls at the Misty Mansion
Jeff has an excellent and informative website about the property. And if you want, you could live on the property, as Jeff recently put his percentage of the co-op on the market. Aside from his beautiful home, you’ll have access to the famed driveway and courtyard where Jamie Gillis, as Seymour Love, sipped champagne while instructing Misty in the ways of love.
As Seymour Love says, “Never let the fact that they are doing it wrong stop you from doing it right.”