Palm Springs Property Back in Court Next Monday for Decision
PALM SPRINGS , CA – Their trip to Palm Springs was not for the usual reasons. The two women who showed up at the Chino Canyon property on Friday of last week were not there to rekindled a romance with The King or to pay homage to an international icon. It also was not their first trip to the former home of Elvis Presley.
Sherry Williams of Tarzana, California and Patsy Andersen of Memphis, Tennessee had business in mind.
The first time Sherry Williams walked the floors of 845 West Chino Canyon was in 1970. The last time was in 2005 when she loaned money to Reno Fontana who was then living in the home.
For three years, starting at the age of seventeen, Sherry Williams played the real life role of an amorous confidant of Elvis. The teenager became a high fashion model, then bore a daughter, actress Katie Cassidy. Williams is now her daughter’s business manager and married to a physician with two other now adult age children.
She arrived in a new Bentley for her return to the Palm Springs home. It was more than a nostalgic tour.
What she found was The Elvis Presley house embroiled in a dispute, a dispute that continues in court this coming Monday, June 10 in Indio Superior Court. That case pits Reno Fontana against Rade Raicevic and his business partner in Financial Bonanza, LLC.
Now a mom working behind the scenes with the spotlight on her daughter, Williams has other entertainment business connections. Katie Cassidy is the daughter of entertainer David Cassidy, her paternal grandparents were actors Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward, and she is the niece of teen idol and television producer Shaun Cassidy and actor Patrick Cassidy.
Sherry Williams remembers more than walking the halls of the home that Elvis owned for the last seven years of his life until he died in 1977. Williams recalled the quiet Spanish style of the home once filled with early California furnishings, not the Palm Springs Modern Style that filled its rooms in more recent years. The magnificent view from the pool has changed with new homes filling the canyon.
Crossing the country to join her friend for the property tour, Patsy Andersen is well-known in Elvis Circles for a variety of reasons. She was a director at Graceland where she worked for 22 years and she ran hundreds of Elvis Fan clubs. Andersen is a producer with considerable public relations and tourism management experience with a long list of talent and accomplishments best illustrated on her website www.patsyandersen.com
Importantly, the sweet spoken lady with the southern lilt is also familiar on a first name basis with musicians who worked with Elvis, or “The Boys” as she referred to them. She currently serves as manager for several musical talents including Jerry Presley, cousin of Elvis Presley.
New Business Plans?
The conversation these two businesswomen had with Rade Raicevic, now living in the Elvis Home, was not shared with this reporter. Raicevic evicted Fontana in January. We suspect though a good portion of the conversation was the two woman providing details to the newest occupant about its most famous one.
The upcoming court action initiated by Reno Fontana certainly was also discussed. Fontana lived in the home for nearly a decade. Raicevic said he never paid rent. Fontana is claiming his eviction was an illegal foreclosure.
Raicevic is quick to show documents he says substantiate that Fontana never paid the mortgage, property taxes or insurance and says Fontana was nothing more than a squatter who cheated unwitting investors out of their money.
Attempts to reach Fontana have been unsuccessful after leaving messages by phone and email.
Reno Fontana Investments
Williams said she was one of those investors in Reno Fontana. She said she forked over $5,000 to Fontana in 2005. Her friend, Patsy Andersen, knew that Fontana was advertising himself as an Elvis aficionado, told people he owned the property and needed investors to hang on to the place. It was Andersen who introduced Williams to Fontana.
Andersen said Williams loaned Fontana the money and was later invited back to the property by Fontana a short while later as he was soliciting more.
“When she went back the second time she knew that something just wasn’t right,”
said Patsy Andersen.
“Reno wanted more money from my friend but she sensed something wasn’t right because he made no effort to repay the first loan. Reno then just disappeared and he wouldn’t have anything to do with us. It kinda freaked us out.”
Williams was not the only investor with allegations of being cheated by Fontana and or his wife Laura Ann Whittier [or Laurie or Lori Whittier] who used documents showing her name on the title. Amounts vary from a couple thousand dollars to a hundred thousand dollars. Despite an article in the Wall Street Journal that he was banking $20,000 an event, it appears that it was more hype than fact as Fontana was frequently begging for money in the form of investments.
Attempts to reach Whittier have also been unsuccessful.
What cannot be disputed are the files of documents in city hall and the paper trail found with deep research. When Fontana occupied the property he ran afoul of city ordinances. Fontana brought tour operators with bus loads of tourists up the narrow winding road of Chino Canyon.
Residents of the quiet neighborhood were often at odds over the actions by Fontana, not the least of which was the bus tours the city said were not allowed.
The court case Monday is expected to decide once and for all if Fontana is finally completely out of the picture as an operator for the property. That may be why Williams and Andersen are back. They may have a business plan in mind. They just would not say.
With their collective experience and considerable entertainment industry connections, it could be not only a sweet return to a home where they have a personal connection but one that will benefit the house due to their credentials and connections the continuing enterprises of the late Elvis Presley.
They could be in Palm Springs to put the Elvis home on a comeback. But first there is Monday’s court date.
Have you done business with Reno Fontana or Lori (Laurie) Whittier? Let’s talk. Please contact us here.
For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader.
In 2014 he was appointed Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs, California.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Desert Hot Springs, California.