The Fortress on the Hill

Once, she partied with the Rolling Stones. Now, shunned by family and sued by friends, aging eccentric Arden Van Upp has retreated to her mansion.

The charismatic, clever Badgley had a reputation in the rock 'n' roll scene. He cut a dashing figure as the "Dr. Feelgood" character who accompanied the Rolling Stones on their 1972 tour, which was documented by Robert Frank in the film Cocksucker Blues. The debauched road show of backstage booze, drugs, and teenage groupies was recounted in sleazy detail by Truman Capote for Rolling Stone magazine.

In July 1973, Van Upp and Badgley decided to become partners in purchasing the Bourn property. The two agreed that, in the event of a split, one would buy the other out. If they couldn't agree on who should get the house or a fair buyout price, an arbitrator would get to decide.

Van Upp was in her mid-30s and Badgley was 29 when the deal was cut. As soon as they took control of the property, the parties began. Van Upp moved in immediately, Badgley within a few months.

Like most parties in the 1970s, the Bourn Mansion soirees were pretty wild, remembered by some who attended for their fine wines and lavish meals. For years, neighbors talked about one party where a chorus line of women in ostrich feathers and low-cut outfits walked out of the mansion to greet elderly gentlemen in a waiting row of black limousines.

Rowan remembers getting a phone call one evening from Badgley asking if Rowan wanted to meet the Rolling Stones. Rowan arrived at the band's Fairmont Hotel suite, and soon members of the Stones and their entourage were piling into Rowan's antique Oldsmobile, heading off for a tour of the Bourn Mansion.

"Mick Jagger didn't come. He was occupied with a young woman," says Rowan. "Rod Stewart's wife liked it the best."

But the merriment masked a growing tension between the two party hosts. Badgley and Van Upp apparently were feuding. On New Year's Eve 1975, Badgley abruptly moved out of the mansion, claiming he was suffering great emotional and mental stress, and feared for his well-being.

The split launched a nasty legal struggle that would last for more than two decades.

The notorious "Feelgood File" has occupied the San Francisco courts for 23 years, one of the longest-running civil cases in the city's history. Badgley and Van Upp have each spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, declared bankruptcy, and burned through several sets of attorneys in their real estate partnership-turned-death match.

"It used to be more fun," says a court clerk, heaving a portion of Van Upp's file onto the counter. "It's kind of quieted down lately."

Contained within the bulging folders of the Feelgood File is the chronicle of a passionate and bilious battle. Badgley wanted Van Upp to sell her share of the mansion to him. Van Upp swore the house was rightfully hers, and that Badgley would never get it.

As the fight escalated, Badgley essentially argued that Van Upp was unfit to own the house. He claimed Van Upp was illegally renting out rooms and never shared any profits with him. Some rooms were rented without his consent, he claimed, while others were let in exchange for food stamps, maintenance work, or even flower arrangements for the house.

Badgley alleged that Van Upp threw parties where booze was sold illegally and teenagers smoked marijuana. In one particularly bizarre soiree described in court documents, hundreds of black people supposedly showed up for a Halloween party with their skin painted pink.

The house was also used as a set for porn films, which Badgley claimed could expose him to personal liability. Court documents dutifully list the 8mm loops in question, the 1977 Swedish Erotica titles Moving Parts, Tea Time, and The Swizzle Stick, which starred the prodigiously endowed John Holmes.

In the course of the suit, Badgley demanded a complete accounting of Van Upp's finances. She informed the court that she scribbled all her bookkeeping records on scraps of paper and threw them in boxes. She also admitted letting a maintenance crew have free rent, and giving the crew's boss the keys to her Porsche 928.

The very week Van Upp's accounting records were due in court, they were conveniently stolen from the trunk of her Mercedes, which was parked in front of her home. A former tenant later confessed he took the boxes and dumped them at a carwash. Van Upp claimed the thief was hired by Badgley. She also said she had been the victim of three other thefts -- coincidentally, all of financial documents.

Van Upp proved herself capable of attacking Badgley as well. After Badgley moved out of the house, she claimed she received 60 phone calls in 24 hours, the voice on the other end saying, "Die bitch, you're dead!"

Van Upp argued in court filings that Badgley paid people to move into the house and spy on her, and even rented an apartment across the street so that he could look directly into her bedroom window. She claimed that over the years, parties thrown by Badgley's friends resulted in a rape, a murder, and a guy passing out drunk and setting a bed afire. Badgley shouldn't be given the house, Van Upp said, because he never helped at all with regular payments or maintenance. In fact, Van Upp argued, Badgley actually owed her no less than $150,000.

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