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A Real Estate Fish Story

A Real Estate Agent, A Fish and A Death Wish

A Real Estate Agent, A Fish and A Death Wish

fish storyIn most fish stories there is some scale (pun intended) of truth. I heard a hilarious tale about a fish incident that I would like to share with you. Of course, this is the Gwen Banta, two martini, Friday version, but somewhere in here you’ll find the naked truth about a real event in the Hollywood Hills:

The Right Bait

Patrick, Realtor extraordinaire from West Hollywood, landed a juicy listing in the Hollywood Hills. The sellers were friends of friends, so Patrick was determined to impress. The home was a standard Hollywood Hills mini-mansion with spectacular views of Tinsel Town, a pool spa, gym, screening room, and a lavish Koi Pond full of gazillion dollar trophy fish – features we all have in our homes. Uh-huh.

Shortly after the first open house, the sellers called Patrick and announced that they had to leave for Cannes and asked if he would check on the property periodically. Oh – and please make sure the Koi pond does not fill up with algae (scum is discouraged in the Hollywood Hill unless it drives a Mercedes.) They told him they would leave a de-scumming substance on the kitchen counter and asked if he could treat the pond every few days. Patrick, ever eager to please, agreed. It would have been better if had agreed to shave his beard with a chain saw.

As instructed, Patrick waited three days to check on the pond. When he returned to the house, he was quite dismayed to see a thick film of green gunk forming on the water.  Ever the dutiful agent, he immediately grabbed the algae remover. Not being a whiz kid about size of pond and calculation of gallons of water, he was baffled about how much to add. He could not reach the sellers via phone, so he poured in a small amount, and, unsure of himself, seized a what-the-hell moment and threw in some more. (Cue the chain saw.)

Hooked Solid

The following day, Patrick returned to check on the fish. To his horror, at least eight of the koi were doing the back swim.  We’re talking belly up, folks. Patrick went into the biggest panic of his life. He could hear the fish, in their dying breath, mumbling “Koi Killer,” and “Je accuse” and “Et tu, Brute.” (Apparently several fish were foreign nationals.) The Hollywood Reporter reported that one fish even left a will.

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Patrick’s mind was exploding. He netted one fish and tried to shake it back to life. He may have even given it mouth to mouth resuscitation…or tried to force water out of its tiny, water-logged gills. There may have even been paddles involved. And IV drips. (These are common in L.A. homes.)  Fish lore in the Hollywood Hills has it that Patrick was on his knees over a fish yelling, “Don’t go into the light.” Suddenly there was one last breath, the bowels released, and darkness descended. (That’s the fish, not Patrick…although his bowels were not exactly under control.)

After administering last rites, Patrick became girly-man hysterical. How could he tell the sellers he was a mass murderer? How could he pay for the expensive fish? He had sold houses that cost less than the deceased. He would have to sell everything he owned. Oh wait a minute…everything he had was leased. Even his hairpiece. What would he do?

A Struggle to the End

After a sleepless night, he received a call from the sellers. They had arrived at LAX and were on their way back to the crime scene. Patrick popped a few Valiums and drove over to meet them. On the drive over, he formed every story he could in his head as the sounds of fish pleas haunted him:  “Help…save me…I can’t breathe…where’s my close-up? ”

Perhaps he could tell the sellers a coyote jumped the fence. Hmmm…no teeth marks. Maybe he could say the neighbor next door went on a rampage. Hmmm…the neighbor was already on trial for a spectacular Hollywood crime. They were fresh out of neighbors. What about the Twinkie defense? No….he’d never be allowed back in his trendy Hollywood gym after a sugar conviction

. There was nothing to do but confess and then dive off the infinity pool into the tawdry flats below where the crappy two million dollar hovels were located. Death by humiliation.

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When he arrived, everyone was gathered around the pond. Was it an impromptu wake?  There were no paparazzi, so how could it be?  The housekeeper, Carlotta, was standing next to the sellers sobbing uncontrollably. The smell was horrendous. (No, not Carlotta, the fish.) The carnage had grown in proportion.

The seller spotted Patrick and directed a sorrowful gaze his way. All Patrick could blurt out was “I am so sorry…I’m sure they had a good life, …and God must have a better purpose for them, like maybe that great sushi bar on Sunset…”

Reeled In

The seller nodded and whispered to Patrick, “Please don’t say anything to Carlotta – she’s devastated. She misunderstood our instructions and put the chlorine based chemicals into the pond instead of the indoor fountain.”

Carlotta was the killer! (He hadn’t trusted her since he first spotted her knock-off Prada bag.) Patrick felt the pent-up air leave his chest as he took his first gulp of air since the previous day. He nodded sadly and commiserated with the seller. “Oh my God, that’s terrible,” he whispered from his Valium induced haze. “Next time I can treat the fountain for you as well.” Yup – he was reeled in. Some folks never learn not to take the bait.

Patrick, Agent Extraordinaire, was last seen trying to revive an exotic pet bird in a fountain in a home North of Sunset. The housekeeper reports he was yelling, “Hold on, I’ll get a stomach pump!”

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Moral: In every fish tale, there’s a fish that took the bait. Agent Fish are the easiest to catch if the bait is a green paper adorned with dead presidents.

Thank you to my dear friend at Sotheby’s International Realty.

Happy birthday, dearest Liam.

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Written By

I wear several hats: My mink fedora real estate hat belongs to Sotheby’s International Realty on the world famous Sunset Strip. I’M not world famous, but I've garnered a few Top Producer credits along the way. I also wear a coonskin writer's cap with an arrow through it, having written a few novels and screenplays and scored a few awards there, too. (The arrow was from a tasteless critic.) My sequined turban is my thespian hat for my roles on stage, and in film and television, Dahling. You can check me out in all my infamy at LinkedIn,, SherlockOfHomes, IMDB or you can shoot arrows at my head via email. I can take it.



  1. Joe Loomer

    July 31, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Gwen – this has to be one of your best ever. The truth is always stranger than fiction – and in this case much funnier!

    I’d regale you tales of snakes in the pool – but it’s my own pool – not as funny as dead fish, and they’re too small to really scare anyone except the neighbors kids (when I throw them over the fence without making sure NO ONE is back there).

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Gwen Banta

    July 31, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    It’s great to hear from you, Joe, but I feel it is my duty to warn you that when your neighbor’s kids are teenagers, you better be prepared to beat it the hell outta Dodge…or you’ll find a horse head in your bed. No doubt they all need prolonged therapy due to PTSS from the day Augusta rained snakes!

  3. Kim Curran

    July 31, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Your posts are priceless Gwen!

  4. Ian Greenleigh

    July 31, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Hilarious! Reminded me of my youth, dropping M-80s into the coy pond of a wealthy friend. For your information, I am mortified by my behavior at that age.

  5. Wesner Michel

    August 1, 2009 at 6:03 am

    A Real Estate Fish Story | Real Estate Opinion MAG – AgentGenius: A Real Estate Fish Story about an Agent, a Fis..

  6. Erion Shehaj

    August 1, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I just wanted to say that I LOVE your stories …

  7. Gwen Banta

    August 1, 2009 at 11:50 am

    We all did things we regret, Ian. My brother and I once set our neighbor’s pet rabbits loose because we wanted to see them hop all over the yard. Of course, they found a hole in the fence and bailed out of there before we could catch them. Oddly, they came back eventually…and about triple in number 🙂

  8. Gwen Banta

    August 1, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Thank you, Erion. I’m glad the things that make me laugh also entertain others, especially considering what a warped mind I have.

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