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In Hollywood and surrounding environs, celebrity homes are often like celebrity egos: big, bigger and biggest. And once a star owns a home, count on the resale value inflating as well.

Estates Bela Lugosi, Elvis Presley and Cher once called home are steeped in a mystique for some buyers who may be taking star worship to an extravagant extreme."There's an allure about a star living in a house. There's glamour there," said Elaine Young, Beverly Hills' Realtor-to-the-stars. "Look what's been going on: Candice Bergen just bought Roger Moore's house, Eddie Murphy bought Cher's house. It goes on and on."

"It's an implied endorsement, a matter of quality," said Paul Gresante, a Malibu agent for Jon Douglas real estate. "It says, `This is someone who can afford the best and it's their home."'

Celebrities themselves get caught up in the star-home aura, too.

Johnny Depp bought Bela Lugosi's Hollywood castle after he finished filming "Ed Wood," a movie about the offbeat director of Lugosi's last film, "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

"He stole that place for about $2 million," said Young. And just what is the Lugosi manse like? The 28-room gray stone estate, with turrets and iron trim, has eight bedrooms and 10 bathrooms within 7,430 square feet - no word on secret vaults for spare coffins. The three-story castle was most recently owned by flamboyant divorce attorney Marvin Mitchelson.

Madonna bought gangster Bugsy Siegel's former mansion when she was romantically involved with "Bugsy" star Warren Beatty. The castlelike, Mediterranean-style estate has red and yellow stripes and clings to a steep hillside underneath the famous H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D sign. In the 1930s, Siegel turned the place into something of a gambling palace.

The exterior horizontal stripes, added by Madonna, were designed to evoke a Tuscan villa. It has four bedrooms, two maids' rooms and a chauffeur's quarters and sits on 3.5 acres overlooking Lake Hollywood.

And Zsa Zsa Gabor, whose Bel-Air neighbors include Elizabeth Taylor and Ronald Reagan, proudly boasts living in a bluff estate once owned by Howard Hughes and Elvis Presley, though not at the same time.

"Most of us can't afford to indulge our fantasies, but they can," said Gresante. "And this is a relatively insignificant amount of money compared to their income."

"The stars think they can get more money for their house and they are usually right," Young added.

Beach homes owned by Sylvester Stallone ($4.2 million), Bruce Willis ($7 million), Larry Hagman ($6.25 million) and Alex Karras ($2.5 million) are among hundreds of estates on the market. Ads for the homes, shielded from public view by imposing gates and tasteful shrubbery, entice with color pictures and a brush-with-celebrity promise.

"Celebrity beach estate . . .," "Famed producer's gorgeous California Spanish hacienda . . .," "International star and beauty is selling . . ." and "Celebrity's beach gem . . ." tease would-be buyers.

But promoting celebrity ownership can backfire.

"The only time in my 38 years in real estate I had a problem was when I took Johnny Carson out to a house when he first came to California and I told him one of the Beatles lived there," said Young.

"He looked at me and said, `Well, if you think that impresses me, I guess I better get another Realtor.' "

Cher is by far the queen of celebrity real estate savvy. She has bought, remodeled and sold more than a dozen homes in Southern California and currently has two properties for sale in Malibu.

Her Santa Fe style Point Dume estate is on the market for $3.95 million, so is her Pacific Coast Highway bluff lot for $2.5 million.

What does alluding to a Hollywood personality do?

"Two things," said Gresante. "It definitely means you get more traffic and it validates the buyer's decision."

But don't expect to pack up the kids in the car and spend the day inspecting the plumbing of the palaces of the rich and famous. Fans don't get to browse.

"The reason most celebrity homes don't say precisely who it is is because they want to keep away the depraved Madonna fan. We interview the people first to make sure they have the capacity to buy the house," said Gresante.

"I simply explain that my seller is someone who is jealous of their privacy and they want to make sure the person is serious."