I’d grown up as a “renter”, so it felt natural to move around Manhattan in the 1970s, back when it was actually possible to move from apartment to apartment pretty much on a whim. And I found something to love about each place I lived; the coziness of my first basement studio apartment at 7th Ave. and 21st Street…
the convenience of living in midtown, behind the Stage Deli…
that summer on West 81st Street, sharing an apartment with my older sister, next to a gospel church (Sundays were boisterous!!)…
then back to midtown at the Whitby on West 45th Street…
and my “deluxe apartment in the sky” (26th floor!) on the Gold Coast in Chicago.
Apartment living continued after we got married and Mark showed me how to turn our midtown flat into a HOME, customizing the space to our needs; something we did at every location we moved to thereafter. There was the Mar Vista apartment, where the banjo player from Shakey’s Pizza practiced every day the exact same songs with the exact same mistakes… the lovely Kings Road apartment, where carpenter ants perfumed the air and sometimes put on an interior aerial act… the luxurious Walton Place apartment in Chicago (with the wife-beating police captain living across the hall! – see House of Hate! )…. and the apartment on Division St. we viewed and rented on a Sunday morning, which turned out to be the only time of the week when it was peaceful…
a 100-year old two-flat across from Wrightwood Park, which had Pepto-Bismol pink walls and ceiling when we moved in…
We scraped wallpaper, put in new phone and electric lines, painted, carpeted, installed insulation, theatrical curtains, kitchen cabinets and new light fixtures – we even put in a door to close off the den at one apartment!
– a whole lot of stuff you’re not supposed to do unless you actually own the place! We made it ours for as long as we lived there, and left every place in better shape than when we’d moved in.
But the biggest thrill was finding and moving to our own house in Van Nuys. Ever the renter, my dad disparaged it sight unseen as “a tract home” – (which I suppose it was, since it was built on a tract!?) – but it had been designed and built in the 50s by a film studio architect and had some unique features.
It might not have looked like much from the street, but inside it was great! The ¾” solid mahogany paneling made the acoustics in the living room perfect for recording.
We each had our own office…
no office is complete without a schnauzer secretary!
LOOKIT that tiny antique Macintosh SE on the desk!
and turned the dining room into the control room for our studio.
Of course, we had to paint over the “baby’s room” theme and polka dot filigree in the offices – and that “ducks around the ceiling” motif in the dining room/studio had to go!
When you’re used to apartment living, the sheer amount of space in a house can be impressive; there was room to store everything – and a place to hang everything! – including the “Rose and Valerie Stained Glass Art Gallery” in the entry way.
In the back yard was a Japanese garden, complete with a bridge over the koi pond, a gazebo and a pool house to hold anything that wouldn’t fit in the plentiful closets in the house.
There was even a basketball hoop for impromptu pickup games with our more athletic schnauzers!
The first couple years we had the “mortgage from hell” with a 2% interest hike every 6 months, so we did all the yard work ourselves to economize. Once we refi-ed, we could afford Julio, who came with his crew every week and turned our ⅓ acre into a lovely private park!
The rose garden bloomed!
The glads were glad!
The apricots ripened!
The ficus grew TALL!
And the orange tree in the front yard produced the sweetest fruit!
In October 1995 I wrote 2 new Christmas songs and we began holding annual holiday song parties, inviting our friends to sing and play their latest creations! It was terrific fun to see so much talent right in our livingroom!
the amazingly talented Randy Crenshaw!
PepperJay.com & cowriter Leslie Brenner
So many guests came one year that Justin Wilde (AKA Mr. Christmas) sat on the floor! – See christmassongs.com
Between solo performances, everyone sang from the caroling books we’d assembled. BTW, Here are demo videos to my 2 original songs…
We had many adventures and recorded lots of great music in the 10½ years we lived there. We also changed and improved a lot of stuff, upgrading the electrical panel, phone lines, HVAC, appliances, flooring, water filtration, plumbing pipes and fixtures – as well as cosmetic items like paint and track lighting. The kitchen got a complete makeover, including a new wall as well as cabinet resurfacing…
as did both bathrooms. As much as we’d loved it initially, after we’d invested so much time, energy and money, we adored our Van Nuys home!
Alas, it is no more. As it turned out, none of our rehabbing mattered to the people who bought it; they demolished the entire house, only retaining what was legally necessary to build on the property. Once again the 3 most important factors in real estate came into play: