Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My First Hollywood Home - 4616 Cahuenga

I arrived in California on July 28, 1974 after a 4 day cross country drive and went directly to my first apartment at 4616 Cahuenga Boulevard in Toluca Lake.

A mutual friend of Fabian who was living in LA had found the place for me before I left New York. When I pulled into the driveway, my apartment was ready and waiting. It was a typical 'California' complex, 24 apartments encircling a big pool with palm trees. What I didn't know is that the people who lived there were anything but typical.

Don't get me wrong...it was great. We had Hollywood stars, a LAPD detective, a retired pit boss, two writers and a hooker. It's where I met my wife, and learned to cook. There were parties, dinners and a few earthquakes just to make life interesting.

My rent was $150.00 per month for a fully furnished one bedroom apartment. Universal Studios was down the street, as was NBC and Disney and Warner Bros. Toluca Lake was (and still is) home to hundreds of movie and TV stars.

We had our share of resident stars. Ben Murphy (photo on the left), was starring in the ABC hit, Alias Smith and Jones. A young actor, Bruce Boxleitner, who would go on to star in Tron, Babylon Five and How the West Was Won was my downstairs neighbor. But the real stars of the building were the resident managers, Roberta and Earl Kirk.

They held court poolside, regaling residents and visitors alike with their stories and opinions. Roberta did all of the talking...for the first few weeks I didn't think that Earl could talk. She started as an extra in the early Mary Pickford films, and then went on (as she told it) to run a Hollywood brothel and then as social secretary for Sunny Sund, the heiress to the Don the Beachcomber Restaurants. Earl was a pit boss for Ben Siegel. That's all I ever knew about him. He was the strong silent type.

I became Roberta's pet project. She took me around and made all the introductions in Toluca Lake. Breakfast at Patys, lunch at Lakeside. Yes, there actually is a small lake right next to the famous Lakeside Country Club. Because it was so close to the studios, it was a who's who of Hollywood. Errol Flynn, Walt Disney, W.C Fields, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby all lived there. Going to the post office on Riverside Drive usually meant running into Jonathan Winters.

I was living and breathing Hollywood, and I was as obnoxious as a 22 year old know it all could be. I lived on the second floor, but paid to have an extra phone jack installed by the pool so I didn't have to run upstairs every time my phone rang. Not that it rang that much anyway.

Here are two of my favorite stories from those years.

The Girl Across the Pool.

Betty Evans lived directly across from me overlooking the pool. I was there about two weeks when one night she came home early and closed the curtains to her apartment. About two hours later, 4 guys came walking up the stairs, knocked on her door and went into her apartment. My imagination took over. What in the world was going on in there?

The next morning I went straight to Roberta. It seems as though Betty was a great cook, and she had formed a food club. These 4 guys paid her to buy and cook them dinner once a week. My illusions about Betty were gone. But I still didn't know what she did. She kept pretty much to herself. Then one morning she emerged from her apartment wearing a girl scout uniform. Betty Evans ran a cooking club for 4 single guys and was a professional girl scout. I was in Hollywood for sure!

The First Hollywood Manager
Mike and Gert Froug lived in the rear apartment, which was part of the old Weddington Mansion. Roberta introduced me, and I spent many days (and a few dinners) with them soaking up stories about early the golden days in Hollywood.

Mike was Mary Pickford's business manager. He was an accountant by trade and met Pickford early in his career. We would sit in the kitchen telling me stories about how they built Pickfair, working with the studios, the whole thing. I could kick myself for not getting a tape recorder. It was amazing to hear. Without really knowing it, he created the concept of the Hollywood manager. He told me how once signed Dick Powell as a client by getting him to autograph a piece of paper that turned out to be the signature line of a cashier's check for $50,000.

Mike was 80 and still sharp. He could sit down with a pad of paper and add a row of numbers 8 across and 8 deep in his head. Some people can say they've seen it all, Mike was one of the few who started it all.

When my father came out to visit, we had dinner with Mike and Gert. I thought my Dad would enjoy Mike's stories about Hollywood. Upon hearing that my Dad was a furrier, Gert came out with an old Lambskin coat and asked my father what she should do. My father, who was not known for his tact, suggested that she cut it up and use it as a cushion for the toliet seat.

I loved my first Hollywood home at 4616 Cahuenga...and it only took me about 4 months to learn how to pronounce it.

PS. The apartment is still there, although the pool is gone and the rent is now $1500. Sometimes, I really miss 1974.

1 comment:

  1. yesiree! the building is still there and now it is owned and managed by slumlords who own many slums across the san fernando valley. and the manager there, debbie guffey, is a sharp-tongued and lazy idiot who loves harassing tenants to the point of necessitating law suits.

    times have indeed changed since you lived here.