Saturday, January 26, 2008

Batten Down the Hatches

According to the weather report, we are due to have heavy rains and 25 to 35 MPH winds beginning tonight. This may not sound over the top to the rest of the world, but here in San Diego there usually is no weather to speak of - it is either sunny & warm, or warm & sunny.

We have had a good amount of rain this winter, but we have also had a few pretty decent wind storms which is highly unusual. If we hit 35 MPH tonight, we're likely to see quite a bit of damage since the area is not used to it.

On top of that, I stepped out on my front porch to get the newspaper on Thursday morning just in time to see the beautiful sight show in the photo to the right. I'm glad the camera was handy!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fleur de Lys: 350 N Carolwood Drive

Walking straight across the street from Disney's old property is the Fleur de Lys mansion at 350 N. Carolwood Drive in Los Angeles (Holmby Hills). It is owned by David and Suzanne Saperstein. They bought three parcels in 1996 and 1997 and combined them to build this 35,046 square foot home with 12 bedrooms and 15 baths, which they promptly named "Fleur de Lys". It is modelled after Versailles and is currently on the market for $125 million.

David Saperstein made his billions in car dealerships and, later, as the largest stockholder of the Westwood One radio network. Why is the home for sale? Well here is the story according to the internet.

In 2006, the Texas business magnate and Republican Party donor David Saperstein fell for the family's young nanny, Hillevi Svensson. During a cross-country flight on board the family's private Gulfstream IV jet in 2006, David served his wife of 24 years with divorce papers during a stopover in Houston, apparently due to Texas divorce laws that favor him. She then filed her own papers in California, which is more alimony-friendly.

Suzanne has been awarded Fleur de Lys as a part of the settlement, and has placed it up for sale. Anybody have an eighth of a billion jingling in their pocket?

Next, we'll visit the homes of rich people whose names you actually know. By the way, that's the house on Walt's old property at the upper left of the bottom picture. The road that runs between the two mansions is Carolwood Drive.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rocket 88

To follow up on a subject that I had previously posted about, Ike Turner's cause of death was announced yesterday: cocaine. It came as a shock to me, but I'm not sure why once I thought about it.

It is interesting to note that both he and Walt Disney, another subject of my recent blogs, both died of their vices. Walt died of lung cancer at the age of 65. Walt was a chain smoker who avoided smoking on camera so as not to influence children, but his smoker's cough gave early warning to his employees when he was coming down the hall.

I have looked into the birth of Rock music a little more since my last Ike post, and there is actually quite a bit of dispute about what song was the actual birth of Rock. Since music morphs a wee bit with each song written, it is very hard to pinpoint the time when any genre begins. The Menziesera site gives a good rundown of how R&B slowly morphed into Rock and even includes a short sound snippet from each song so you can decide.

But many people consider the song Rocket 88 to be the birth. It was first recorded in 1951 by Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston and credited to the band "Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats". The song praised the Oldsmobile Rocket 88 automobile introduced in 1949.

This is a very interesting discovery to me, as Oldsmobiles have been a big part of my family's automotive history. In fact, my second car was a 1970 Oldsmobile with a Rocket 350.

The car was a joy to own and, though it was based on the other GM 350 engines, the Olds version was very distinct. I can tell when I hear one approaching, just from the sound though I rarely hear one anymore.

And, unbeknownst to me, that is my tie back to the birth of Rock music.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Disney's Last House: 355 Carolwood

On June 1 1948, Walt and Lillian bought the lot where they built the house where they lived until their deaths - Walt in 1966 and Lillian in 1997.

The home was located at 355 Carolwood Drive in Los Angeles, on 5 acres in the developing and exclusive Holmby Hills area, and they moved in during February of 1950.

There is very little information on the house itself, but I do know that Walt did not want it to be a mansion like the other homes in the area, because he did not want a staff to maintain it. Almost all literature on Walt's time at this address focus on his building a miniature railroad around the property, which is dubbed the Carolwood Pacific Railroad.

I was able to find the photos above, but they do not provide a very complete picture of the home. Why did the Disneys move from the super home on Woking Way? In my opinion, there are at least two reasons. By 1948, Walt was famous enough that they may have needed more distance between them and the public roadway, and second Walt needed a large level lot on which to build his railroad.

When Lillian died in 1997, the property was sold. The new owners promptly tore down the house, siting structural problems and asbestos. Who knows if that is true, but the home they built in 2001 to replace it is shown as it appears on Zillow. It is 22,396 square feet and has 7 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms.

Yeowza. That should keep the house staff busy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Disney's First Purchase: 2495 Lyric Avenue

 Before Disney moved to Woking Way (see yesterday's post), he had purchased a lot and built a house on Lyric Avenue, also in Los Feliz Hills.

Walt purchased a 2875 square foot lot on the corner and Roy purchased the lot next door. The lots cost about $1000 each, and they both bought Pacific Ready-Cut homes for their lots. Pacific Ready-Cut homes were ready-to-assemble and shipped to the site, complete with knotless Douglas Fir framing, cabinets, nails, doors, windows, screens, hardware, paint, sinks and an instruction manual. Pacific Ready-Cut had built a dozen model homes in 1922 and eventually sold over 37,000 houses in Southern California.

 Walt's home was 2 bedrooms, 1 bath and 1066 square feet. Roy's home was the mirror image of Walt's. The homes arrived at the Disney's lots in 12,000 pieces via boxcar in August 1926. By the time construction was done in December, the two homes cost the brothers about $8000 each, including the lots. When Walt and Lillian moved to Woking Way in 1932, a co-worker moved into Walt's house. That's Walt's house with the green roof.
 These two homes still exist today. The current owner of Walt's house had heard rumors that it had once been owned by Walt Disney while he was considering the purchase - the owner at that time had died and the house sat vacant for six months. The new owner did not learn the truth until he did research after his purchase in 1997 for $150,000. Unfortunately, the house was in such disrepair that it had to be gutted to bare studs, with new electrical and plumbing throughout.
As close as I can tell, here is the floor plan of Walt's house from a Pacific Ready Cut homes catalog. The house outline and window locations match up, but it appears that Walt's house doesn't have the fireplace.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Disney's Castle: 4053 Woking Way

For those of you who have been following this blog, you know that I have been somehow bringing up celebrities and then denying that I'm starstruck. While that is true, something very strange has been happening....

Several events in my life have been on a collision course, and I didn't even realize it. With our purchase of a new home and remodeling, I have been extremely interested in homes for the last few years. Second, it has recently occurred to me that we have lived in Southern California for over 15 years and not once have we toured Hollywood or the surrounding area - shoot the only time we go to LA is when passing through it on our way to other places! And third, we went to California Adventure for Christmas.

When we arrived back home, I was perusing Zillow as I usually do when something I read attracted me to Santa Monica. I became fascinated with the area and spent hours looking over the streets and homes, for some reason focusing on Amalfi Drive. It really sparked my interest (more on that street in future posts). At about the same time, I stumbled across information about Walt Disney's homes and started looking them up on Zillow. BAM! I had a new hobby - looking up homes of famous people in Zillow! So even though I am a few weeks into this new hobby, I will back up to where it started: Walt's home from 1932 until 1949: 4053 Woking Way in Los Angeles.

Walt and Lillian Disney built this 4 BR, 5 BA 6,388 sf home on almost 5 acres in the spring and summer of 1932. The architecture from the outside is beautiful, and I can really see Walt living here on this windy, wooded street. Great pick Walt! He built this home in a new area of the Los Feliz Hills, and it was the second home they'd had built for them.

What I will attempt to do over the next few weeks is to examine the homes of some of the more prominent residents of the LA basin, in an attempt to start collecting places that my wife and I might go on a driving tour of Hollywood and vicinity. Here we go!

If you'd like to follow along, simply grab the address, paste it into Zillow and go to the bird's eye gives you a great perspective on what the area is really like. Or simply click on the picture in each post - I'll try and pick the best view to share with you. I love the internet!

(In case you can't tell, I've been ill and stuck at home trying to minimize physical activity. That's why there have been so many posts lately)

Addition on 7/28/08: I found this great post about a 1940 article about this home:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Contractor Hall Of Fame

As most of you know, we have been doing some serious, serious remodeling in our home. While it has been a lot of fun, it has been very stressful too. We've run across many great contractors, and a few clunkers. This post is to let you know who the best contractors around are - they deserve your business!! You can click on their business cards to the right to see larger versions (with readable phone numbers!). In alphabetical order:

A Mirror Decor They made a bathroom mirror for us at a reasonable cost and delivered it on time. They are very pleasant to work with.

Barton Custom Paint They painted our entire interior - top to bottom - in three days. Very professional, very pleasant, and again very reasonable on price. High recommended.

Chad of All Trades As the name implies, they did a little bit of everything for us: lots of plumbing, appliance installation (dishwasher, oven, cooktop, hood), appliance moving (fridge and washer/dryer), and some texture work also. They are there when you need them.

Hayes Custom Tile John Hayes and company did some fabulous granite countertops for us, as well as first rate tile work on the floors and kitchen backsplash. He offers up excellent ideas to enhance the look you're going for.

Import Stone This is where we bought our granite slabs - they have a huge selection of slabs on site and are very easy to work with. We couldn't be happier with our granite!

Linden Painting and Refinishing We used Dave Linden's company to refinish our kitchen and bathroom cabinets. This man knows his wood and takes extreme pride in his work. He personally applies the finishes to ensure top quality! If you're cabinet wood is fine but you just need a new finish, Dave is your man.

Pacific Coast Hardwood Floors We had existing layered wood floors in our family room and kitchen - they just needed to be refinished. Mike Hernandez from Pacific Coast came over and gave us the low down on what was and wasn't possible, and proceeded to refinish our floors in the most magnificent way! Highly recommended.
These people who work with wood -
they are very detail oriented.

Victor Villa We had Victor come in to estimate some baseboard work for us, and ended up having him do tile shower floor work also (our original tile installer - not anyone listed in this post - had messed up the shower floor badly). Victor explained in detail what was wrong and what could be done short of ripping the whole thing out, and we are extremely happy with the results. Go, Victor!

And finally. there is a gentleman who we have worked with for years to patch up dry wall issues we encounter who does a fabulous job - his name is David Borders and his cell phone is 760-415-4791. He does small jobs (from small hole repairs to retexture of a wall to re-drywalling a room) but will be able to recommend excellent companies if you need an entire home drywalled.
All of these people cover north San Diego county and I would recommend them without pause. They are not the cheapest, but as the saying goes you get what you pay for.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Christmas Day

 We are at a strange place in our lives for the holiday season. Since our kids have grown, there aren't many presents under the tree anymore, we don't need to stay up all Christmas night putting together bikes and things, and we don't get dragged out of bed at the crack of dawn on Christmas day. Maybe some of that will return when (if?) we have grandkids, but for the most part those chores will fall upon their parents.

This Christmas, my wife's sister's family spent several days at Disneyland. Their kids have grown too, so they have no ties to their house for Christmas morning.

We decided to join them on Christmas day. Ron was down from Chico, David's wife Lucy had to work, so the four of us (David, Ron, my wifeand myself) drove up to Anaheim. The weather was wonderful, the freeways relatively empty, and - unexpectedly to us - Disneyland was sold out. When the kids were younger, we used to go to amusement parks on New Years Day because the crowds were light. We (incorrectly) assumed Christmas Day would be the same. By the way, Disney will sell you a multi-park ticket for the day even if the park is at capacity.

We decided on purchasing a California Adventure ticket since we had never been there and that park was not sold out. It was nice, but not really worth the same price as Disneyland since it has nowhere near the number of attractions.

In any case, it is a nice park and we really enjoyed the afternoon with Neal, Debbie, and Crystal. It was the first time they had seen Ron in several year. I was recovering from a lingering cold, so I took it easy all day. To our surprise, California Adventure serves alcohol! That's right, there is a wine bar there - fits right in with the California theme, eh?

That's Crystal with Dave to the left, as we waited to enter the Muppet Theater - the Muppets are a favorite of mine.

After dark, we walked around Downtown Disney and had dinner (reservations are recommended).

It was a very enjoyable - and unusual - Christmas day.

Friday, January 4, 2008

An Afternoon in Chico

 The day after Thanksgiving, we visited Chico to see our son. Ron showed us his house and we did our traditional winter walk around downtown Chico. But this time, he also gave us a tour of Laxson Auditorium on campus. Since he works there, we were able to see the place when it was completely empty. It was quite a tour.

I had not given much thought before to what exists on the back side of a theater, but it is very interesting! There are all sorts of rooms and nooks and equipment - I can see how it would be a very intoxicating environment to work in.

 Let's give you a quick tour. That's Ron pointing out a feature of the balcony to my wife above. Unfortunately, my wife and I missed the opportunity to see Jethro Tull in this auditorium this fall - in retrospect, it was a very dumb decision not to go up for that concert.

The ceiling of the theater looks very medieval, though the auditorium was really built in 1930 at a cost of $288,703, to replace a previous building that burned in 1927. The auditorium holds 1400 people.
The array of lights is really impressive, as are all the backdrops that can be used. There is much more to running a show than I had realized as an average audience member - and I guess that's exactly how the staff has planned it
 Ron showed my wife the pamphlet from the latest show in the box office and then took us to what we have dubbed the Cosby Room - one of the two dressing room for entertainers. We call it the Cosby Room because one of our favorite Ron stories is the afternoon he spent there with Bill Cosby.
And that, in a nutshell, is a quick tour of Laxson Auditorium. It is really much more fun in person, I assure you.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon. We had lunch at our favorite spot (Mo's BBQ), toured Laxson, had a drink at Ron's favorite watering hole, then on to dinner at the Sierra Nevada Brewery (an establishment not to be missed should you ever make it to Chico).