For most people, when you say "Nine-Eleven" or "Nine-One-One", one of two things come to mind.
The horrible tragedy of 2001.
The number to call when you need help.
These things come to my mind also, but another thing immediately leaps to the front of my brain when I see two ones preceded by a nine...
My former address.
The house I grew up in.
The stage from which this play on words actually transpired.
The house that haunts my dreams.
911 North Beverly Drive.
A stones throw from the Beverly Hills Hotel.
A block shared by Ozzy Osbourne and Pat Boone.
Four houses north of Sunset, on the left.
This house was no ordinary house, it was unforgettable.
A few facts about Stan Simeon:
1. Built in 1926.
2. Spanish Style.
5. Olympic Size Swimming Pool With Angel Statues In Middle.
6. Hollow Walls That You Could Crawl Through, Revealing Secret Passageways.
8. Rose Garden With Bird Bath.
9. Basement That Was Three Times The Size Of The Apartment I Currently Live In.
11. Living Room Had Twenty Foot Ceiling, Perfect For Year Round Rockafeller Center Sized Tree.
12. Den had fake bookshelf that revealed another room.
13. Two Pianos With Real Ivory Keys (poor elephants).
14. Scary Clown Paintings (think Gacy).
15. A Plethora Of Shag Carpet (do you feel horny baby?).
16. Wooden Front Door Was Four Inches Thick & Looked Like The Entrance To Bilbo Baggins House.
17. Never Locked.
18. Mid Century Modernism Meets Charles & Rae Meets 1970's Psychadelia Meets 1870's Antiques Meets Warholian Wonder Meets Kubrickian Future Meets Its Match.
Ready to dive in to the olympic sized pool of my memory and float upstream through the disjointed gray matter halls of my bittersweet brain?
The house was an exact duplicate of a house in Barcelona, Spain. The architectual mistakes were intentionally left in. Before my dad bought it, it was owned by the president of Coca-Cola. Before that, it was owned by the man who wrote the screenplay to a movie called, "The Wizard Of Oz". He died in the house, tripping over his dog (toto) and breaking his neck on the front steps (see #10).
At the entrance to every room was a small white button. Pressing it would ring the kitchen and the maids quarters. A voice would come over the intercom. "Yes?. Ask and ye shall receive. When my parents lost much of their fortune, the buttons still worked, only an eerie silence would replace the help. Hello? Anyone there? I still have nightmares.
My sister had a dollhouse you could walk into and serve tea, though by the time I was old enough to enjoy it, my sister was a teenager and it was long abandoned and looked like something out of a Stephen King novel. Think life size dolls and black widow spiders. Spooky-oooky!
We had a room that had one purpose only. Wrapping gifts. It was aptly called, "the wrapping room". It was filled with gift wrap for every occasion and had boxes of all shapes and sizes. Tape, scissors, bows, ribbons, cards. Presents were not just for birthdays or special occasions, they were a part of daily life. Everyday was Christmas at Casa Freberg, hence the ever-present 15 foot douglas fir, branches sagging with red and green glass balls the size of grapefruits. There were ALWAYS presents underneath, all year round. Presents would also be found in the "Magic Closet". More on this later, I promise.
Some rooms became so filled with piles of junk, my mother would lock them from the outside and throw away the key. As a teenager, i would pick these locks, finding several 350 square foot time capsules.
My mother, in lieu of cleaning the refrigerator, would padlock it full of food and have it thrown it in the garage. The garage was bigger than most New York dwellings. Several restaurant sized refrigerators and freezers were to be graveyarded there, with enough penicillin inside to cure the entire west coast of the ebola virus.
Growing up, my father had a right and left hand man on staff whose sole purpose was to iron shirts. I called him, "Jimmy The Shirt Man". His phone extension read, "house boy". The phone system was one of those old rotary jobs, multi-lines. BIG red hold button. Next to every phone in the house was a Hiltonesque list of names and extensions.
CHAEUFFERS QUARTERS (10)
BASEMENT (SOUTH) (8)
BASEMENT (NORTH) (9)
DONNA SR. (3)
DONNA JR. (4)
SPARE BEDROOM 1 (13)
SPARE BEDROOM 2 (14)
SPARE BEDROOM 3 (15)
BABY'S ROOM (5)
LAUNDRY ROOM (17)
LIVING ROOM (6)
SITTING ROOM (10)
WRAPPING ROOM (11)
BREAKFAST ROOM (1)
DINING ROOM (2)
POWDER ROOM (16)
STAN'S OFFICE (20)
Where were eighteen and nineteen?
When you buzzed INTERCOM, #, 18, you heard the corresponding buzz.
Ditto for INTERCOM, #, 19.
We'll never know.
Anyhow, back to bed.
Next to a fresh pot of coffee ready at all times, having an available bed nearby was of paramount importance.
Daytime was for sleeping.
Naps were holy.
My parents bed was so big, that it would sleep four people easily. It was custom made for them, out of two California king mattresses sewn together. The sheets were silk and the pillowcases had giant F's monogrammed on them. There was a small green velvet daybed at the end, where Baby the terrier slept. They had a mirror in the bedroom the size of my car and a mammoth golden chandelier that hung on the wall next to a giant potted palm. It shone as bright as a thousand candles and would sway and tinkle during earthquakes. The fifteen foot ceiling was painted with clouds and angels.
This Goliath bed (also known as my mothers office) was so filled with magazines and books and clippings and papers, that when the maid cleaned it once monthly, she filled fourteen extra large garbage bags. These hernia inducing sacks of dust mite ridden paper and collected doo-dad and mom were delivered to one of endless empty rooms, where they would remain untouched for decades. Remember the time capsule thing I mentioned? Yeah. Some rooms were so stuffed full of pack ratted junk, it became impossible to open the door anymore, and someone would have to climb in the window with a ladder to get in. I did just that at the age of 16 and found a fruitcake that said, HAPPY NEW YEAR 1973!!!, an expired bottle of Empirin-Codeine, a harmonica, dozens of half drunk cans of Tab, the talcum powdery bones of a dead mouse crushed between two old Playboys and several newspapers from when John F. Kennedy was still in office.
My mother had a coffee maker and refrigerator in her bedroom. Coffee was the #1 priority at all times.
Come to think of it, there was a drip coffee maker and little refrigerator in every bedroom.
Filled with Chocolate and Ice-Cold Coca-Cola.
Guess that explains my love of hotels.
I grew up in one.
There was also TV in nearly every room, full volume, 24/7. Always on. Always.
I didn't know that TV's could be turned off until well past my tenth birthday.
I went to sleep every single night to the sound of "This is the NBC network, signing off. Goodnight America."...then the star spangled banner...then...snow. White noise puts me out like a light to this very day. I would awaken to the sound of Sesame Street or Captain Kangaroo, the smell of cigarettes and black coffee. I began drinking it at six, when my mother would give me sugar cubes soaked in her favorite antidote to morning.
My mother had a two giant rooms, one just for clothing and one for shoes.
The shoe room had french windows, and on the side of each box of shoes was words that described the contents in terms of what they would be appropriate for:
My father had a "dressing room", which gave a whole new meaning to the word "walk-in" closet. It had more shoehorns than I have shoes and smelled like a combination of Aramis and mothballs.
My shower had seven shower heads and a window seat overlooking a grove of orange trees.
There was a "powder room" near to the entrance which smelled just like it sounds and had a full blown studio style mirrored make-up table with lights and drawers and brushes and blushes and a small adjacent desk adorned with a telephone. Taped to the phone was a list of cab and limo services written in lip liner. First you make up, then you go out!
My father typed in the living room, often after midnight. Because I liked the clackety-clack sound of the keys (my father always used a manual typewriter), i would frequently sleep on the L- shaped rust colored crushed velvet couch and awaken at 2am to Frances carrying me to my crib. Under her breath, I would hear her singing "rock a bye baby". Her breath smelled like bacon.
My father did not have an address book, instead he had an entire wall that had hundreds of numbers written on it in magic marker. On it was a wondefully eclectic, dizzying array of telephonic possibilities and emergency contacts...
JACOPO'S PIZZA, TOP HAT LIMO SERVICE, STAN"S AGENT, STAN'S ATTORNEY, STAN'S BABBER, RAY BRADBURY, FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA, DRY CLEANERS, ROSEMARY CLOONEY, STATIONARY SUPPLIES, BH LIBRARY, LOCKSMITH, CHINESE FOOD, 24 HR. NEWS STAND, 24 HR. PHARMACY, 24 HR. GROCERY STORE, PHONE REPAIR, TV REPAIR, PROJECTOR REPAIR, VACUUM CLEANER REPAIR, FRANK ZAPPA, POOL MAN, BH CAMERA STORE, DOUBLEDAY BOOKS, 20TH CENTURY FOX, BANK, POISON CONTROL CENTER, LIGHT BULB STORE, GAS COMPANY, GEORGE LUCAS, RECORDING STUDIO, UNCLE BILL, BBDO NY, Y&R CHICAGO, OGILVY & MATHER LA, EXTERMINATOR (See #7), JURGENSONS MARKET, BABY'S VETERINARIAN, BABY'S PEDIATRICIAN, TYPEWRITER REPAIR, DONNA JR'S DOCTOR, DONNA SR'S DOCTOR, STAN'S DOCTOR, FRANCES'S DOCTOR, THROAT DOCTOR, HAND DOCTOR, FOOT DOCTOR, DOCTOR T, DOCTOR L, DOCTOR H, DOCTOR X, DOCTOR Y, DOCTOR Z, DOCTORDOCTORDOCTOR, JAGUAR DEALER, HARDWARE STORE, DONNA SR'S MANICURIST, STAN'S MANICURIST, DIRECTORS GUILD, LA SCALA BEVERLY HILLS, MUSSO & FRANKS, TOWER RECORDS, CAPITOL RECORDS, CARLS MARKET, CARPET CLEANERS, MAYOR TOM BRADLEY (HOME).Who needs a filofax when you've got a giant stucco canvas?