Ones Treasure is Another's Trash, Part II

My mother's family at 608 North Cañon Drive in 1967, the year I was born. Sunny Scott holds me, at center. Already, I seem transfixed by the camera's powerful presence.

My grandparent's fantastic 1920's pink stucco Mediterranean-style house, at 608 North Cañon Drive in Beverly Hills, was photographed for a Los Angeles Times cover story in the early 1970s. And published under a headline extoling it's longtime residents as the chi chi neighborhood's indigenous hillbillies. A cruel riff, of course, on the popular television program. The reporter scaled an alley wall behind the house to discover a plot of dusty earth bound by herbaceous borders of straggling woodbine and broken liquor bottles, patrolled by a leopard... skin coat, draped over a sagging clothesline. I like to imagine the luxe fur had been let out in the fragrant air to freshen a sour odor that clung to it, say, a heady mixture of Camel cigarettes and Guerlin's Jardins de Bagatelle, after a night out on the town at Chasen's, Coconut Grove, or maybe The Brown Derby. And then it had been forgotten and left there. For a decade. Or two. My mother's '65 Ford Thunderbird convertible -- white, with a mouldy green canvas top, and tethered by a massive fallen tree branch -- lorded over 'the chauffeur's cottage' a derelict and crooked structure that re-created the main house in miniature.

608's high-studded reception rooms opened on to several interior courtyards, with pissed-dry cement fountains and old-growth lemon and avocado trees strangled by creeping fig. From a child's perspective, distorted by memory, the house invokes the labyrinth of the Minoan palace at Knossos on Crete. Granny had altered the floor plan to become a maze of perilously stacked, slippery bundles of magazines, newspapers. Blind alleys did not lead to the Minotaur's lair. Instead, looming and ghastly-looking Chinese antiquities lay in wait, silhouetted forms of vengeful demons and smirking Buddhas, which had passed down along with the so-called CREB "alcoholism" gene from my grandfather's family. The living room's original décor, as preserved in home movies, is barely recognizable to me: rustling, gauzy curtains diffuse that famous California light; a suite of Victorian furniture is upholstered in immaculate, powder blue cotton velvet. Foreshadowing of the wreck it would become: Staffordshire lamps placed around the room, representing doomed characters from the works of Shakespeare.

Staffordshire Romeo & Juliet Figure, c.1855

Into creating theatrics at home? Bishop and Daughter Antiques has a fine collection of Staffordshire Shakespearian actor figures. Procure one for about a thousand bucks, have it mounted as a lamp, and let the drama begin.