Le château

03Oct06

My brother, Cain, lives in a beautiful old decayed Spanish-style house in the Hollywood Hills that, I think, dates from 1926. Even though it’s right off Highway 101 (and right up from Universal Studios) you would never know it. Somehow the topography works out just perfectly so that local trees hide the freeway without obscuring the lengthy view that you get from the second story picture window.

The reason the house isn’t quite fit is because it was at first owned by a gentleman who bought it for his mistress to live in. In fact, it turns out that the gentleman in question had five mistresses, and when his wife found this out she made him kick them all out of the houses he had bought for them. After this the house was inhabited — or perhaps ‘infested’ would be a better term — by a couple of “carpenters” who were actually busy growing marijuana in the house in ‘secret’ grow rooms that they made by gutting the upstairs bathrooms and hiding the entrances to these with false, though totally obvious, ‘hidden’ doors. They also let the plaster in the place go to rot, cut primary support joists in the kitchen floor in order to make trap-door stashes, and worst of all, let the downstairs plumbing go to rot.

Not all of this is fixed, but my brother is in the process of restoring the place and, since his taste in furnishings tends to run towards Spanish gothic anyhow, the decor matches the shell that surrounds it. Staying in my brother’s house is a bit like staying in the extra set that never made it onto the Universal lot, or staying in the most cozy and mellow theme palace in history. In candlelight, at night, drinking red wine or port, it’s the perfect place to be. In fact, the first renovation he did on the house was to prepare it for use as the primary set in his short film Mitzi and Joe, which, along with other films from Filmmakers Alliance, was one of the features at the 1998 AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival. My brother’s house is often referred to as “The Château” or “Casa de Cain,” but in fact it’s more recently become “Casa de Catfish,” since it’s now my brother’s Boston terrier that holds full reign over the living space.

And did I mention that rumor has it the house just up the hill from him was once owned by Chef Boyardee? The enormous custom stove is still huddling in the kitchen.

My brother’s upstairs living room at night.

These are the stairs that lead down to the first floor. The sculpture in the alcove was made by my brother’s friend Joe Pippett.

These paintings in the upstairs living area are by a neighbor of Cain’s who lives down the street. Their strangely religious aspect meshes well with the gothic decor.



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