Wednesday, March 26, 2008


What do Ayn Rand (above), Barbara Stanwyck and Wally Wood have in common? They all lived 20 minutes or less from my house! Of course that was the era before the land was sub-divided into housing developments. Come to think of it, Jimmy Cagney lived around here too, in Porter Ranch, but I don't know exactly where. In LA no part of the city is more than a stone's throw from some kind of historical film landmark.

Yesterday Milt Grey and I decided to get in a car and look up the sites where the homes of these people used to be. I wish I'd thought to bring along extra batteries for the camera. I only managed to get a few pictures but you might still be interested to see what we came up with.

Barbara Stanwyck (above) and Ayn Rand were next-door neighbors in what is now called Northridge. That's right, Northridge, where the Earthquake was.

Here's (above) a picture of Ayn Rand's house, address: 10000 Tampa Blvd., taken in the 1940s when half the valley was still covered with orange groves. It was originally designed by Neutra for film director Erik Von Sternberg.

Today the house is gone and in it's place is a public junior high, Noble Middle School. I had to get this picture off the net because my camera froze.

10000 Tampa is a few blocks up from the local mall, The Northridge Fashion Center. It's funny to think of people at the mall's book store perusing Rand books that were written only a few blocks away.

After Northridge we headed in the opposite direction to Wally Wood's (portrait above) last apartment at 15150 Parthenia in Van Nuys.

We discovered a somewhat run-down neighborhood but I imagine it was OK when Wally was there. My camera started working again so I got this picture of the side of the building where Wood had a street-level entrance. That's his apartment behind the grey car.

To get to Wood's apartment (above) you turn right after opening the brown gate.

And that's his place, number 71. I met the occupant and she was delighted to learn that a famous artist lived here. I didn't have the heart to tell her that Wood shot himself there. It was three days before the body was found.

According to Milt, Wood came to LA to find work in animation because it was getting harder and harder to make a living doing comics in New York. He was desperate for money because he had kidney problems which required expensive dialysis treatments. He tried to sell projects to Hanna Barbera and others but nobody was buying. I think his final work was comics for a local porn publisher, a real come-down for someone of Wood's stature.

I'm tempted to say that a gloom hung over the apartment, but really it was just the opposite. In bright mid-day it was positively cheery. Thank God life carries on.


I.D.R.C. said...

Poor Wally. Things sure have changed since the days of McManus and McKay.

That's the problem. Change your name to McSomething, if you want a career.

One of the saddest things about LA is how much cool old stuff is gone now. I feel the same way about my home, Chicago, but I think it's even more so here. Something tells me I was supposed to live in the 1940's. Except I'm black, so maybe not.

lastangelman said...

Geez, Ayn Rand's home was classy, now it's a memory and a photo. Sounds like Dallas, TX, they will knock down something old and interesting and historic just to put up some trash mansion or shopping mall.
(Here's an irony, they're going to tear down an historic but useful strip mall, here, to build GWBush's Presidential Library).

I'm amazed the occupant of Wood's old flat didn't freak out there were two strangers at her door, but I guess now she's bragging to her neighbors. You never know, she might start breaking out the pencils, crayons and paints, start a new hobby.

Lester Hunt said...

Wonderful post, Eddie. I've always wondered what now occupies the site of 10000 Tampa. What a crime that they razed that building -- or any structure by Richard Neutra. People can be such fools!

Whit said...

Jumping Jesus, you'd think Hanna-Barbera could've used a talent like Wood, if only to ink presentations for their lame show ideas. Wood blew his brains out about the time H-B was putting stuff like "Fonz and the Happy Days Gang" on the air. They never had any taste, despite what their mentally disturbed sycophants think.

pappy d said...

That was sad about Wallace Wood. I never knew the circumstances of his death. He was only 54 & took so many years of great art with him.

He was a master at everything from cartoony to Hal-Foster realism.

Probably his most famous work was the Disneyland orgy for "The Realist" magazine. It was (officially) uncredited.

Ken Mitchroney said...

Now that's a post! I love reading, and seeing this stuff Eddie. I hope you take us out for more "Cartoon archeology."
That reminds me, Aren't we due for another trip to Tehachapi ?

Anonymous said...

"One of the saddest things about LA is how much the cool old stuff is gone now."

That's Los Angeles for you. In that town, as far as I can tell, nobody cares about history.

Anyway, it's indeed fasinating, yet sad to know that so much has happened is now gone, with only photos and dab memories of everything that once was, is lost.

But like you said Eddie, life goes on.

Thank you for this insightful post, Uncle Ed. It certanly raised my awareness of how much history your city has (who knew Wally had to shift coasts, due to his current health & then current conditions of the industry.)

From an inspiring animator/ artist

chrisallison said...

Hey Eddie, do you know if Ayn Rand got that house before she wrote the Fountainhead? I don't know much about her life, but I could see that house being a great inspiration in the Fountainhead's conception. But then again, her purchase of the house could be inspired by her writing too.

Marc Deckter said...

What a great 20 minute radius. What are your favorite Barbara Stanwyck movies, Eddie? Sad to hear the story of Wood's final days - it's probably for the best you didn't tell the occupant that story!

David Germain said...

On this subject, guess who were neighbors in LA back in the '40's. Freddy Moore and Tex Avery!!

Adam Tavares said...

I would've partied with Ayn Rand in her space ranch.

Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand had already written "The Fountainhead" by the time she lived in that house. She may well have written "Atlas Shrugged" there. BTW, that house was torn down around 1968 and Nobel Middle School opened for business in the early 1960's, so it wasn't exactly in the same spot. Those large, expensive homes east of Tampa a few blocks north of the school are on the spot where the house and its grounds stood.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

David: Thanks much! The link to pictures ofTex and Freddie's houses (and Manny Gould's apartment) is really interesting!

Anon: Holy Mackeral! Thanks for pointing that out! The street sign outside the school says "10000 Tampa" but I wondered if the current numbers corresponded exactly to the old numbers.

When you said a few blocks North, did you refer to the houses on a hill, overlooking the freeway?

Anonymous said...

No, not on the hill above the 118. That sprawling housing tract lies just east of Tampa and just south of Devonshire. An article in the L.A. Times a couple of years ago interviewed an architecht familiar with the torn-down Richard Neutra example and asked him to compare the new ones with the lost classic. His verdict was that the new homes were "not bad, but expensive. Some people are paying a lot of bucks to live there." The new houses are also enormous and sit about three feet apart. If you take Lassen to Vanalden and go north past the eastern boundary of Nobel Middle School's property, you'll end up in the middle of that tract of massive, sweltering homes. Northridge, to paraphrase the late Casey Stengel, "holds the heat well."

Vincent Waller said...

Great Post Eddie.
Its always fun to go oon av=dventures with Uncle Eddie

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anon: Many thanks for the correction! When I'm able I'll take a camera and photograph the site you mentioned!

Marc: My favorite Stanwyck is "Clash by Night," which I saw for the first time at John's house. She's great in it!

Chris: It looks like Anon answered your question. She must have been a big success in before she moved into that house, otherwise how could she have afforded it?

Anonymous said...

Great post, Eddie. For more pictures and information on the Josef von Sternberg House, see Sam Watters's second volume of Houses of Los Angeles. Built in 1935, demolished for a condominium complex in 1971. According to Watters, the "army used von Sternberg's residence as a mock bombing target in World War II, owing to its shiplike form" and being surrounded on three sides by a moat.

Michael Brown said...

Rand wrote "Atlas Shrugged" in New York. She moved out of her house in California and moved to NY. She really prefered NY and its 'culture', etc. She shortly sold off the house.

Personally, I think the house is great and its too bad it was torn down. But Rand was apparently the sort that liked the 'big city', not suburbia.

Anonymous said...


Just so you know, from 1968 until they built the new homes there the house existed just north of Nobel School. I know because I used to walk my dog there and we trespassed
onto the land just north of Nobel.

I used to wonder who built the house with the moat around it.

The school and the house existed at the same time.

Anonymous said...

What a find this is for me. My grandfather lived at 9858 Tampa and I grew up there. I remember the Ayn Rand house very well. In fact, there was a burglary there one time and for some reason we went inside to see the damage.

I never met Ayn Rand (that I remember), but my father did and was a big fan. My great uncle, Ronald Davidson, owned the land south of the house that is now the school. My grandfather's property (which was mostly orange trees with a few lemons and grapefruit) was on the southeast corner of Tampa and Lassen. There are just houses there now.

To show you how oral history can be wrong, I always thought that the house was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The picture is great. But I remember much more foliage around the house.

Other famous people in the area were Maxine Andrews down the street (we swam in her pool) and Lucy and Desi over on Corbin and Devonshire.

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand followed her paramour to New York. Her husband found the house As ayn cared nothing for it.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey Bonitz continues...

As I said, I used to walk my German Shephard along the sreet just north of Nobel School and also inside the school grounds. I remember several times that I went inside of a fence that was partly down and surrounded by big trees which lined the street. I would look at the house with a moat around it. The trees were much bigger and were close to the house and blocked the view from the street. Everything looked overgrown. I thought nothing of the moat since I had lived in a suberb of Taipei, Taiwan and from ages 12 to 17 and was used to seeing many houses and rich Chinese people's mansions with big walls, with ditches close to them and several big houses with moats around them. I do recall that the
curved wall at the rounded edge of the patio looked unique and I wondered who would build a wall like that. I thought it would be there forever.

By the way, Anstr Davidson, I would like to swap stories with you sometime. Before I lived in Taiwan my family lived in Glendora and were surrounded by orange groves. It was like my own private forest.

Unknown said...

The barbara stanwyck photos above are really classic and i was curious on
barbara stanwyck movies where we get a copy of her movie.

Simon said...

It was at this house that Nathaniel Branden met Ayn Rand, staying up til 5.30am to chat about her Philosophy on 2 March, 1950.\uc0\u8236 }