3.21.2013

"This was a real studio neighborhood."

My next door neighbor stepped outside to find two older gentlemen surveying her house closely. "May I help you?" she asked. The men jovially introduced themselves and said that they used to live in her home in the 1950's. My neighbor was on her way out the door and couldn't chat, but urged them to send a letter to share some history on the place. Surprisingly, they did. You gotta love the old timers.

Here in Studio City, you're considered a good neighbor if you keep to yourself. No one knows anyone else and the only thing everyone knows is which house Cybill Shephard lives in. Not only did the former tenants  give her a history of her own home, but of the whole neighborhood. They summed it up with one sentence, "This was a real studio neighborhood."

In this aptly-named Studio City, CBS Radford is but a few blocks away. I often pass the lot when walking the dogs. These days, with paint-by-number suburbs in faraway "drive 'till you qualify" neighborhoods, everyone chokes the freeways on their studio commute from God Knows Where. But back in the 50's, ordinary people could afford to buy houses in Los Angeles proper. They could hold onto entertainment industry jobs, so they bought family homes in the shadow of the studio lot and bicycled to work. 

Our neighborhood may be a mix of McMansions and Cape Cods, but according to the letter my neighbor received, these streets were rows of quickly-built clapboard shacks, and they all worked for the studios. My next door neighbors were dog trainers, and their pet was their bread and butter. The dog's name? Lassie. Yep, THE Lassie.

I knew that the old lady who built our cabin died in the living room, but now she has a name. Anita Carney. She was apparently a wannabe society lady. An eccentric who was single, but had enough money to buy this plot and build a rustic cabin, defying the architecture of her neighbors. She was fanatical about her garden and ignored her neighbors, who found her pretentious.

The pages of the letter written to my neighbor were riveting. Between Lassie's dog trainers, movie music composer John Williams (he did the score for Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones, etc.) and all the Mad Men-type "hanky panky" happening between the young polyester-clad couples in the 50's and 60's - it was a studio neighborhood indeed.

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