LAUREL CANYON—It’s all about what door you’re willing to knock on, and who you’re willing to ask. I’ve always thought that my particular neighborhood was especially close. We know our neighbors, we help one another. We pick up mail, watch each other’s kids, and these days we send e-mails as a substitute for a town crier. We have a feeling of community. It makes me wonder why outsiders think hillside dwellers are snobby and stand-offish.
I started out knocking on the door of what I thought might be one of the original hunting lodges on the corner of Stanley Hills and Lookout Mountain. Gene Bush a local realtor once showed me of these lodges/ summer homes ”“ whatever you might want to call them. They date back to maybe the ’20s and ’30s. They are simple, small cabins, built in a time when I suspect that if there were building codes not many people gave them much thought. If you look carefully you can see the original structure, then came the add-ons—rooms, closets and staircases. The houses seem like a rabbit warren of rooms haphazardly stuck to one another, short steeply pitched ceilings, tight staircases, not much insulation, lots of gorgeous wood and a guaranteed fireplace.
Robert answered my knock-knock, and invited me in. He filled up the doorway of the cabin that was built in 1939. You know that in almost any other neighborhood I would have gotten the door slammed in my face.
Robert knew all of his neighbors. They popped in. He popped over. He first came to the neighborhood in 2001 to work on the refurbishing of the famous Bird House at 8102 Lookout Mountain. The project took over a year. The former owner of 25 years, Bob Crosby —no, not Crosby Stills and Nash, although in Laurel Canyon it’s a legitimate question —had sold it. The new owner wanted to restore, remodel and upgrade it. Robert told me that Johnny Weissmuller is reputed to have once lived at the famous Tree House, which explained all the studio rock and water features on the lot.
Try as I might to pull his story out of him, he was bashful about his own accomplishments and much happier telling me about his great neighbors. As a contractor, his stories were loaded with construction details. Who lived where, how to get work permitted in the hills, where jobs had stalled, how frustrated that made the owners and so on. He speculated on the original cost of some homes, and the price of remodeling, while introducing me to some of his neighbors, and happily making phone calls to others connected to the area in the past.
Robert came for the work, and stayed for the friends. I finally managed to get him to show me some of his woodwork, though he still wouldn’t brag. He thinks of it as tinkering in the garage. The finished furniture was slick as a whistle and a little whimsical for such a big dude. Life is full of contradictions. What a great way to take your mind off the everyday pressures. You can contact him at email@example.com.