Karl: It’s a warm Friday morning, December 10th, and I’m here on the corner of Flores and Santa Monica, having breakfast at Basix with?
Silver Fox: Silver Fox
Karl: Cute! So what is your occupation?
Silver Fox: I’m retired.
Karl: You’re a socialite?
Silver Fox: I’m a socialite, I’m a retired socialite. My occupation, at this time, is to help the elderly. I help several holocaust victims that I drive around, I grocery shop for them, and I take them to the doctor’s or the drug store. I just spend time with them.
Karl: Are they local? Near here?
Silver Fox: They live in the Fairfax area.
Karl: That’s nice of you.
Silver Fox: No, actually, it’s a gift for me. It is. I’m very blessed.
Karl: You’re married?
Silver Fox: I’m married, two children, three grandchildren of my own. I’ve adopted a set of twins because their grandmother died before they were born. They needed a Grandma, so they call me “Na-na,” and they’re six-years-old.
Karl: And where do they live?
Silver Fox: They live in Chatsworth. They come to the pool sometimes in the summer.
Karl: They’re lucky to have you.
Silver Fox: I’m very lucky! They’re adorable!
Karl: Please tell me a little bit about yourself, and what you do in your free time, your hobbies, those sorts of things.
Silver Fox: This is my hobby. Going to the gym, and spending time with people who I can help. I’m paying it forward. I love people, and they’re my hobby. Anything I can do to help somebody, even just sit and listen to whatever their problems are, that’s what I like to do.
Karl: *sips coffee* And what brought you to West Hollywood?
Silver Fox: I came here from Chicago. It was very cold. *laughs* I actually grew up here, in California, in Los Angeles, by the gym.
Karl: Oh, I didn’t know that about you.
Silver Fox: Yes, I grew up and went to school here, over by La Cienega and 18th Street. So I feel like I’ve gone full circle now. I moved to Chicago in 1967, where I met and married by husband. We lived there for 16-years, but we came back here because I complained about the winters bitterly, and I couldn’t stand sliding down my steps one more time. So he got a job out here and said, “We’re moving.” And I said, “Oh I don’t think I can go.” (Because all of our best friends are in Chicago). “You’re the one who wants to leave,” he said. “Maybe… But I don’t think I can leave them, so you’ll have to go and I’ll stay with them.” *laughs* But we came here in January of ’79 and lived in The Valley, which I hated, because it’s dead. I like the action of this city. My mother lived in my building, she actually lived in the unit that I live in now.
Karl: No kidding.
Silver Fox: I was here a lot visiting my mom and spending a lot of time here, and I love being in this area. There’s life here, its fabulous. When her building was converting, I was working for a law firm that was representing the developer of her building. So I worked with the lawyers, the Department of Real Estate, and the developer. They needed somebody who lived there to buy into the building before the city converted it so it didn’t look like it was a phony deal. I was working for the law firm, so I asked my mother and they offered to help my mother buy the unit.
Karl: What an opportunity.
Silver Fox: Well, she didn’t want to own anything, so she sold it to us. And so we came from The Valley to the city. Happy, happy, happy!
Karl: Wow, that worked out so well.
Silver Fox: *laughs* Fabulous! She wanted to travel, and we wanted to come into town where there are so many people on the street.
Karl: Yeah, that’s what attracts a lot of people here I think.
Silver Fox: Yes, even if you don’t go out, you know it’s there.
Karl: Was it like that in the area you grew up?
Silver Fox: Well, this was a totally different area at that time and I didn’t come to West Hollywood often. But this area developed over the years into a collection of so many different people. You know, different religions, different races, different desires, different interests… It really became a very eclectic group. It’s all very exciting to me, I love the diversity. It wasn’t always like that, but I didn’t live in this area so I didn’t know much about it as a kid. But when my mother moved here, it was the perfect location for her. She got around a lot and travelled a lot. She lived in her building for, I don’t know, maybe ten years before they converted it. It didn’t look the way it looks now.
Karl: So was it a step up?
Silver Fox: Oh it was definitely a step up, they put a whole new face on it.
Karl: It looked like a stereo-typical rental?
Silver Fox: Yes, it looked like an apartment building. The pool didn’t have a gate, and the place didn’t have a fence around it, it didn’t have any of the trimmings around it or the landscaping. It was an interesting building at the time when it was a rental because many actors lived there. There was a lot of action, and a lot of people have lived in that building. I meet lots of people who lived there at one time or another. It was a lot of people who come to Hollywood to find their way, actors, writers, directors. There were lots of different people. There was also at one time, (now this is gossip, I don’t know it for a fact myself) but there was some sort of Israeli mafia, and there was a murder, and there was a body floating in the pool.
*waiter delivers omelets*
Karl: So tell me what sorts of changes you’ve seen since moving here with your husband. How has West Hollywood developed since then?
Silver Fox: Well, it’s very busy. As people escape from various parts of the world, they come to this area first. It’s actually the Fairfax area that attracts them. They move into West Hollywood, they assimilate here, and then they move out. So when I was working for this law firm, it was real estate law, so I got to see where the money was coming from. It was coming from the Russians, the Iranians, many of the Asian areas, the ethnicities of the area are very interesting. Everybody knew where they could go to get help, and they knew how to work the system. So they moved here, into West Hollywood. They came with money, hidden wherever, (typically Jewish people). They bought buildings, they got comfortable, they assimilated, and they moved out. So I’ve watched many ethnic groups move in and out of here.
Karl: Yeah, I guess so.
Silver Fox: So many stores changed to meet the needs of the people living in the community.
Karl: So it hasn’t always been Russian-centric?
Silver Fox: Oh no, before the Russians were the Iranians, and before them were many people from Korea, who then moved into Koreatown. It’s really been interesting watching the turnover. So then you had all these different stores to meet the needs of all these people. It wasn’t as busy as it is now. Some of these stores have been here as long as I can remember. There’s a beauty shop down on the other side of Crescent Heights. It’s owned by, I don’t know, she’s Chinese, or Korean, she’s been there forever. My mother used to go to her.
Silver Fox: Yes. And all their clientele are elderly so they’re dying off. But she’s been here 30, 35 years. There’s another shop right here, *points down Santa Monica Blvd.* same thing, it’s been here forever, same owner.
Karl: Do you go there out of loyalty, to your mom I mean?
Silver Fox: To that shop? No, but I do stop in because I know the people, because they were so kind to my mother. So I stop and I say hello, how are you? And I bring them some candy or something. It’s kind of nice for me too because they knew my mother. My mother’s been gone ten years. They were very kind to her.
Waiter: How’s everything you guys?
Karl: Delicious. Thank you.
Silver Fox: My mother finally went to the Jewish Home for the Aging, which is in The Valley. Even though they had a beauty shop on the premises, she would not let anybody do her hair, or the waxing of her face. So I used to pick her up every weekend and bring her into town to go to her beauty shop, then take her to lunch, she’d stay for dinner with us, then we’d take her back to The Valley.
Karl: Aw, that’s sweet.
Silver Fox: This neighborhood has been a congregate for gays for a long time, but it wasn’t as concentrated as it is now. People are out more, they came out over the years. They weren’t always out. But they were more comfortable here, and certainly now they’re really comfortable. It’s a wonderful, free area for people to live in and be who you are.
Karl: I think even that has changed over the last ten years. I can only speak for the last decade because that’s as long as I’ve lived here, but it seems it’s gotten even more comfortable than it was even ten years ago.
Silver Fox: Oh, absolutely. Well, it’s more acceptable. You don’t find as much prejudice as you did ten years ago.
Karl: Well, maybe. Yeah, that’s probably true.
Silver Fox: So that makes a difference. And all these bars have opened up to meet their needs, to cater to the community.
Karl: Has that community changed much? I mean the identity of West Hollywood as a community?
Silver Fox: I think the identity changes with the people who come from different countries. That constantly changes the community.
Karl: Maybe it’s because I have kids, but the place really seems to boom with more children now.
Silver Fox: I think that with, particularly the Russian Jewish community, many of them are orthodox with lots of children. They build these houses for their families. Even the houses on Crescent Heights, those big beautiful homes you see going south, those homes are built there for mommy and daddy, the children and their children. They could have five kids, and 15 to 20 grandchildren. This is not unusual. It’s also what’s going on in the Pico, La Cienega/Robertson area. So yeah, I think you’re getting more children. I think the parks attract them, and we have these great parks. That little Kings Road park makes a big difference. And then you have Plummer Park and that great one on San Vicente.
Karl: West Hollywood Park?
Silver Fox: Yes, which is very busy. You see a lot of children there. So I think that the diversity of people, and the people who like to live in the city prefer this area, and don’t mind living here with children around. And The Valley is not what it used to be. You used to be able to go there and find cheaper homes. That is not the case. People who would’ve ordinarily moved with their family out to that area to find something much less expensive, it’s not possible.
Karl: No kidding.
Silver Fox: Not in the areas that you would want to live in. So that’s why I think that families stay in town more. They put their kids in private school, which was not the accepted way of life years ago, but it is now. They put their kid’s name on a list from the time that they’re pregnant, and they wait to get in, and they pay a fortune for preschool and kindergarten. There’s a lot of money in this area. And the nice thing about that is that people seem to care about their property. You can see that by just driving up and down the street.
Karl: You mean more so than say, The Valley?
Silver Fox: No, I mean more so than years ago.
Karl: Ah. Okay.
Silver Fox: What I have found personally, is that gay people really care about their property. And they’re very creative and very talented, and they put money into their property, which only makes the whole neighborhood better. On the corner of Sweetzer and Waren, that building on the corner, you know that beautiful building, the one that was Charlie Chaplin’s.
Karl: The wood one? Yeah, that place is gorgeous.
Silver Fox: Gorgeous! But before these guys moved in there, that place was a dump! They had all sorts of trash on the Sweetzer side, whoever owned it didn’t paint it, it was just a mess. And these gentlemen moved in there and what they did to that building… they restored it. It’s gorgeous, it’s a pleasure. I have often wanted to stop inside and ask, “Can I just come in and look?”
Karl: Yeah, everybody points that place out. There’s another one down here… *points down Kings Road*
Silver Fox: The Schindler House?
Karl: No, not the Schindler House, it’s on the Northeast corner of Kings and Willoughby, Rootenberg-Markham or something, does that sound right? Anyway, I’ve wanted to get a look inside that place for years but there’s nothing on it. It’s a mid-century looking place, stretches all the way back, it’s just really wild inside.
Silver Fox: It’s an apartment building?
Karl: There’s bricks in the front. It’s not that amazing from the outside but you can tell just by looking at it that it’s got to have some treasures inside of it.
Silver Fox: The other big change in this neighborhood is all of the designers that have moved in on Melrose.
Karl: Yeah. No, I think that’s fantastic. It used to be all antique stores, at least when I moved here.
Silver Fox: Right, certainly nothing that you would be particularly excited about. But what’s happened with the Design Center and everything moving East on Melrose, it’s unbelievable. I mean, who ever knew that we would be living in this neighborhood?
Karl: No, it’s fantastic, except for the employees running back and forth across the street.
Silver Fox: Well, you get that in Beverly Hills too.
Karl: Yeah, well… I’m always dodging the Marc Jacobs guys sprinting across Melrose with fur coats in their arms when I’m coming home from work. *laughs*
Silver Fox: Yes, but it’s such a nice addition to this neighborhood. Now how long it’s going to last is another story. This is such a fickle town, it’s the same with the restaurants. You know, they’re really popular, really big, everybody goes, and then a couple of years later, they’re all gone. Because the entertainment community moves and their desires change. Unlike New York, Boston, Chicago, where restaurants stay forever, neighborhood-places that you’ve been going to, where you grew up and are still there, family owned, we don’t have that. And if it gets old, we tear it down.
Karl: Have things gotten better or worse in your opinion?
Silver Fox: The traffic is worse, but I think the community is better. I think it’s much better, and prettier. If you walk down Croft, or Orlando…
Karl: Orlando is beautiful.
Silver Fox: Beautiful! The homes on Orlando are just gorgeous. It’s one of the nicest streets. And on Harper, those duplexes are so well-kept. My preference for driving is to take Harper from the East just because it’s so pretty. But the traffic is appalling.
Karl: Yes, it is. I don’t know what they’re going to do about it.
Silver Fox: I don’t know that they can do anything because they keep allowing building. As long as they keep allowing that, they’re going to have terrible traffic problems which we already have. Santa Monica Blvd. cannot handle what’s going on here. If you go East where Target is, they’re going to tear down the Trader Joe’s in that area, they’re building a big complex, housing with commercial on the bottom.
Silver Fox: Like, 92-units.
Karl: They’re going to take down the Yukon Mining Company?
Silver Fox: They’re going to take all of that down. Across from Target, there’s a MacDonald’s and a Carl’s Jr., all of that is coming down for a big complex. Now after 12:30/1:00, you cannot go East on Santa Monica Blvd., it’s bumper to bumper. How can they allow that kind of building for residential people? The city has to be on the take.
*Conversation pauses as fire-trucks zoom by, sirens blaring*
Karl: This street (Santa Monica) is just unbearable.
Silver Fox: The Grove is new too. I would’ve voted against it had I known it was going up, but of course now I’m happy that it’s there. But thinking only of the traffic, I would’ve voted against it.
Karl: Yeah, you can’t get anywhere on Fairfax now. I’m a big fan though. I like it there.
Silver Fox: It has revitalized the Farmer’s Market. That’s been there since I was a child, which is a very long time ago.
Karl: Yes, I love it there, I go there all the time.
Silver Fox: The meat market was there when I was growing up, the same meat market. It’s like old home.
Karl: It’s a stop on the LA Tour now.
Silver Fox: That’s part of the problem, because it’s so crowded. We stay away on the weekends, we don’t go near it. If we want to see a movie, we certainly don’t go on a Friday or Saturday night because they charge a fortune. So we go during the week on senior prices. We’re lucky enough to be able to go during the week. You know, they’re installing a “Mommy’s Day” there so mothers can take their babies to the movies.
Karl: Yes, I’m familiar. I wish they would implement something like that on the airlines. So it’s just a plane full of kids, and all nurf inside everywhere, with toys and mats and things.
Silver Fox: They could play kids movies and things.
Karl: Yes, exactly. Like one flight a day that is just all families, then people don’t have to deal with the screaming kids. Maybe Disney can run with that. They could paint “Toy Story” on the outside of the plane or something.
Silver Fox: I would love to go on a plane where there are no children. Now, when I go to a restaurant, if I want to be with kids, and of course I love children, then fine, but I don’t want to go fine-dining and spend a lot of money and have kids there. And people bring their children everywhere. That’s different. We never went out with kids.
Karl: Well, being a culprit of that myself, there are some days that you get home from work late, it’s too late to find a sitter, and you just need to get out of the house, you gotta take ’em out and hope that they behave.
Silver Fox: But you’re not going to fine-dining restaurants.
Karl: No, just the local stuff here. Is this fine dining?
Silver Fox: No.
Karl: Well, the owner may disagree with you, but we bring them here often. But you’re referring to Mastro’s or something.
Silver Fox: Right.
Karl: No, I wouldn’t dare bring the kids there.
Silver Fox: But people are. We went to Flemings in The Valley, which is very nice. The place was packed with children. How could they pay those prices to order a meal for a child?
Karl: I guess families here have money to blow.
Silver Fox: Well, if your parents came to visit, and they wanted to take you and the kids to a really nice restaurant…
Karl: Isn’t that why they built The Grove? *laughs*
Silver Fox: That’s what you see happening, the grandparents, and the parents, and the children, and the little children. And children run around restaurants. That’s another change. Parents allow their kids to run around restaurants.
Karl: Yes, that’s problematic. I actually kicked a little girl by accident once because she was under our table at Asakuma Rice.
So, what would you like to see more of?
Silver Fox: I’d like to see more parking. It’s very hard to have guests.
Karl: Right, you have to go out and grab parking spaces with your cars.
Silver Fox: Or ask people in the building if they’re not going to be around, or if they have two spaces and won’t be using one. Once every 8-months, I have a card game at my house. So I go around and I ask different people if I can use their space from like 11:00 to 4:00. I have eight women coming, and they’re getting older, and it’s harder to walk. It’s hard to invite anybody over. So I would like to see more parking in the neighborhood. Even with permit parking, then you have to go to the city, and are you guaranteed there will be a space? No.
Karl: We lived a block up here *points up Flores Street* and that’s all permit parking, and there’s still nowhere to park. And we only had one space with our apartment so I’d have to battle for a parking space…
Silver Fox: …all over the neighborhood.
Karl: How about less of?
Silver Fox: Less traffic and less helicopters. Oh my God, every night I am out on my patio going, “What is going on in the neighborhood?” I realize that the helicopters are there to help but sometimes it’s really annoying.
Karl: People seem to flee here after committing a crime? *laughs*
Silver Fox: Or they commit the crime here. We have lots of robberies, burglaries. This is particularly a bad time. I remember the last time people were out of work, I would walk out of the building and people would be sleeping in their cars.
Karl: Yeah. That’s still going on.
Silver Fox: Is it? I don’t see that. Well, I leave later, and I go out the garage. I used to walk in the mornings, so I used to see a lot of things which I don’t see now.
Karl: We had a “regular,” years ago who used to sleep outside of Kings Road Park. I haven’t seen her in a long time though. She cut me off at the Arco recently, but I haven’t seen her parked anywhere.
Silver Fox: The other thing you’re seeing a lot more of are the people with baskets and their bags of cans. A lot more of that than I’ve seen in previous years.
Karl: How are we on time by the way? I know you have a beauty appointment.
Silver Fox: It’s five to ten, we’re okay. How are you?
Karl: I’m good, I have all morning. Are you happy here? Has the area been good?
Silver Fox: I love this area. Love it!
Karl: Good. Me too.
Silver Fox: For awhile we were looking out by our kids, but everything we looked at couldn’t compare with this area. It’s just such a different culture. And the idea that I can sit on my patio and look at trees and squirrels and the sky in the middle of the city, and not hear anything, it’s amazing.
Karl: Just those helicopters.
Silver Fox: *chuckles* There is nothing that we saw that compares with this. Not a thing like this kind of lifestyle that is offered to us, where I can walk to the corner and go to the grocery store, or walk here and have dinner.
Karl: Was there any adjustment period for you coming back after living in Chicago? Or did you just sink right back into it?
Silver Fox: Well, when we came, we lived in The Valley which was suburban living, and we had children. And when we came here, there were signs up saying they weren’t renting to children, no children allowed.
Silver Fox: It was before that law changed. Yes, there was a couple in the Marina that didn’t have children, but they got pregnant, and they owned their unit, and were told they had to get out because they were having a baby. So they went to court and fought the law, and won. But when we came here, it was very hard to find a place, we had a 15-year-old. So when we moved to The Valley, it was kind of like living in the suburbs where we lived in Chicago, so I was fine with that. I loved living in California, so I couldn’t wait to move into the city.
*Waiter clears dishes*
Waiter: You hardly ate.
Silver Fox: Thank you, nobody’s ever said that to me before. *laugh
So I couldn’t wait to move into town, and I’ve been so happy here. I like this whole thing. We’re staying.
Karl: So where do you see things in the next ten to twenty years?
Silver Fox: In this community?
Silver Fox: I am very concerned about the city allowing all of the construction that is going on.
Karl: It’s constant isn’t it? There’s in constant construction here.
Silver Fox: You know the city gets money for that. And I’m concerned about that because living here has gotten more difficult because of the traffic and the parking, and I only see it getting worse.
Karl: Yeah, I don’t know how you fix that.
Silver Fox: Well, you stop doing it. Stop, take a good look, and think about how uncomfortable it is. You don’t think that most of those people who work at City Hall live here? Most of them don’t live here. The City Council obviously has to live here, but I wonder where they think we’re going with this when you can barely get down the street. Everybody’s using side streets. I’m not happy about what I see coming in the next ten years.
But I may not be driving ten years from now.