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Endlessly fascinating, abstract world of painter Fernando Reyes P 8 | Hillside to the stars: meet San Mateo Highlands’ Eichlers P20 | When all-white is a fright —lively accent walls for interiors P24 | House-hopping around the Bay with Joe and Lillian Eichler
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7 CA-Modernist Spotlight Historians warn how the ‘dwellification’ effect is destroying mid-century modern
8 Feature Storyboard
San Mateo Highlands—where longtime neighbors become friends for a lifetime
14 Art About the House
Matisse meets mid-century modern— the abstract world of Fernando Reyes
20 Modern Renewal
24 CA-Modern Flashback House-hopping with the Eichler family —Bay Area abodes Joe called home
28 That’s Entertainment
Awakening whitewashed and damaged interiors with accent walls of personality
Latest in books, video and music that embellish mid-century modern living
32 Blast from the Past Unsung masters of the mid-century: singing praises for jazz gents of song
34 Dear Cherry Advice, etiquette and tips for healthy homemaking and mid-mod manners
Contributors Publisher & Managing Editor | Marty Arbunich | email@example.com Marketing Coordinator | Chris Marcoccio | firstname.lastname@example.org Publisher’s Consultant | Dave Kalman of Terrella Media Features Editor | Dave Weinstein
On the Cover Our cover artist this issue is East Bay painter Fernando Reyes, who caught our eye with his dazzling abstract paintings and collages, which are very much a throwback to the mid-century modern era. “They’re abstracted reflections of a myriad of images that have captured my imagination for years,” says Fernando. “Growing up during the ‘60s, I recall mid-century modern imagery from furniture, buildings, magazines, art posters, advertising billboards, fashion trends, and television. My understanding of art during that time was extremely limited, but I remember the visual joy it brought to me.” For his cover image, ‘Tranquil,’ an original oil on canvas that measures 48 inches high by 60 inches wide, Fernando takes his abstract art to an even greater level. “Throughout my career, I’ve been known for drawing and painting the human form, but ‘Tranquil’ illustrates how I bring together abstract imagery as a component to my figurative work.” This piece, which was cropped to fit our cover dimensions, is both a continuation and a new direction of the artist’s figurative abstraction, Fernando says— something he’s been working on for the past 20 years. For more of Fernando’s work, see our ‘Destiny’s Calling’ story beginning on page 14 this issue, and visit freyesart.com.
Home-Improvement Editor | Tanja Kern Staff Writers | Dan Smith | Jack Levitan | Jeff Kaliss Photography | Sabrina Huang Print Designer | Diana Rich Social Media Editor | Robin Bertelsen of Daxia Digital Web Maintenance | Priscila Hoffman CA-Modern magazine is published quarterly in regional editions during January, April, July, and October by the Eichler Network, P.O. Box 22635, San Francisco, CA 94122. Mailed to thousands of select California mid-century modern households (and aficionados), including all Northern California Eichler and Streng modern homes. Subscriptions and back issues available at the CA-Modern magazine section of Eichler Network Online: eichlernetwork.com. Publisher: 415-668-0954. Marketing: 415-307-3801. The Eichler Network is not responsible for the quality, scope, pricing, or any other aspect of the services and/or goods obtained from the participating service companies. Although it is believed that these companies are reputable based on current information and their good standing with the Better Business Bureau, we strongly encourage you also to carefully evaluate and screen all service and goods providers. The participating service companies pay a fee to advertise and become part of the Eichler Network referral network. Performance reviews, home improvement concerns, and publication inquiries are welcome. Discover CA-Modern and the Eichler Network online at eichlernetwork.com. Also on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright ©2018 Eichler Network
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The CA Modernist Will ‘dwelliﬁcation’ erode our legacy? Historians fearful for Eichlers morphed by the Dwell aesthetic Is it possible to love your modern home too much? Hannah Lise Simonson, an architectural historian and preservationist, thinks so. Simonson recently made her case in ‘Dwellification: The Loss of Time and Place in Modern Architecture,’ a journal article published in Issue: 014, a publication of the University of Texas at Austin, from which she recently graduated with a masters. (The article is not available online.) By ‘dwellification’ Simonson means how the popular magazine Dwell, which has been riding and helping to create the resurgence of interest in mid-century modern design since 2000, is helping popularize a style of architecture that is sleeker than sleek and out of whack, in many ways, with modernism of the 1950s and ‘60s. If this trend continues, says Simonson, who works for the San Francisco firm Page & Turnbull, “We could lose the ability to distinguish between the authentic mid-century modern and what is happening [with architecture] now.” Once, the main threat to modern tract homes was from people who didn’t like modern, or understand it, turning them into country cottages or Tuscan villas. But in the past decade or so, as mid-century modern has grown increasingly popular, fewer people commit that faux pas—at least not in established, fully rediscovered mid-century modern neighborhoods. Instead, many folks go the opposite way—turning their homes into things that are more modern than modern, more early 21st century than mid-20th. They are celebrating the style while, in some cases, also destroying it.
Yet many of these houses win local acclaim, get put on house tours, and serve as models for neighbors. One might argue that in a neighborhood like, say, San Mateo Highlands, where many homes have been altered in appearance over the years, updating a few more facades won’t matter much.
energy bills, for example—modernizing a home can only be a good thing. And it is certainly a good thing for the industries that have grown up around the mid-century modern revival— architects, contractors, furnishings dealers, and even to a degree
But the situation is different in Eichler tracts such as Greenmeadow, in Palo Alto, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and at the Saratoga tract, which is not. But both maintain very strong architectural integrity.
subscribe to it,” she says. The Dwell style differs in many ways from the Eichler look, or the look of modern architects from the mid-century. The new look, she writes, is “often recognizable by boxy, cubic massing, light woods and metal materials, bright white spaces, and expansive glazing.” “Perhaps the most insidious aspect of dwellification is the false sense of history that it can convey,” she writes. “The irony is that the more people are inundated with imagery of ‘midcentury-inspired’ design and remodels, the more this dwell-ified or contemporary revivalist version of modernism becomes confused with the real thing.”
This issue was addressed two years ago at the California Preservation Foundation Conference by preservation planner and historian Christine Lazzaretto, when she was discussing her survey of modern homes in Palm Springs to see whether the tracts could be deemed historic.
Simonson writes of the threat: “Through this process of dwellifica-
What she was describing can be seen, in a way, as people loving their mid-century modern homes to death by replacing their historic look with a new look that owners saw as an improvement. “A lot of the alterations we saw were coming from a place of giving a house love, [a house] that hadn’t seen love in 30 years,” she said. “We were seeing a lot of really thoughtfully done alterations. But it also means all new materials, usually new cement plaster that’s super smooth, brand new windows. Everyone seems to love the fully glazed front doors.” None of these elements were present in the original mid-century modern homes. Taken together, such changes could destroy a home’s historical integrity and make it more difficult to create a historic district, she said. “These houses are fairly simple,” Lazzaretto said, referring to architect Palmer & Krisel designs. “There aren’t a whole lot of architectural features to start with, so as soon as you start tweaking them, you really start losing something.” In many ways—lowering
SLEEKER THAN SLEEK. The facades of the two Bay Area Eichlers above are stylish and beautiful. However, their materials and mood are of the 21st century—‘dwellified,’ some would say. Is this a bad thing? writers who focus on the topic. The first time we wrote about ‘dwellification’ was in a piece about Simonson’s research into Diamond Heights, in San Francisco, which includes more than 100 Eichlers. Although Simonson did not invent the term dwellification, she believes it is useful, and is certainly spreading its use. “It rang true enough with me that I decided to use it,” she says. “I was drawn to the term because so many people know what Dwell magazine is, and know what that contemporary aesthetic is. When we show them what some of the regional midcentury modernism is, people can understand the difference.” “I like the magazine and I
tion, a homogenization is occurring, wiping away the traces of the regionalism of the Bay [architectural] Traditions that were once evidenced by material choices, orientation to the landscape, and adaptations for local climate. “This is already occurring to the point where 20th century, postwar tract homes don’t look modern enough to our tastes,” she added. “We want them to look more like the high-end and highly stylized contemporary idea of modernism we see in ‘Mad Men’ [on television] or Dwell.” –Dave Weinstein Photography: Sabrina Huang, David Toerge • For the latest ‘CA Modernist’ blog stories, visit EichlerNetwork.com
■F E ATU R E STO RYB O A R D
San Mateo Highlands—where Eichler’s largest tract turns longtime neighbors into lifetime friends Story: Dave Weinstein Photography: Sabrina Huang & Margo Tomaszewska-Richter
As mid-century modern neighborhoods go, the San Mateo Highlands has always been a superstar. With 650 or so Eichler homes, it is the largest Eichler neighborhood anywhere. And the Highlands is deserving of its name. With homes atop a 469-foot-tall ridge, it’s also the highest elevation Eichler tract. From the start fans have poured in, beginning in 1956, to visit not a home they might buy, but to gawk at a vision of the future. This was Joe Eichler’s all-steel X-100. About 150,000 people toured the home over a three-month period in late 1956, attracted by coverage in Sunset magazine, Life, and Popular Science. “Everything is so modern it takes your breath away—and your money too, if you bought one,” a newsreel gushed. And if some of those tourists happened to stop into one of Joe’s model homes while in the neighborhood? Well, that was the idea, Ned Eichler, Joe’s son and marketing manager, said in a 2008 interview. The Highlands, with homes built from 1955 to 1964, took another star turn in 1958 when Eichler unveiled the ‘Life House,’ a startling two-story 8 CAMODERN
home designed by Pietro Belluschi, then dean of architecture at MIT. Life, which published the home in October 1958, wanted to help create a modern home for the mass market—and who better to build it than Eichler? Eichler saw the Highlands as a special place, recalls Jerry Grantz, who worked in marketing for Joe and helped sell Highlands homes starting in 1959. That’s why he built the X-100 and Life House there, Jerry says. “He wanted to go all out. He wasn’t going to miss.” Another effort to go all out never came to fruition. In 1961 Eichler had architect Aaron Green, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s leading and most talented followers, design a sort of subdivision within a subdivision on steep slopes in the north end of the Highlands. The homes would have been unlike anything Joe had ever built. Some would have virtually soared above their steep slights. One model, the ‘Arrow,’ was a series of powerful diagonals. Another was informally dubbed ‘the frying pan’ because of its curvilinear shape. It’s not clear why the homes were never built—maybe the cost. Today, both the X-100 and Life House remain, but they are not what draw crowds to the neighborhood. Yet the crowds still come.
Just ask Astrid Spencer. In 2011 she and her husband had just closed on a home there, then began to wonder— why aren’t the sellers moving out? It was late June. “The former owner wanted to adjust the date so we would move in after the 4th of July. We didn’t realize this is very prime property for viewing the fireworks.” Once a small town-like celebration inaugurated by the Highlands Community Association, folks say, to keep Highlanders at home and off the highway during the dangerous holiday weekend, today the July 3 fireworks and July 4 parade and carnival attract so many people from all over that “on July 3 you can’t find a place to park on the street,” Astrid says. Still, the Spencers invite friends to party. “We serve popcorn and put blankets out. It’s pretty amazing, actually,” Astrid says of the fireworks display and carnival. “It’s the best holiday because we don’t have to go anywhere.” Another popular event is the ‘San Mateo Highlands Home Tour,’ a fundraiser for the school. The next will be in 2020. It’s not surprising that when Highlanders praise their neighborhood what they talk about most are their neighbors. They brag about the sense of community, and how many people vol-
STAR TIME. Top: San Mateo Highlands after dark, in the backyard of the Palmer family, along Lexington Avenue. Above: The cover of the original Eichler brochure that heralded the opening of the neighborhood in the mid-1950s. unteer to do so many different things. “The neighbors have a wonderful spirit that is volunteer driven,” says Marc Rarden, who grew up in the neighborhood and returned with his family, buying the family home. This is a neighborhood that doesn’t just have a community association, it has area representatives whose roles are to “talk to the neighbors, see what’s on their minds,” says Jonathan Feinberg, who served as a rep years ago. “There’s not many of these communities left where everybody gets together,” says Rick Priola, who grew up in the neighborhood and has been in charge of the fireworks for many years.
48 percent of residents who pay dues. Neighbors volunteer at the school, including for a program called Art in Action. Meghan Lubker, the Lowdown editor, is among the volunteers who teach kids to paint, draw, work with clay, and more. Seniors too benefit from several volunteer programs. Jeff Schwartz, who works at the rec center, helps coordinate the Highlands Senior Network, “to allow for seniors to stay in their homes as they age, till the end of life,” he says. But if the Highlands is a new Eden, it’s not one that was handed to its residents without need for work. From the start, the hardy folk who moved to this then-remote, windy hillside had to create their own institutions.
STEEP RETREAT. Top: Marc Rarden, seen here with wife Heather and their three children, finds the Highlands “a breath of fresh air.” Above left: Inside the Rardens’ kitchen. Above right: Seven-year Eichler owner Astrid Spencer at home with her three children: (L-R) Mia, Page, and Jamie. Left: The Highlands’ two celebrity houses, the Eichler X-100 (near left) and Life House (far left), drew lots of attention to the Highlands when they were built.
Oh, sure, people mention location. They enjoy the views of San Francisco Bay from one side of the tract, and of the coastal hills to the other. They appreciate proximity to I-280, which winds through grassland and generally has less traffic than other highways. Glenn Sennett, a 30-year resident, calls it “the most beautiful highway I’ve ever seen.” Plus, from most homes kids can walk to elementary school in less than 15 minutes, sometimes less than two. The school really brings people
together. “The first day in kindergarten, that’s when it all happened,” says Margo Tomaszewska-Richter, who’s been living in the Highlands now for ten years and is raising two kids. “We met so many parents and neighbors. It was a transformation, coming from Belmont to here.” Then there is the Highlands Recreation Center, with a clubhouse, pool, tennis courts, early childhood center—and oh, yes, a sheriff’s substation, for that extra smidge of safety. The rec center was built and funded by the community.
“The rec center is really sort of the anchor for community spirit,” says Rarden. He says the friendliness of the neighborhood remains intact since he grew up here. “Back in 1970s there were many kids in the neighborhood,” he says. “We had ‘walking school buses’ to school, one parent walking with five kids. Summer was spent at the rec center and pool, and kids could go out walking by themselves. “Those are the things we are now experiencing with our kids. That’s pretty magical.” The community association has published a newsletter, The Highlands Lowdown, for 60 years. It’s mailed free to everyone in the community, not just the
Surprisingly, Eichler didn’t intend to build a recreation center or pool at the Highlands—even though he had built both at his recent Greenmeadow tract in Palo Alto, among other tracts. Eichler’s ads and newspaper writeups in 1956 bragged that the neighborhood would include two schools (only one was built), that a shopping center would be built at the bottom of the hill (it was), and that the tract was bordered on three sides by San Francisco watershed land and other land that could never be developed. Homes initially sold for $17,000 to $22,000. Recreation for the new tract? Eichler’s sales brochure suggested a solution. “For relaxation the Crystal Continued pg 11 CAMODERN 9
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■F E ATU R E STO RYB O A R D HILLSIDE TO THE STARS (cont. from pg 9)
Springs and Peninsula Country Clubs, and many miles of beautiful bridle paths are near at hand.” But little kids need a pool, and
formed a public special district, the Highlands Recreation District, to manage it. By 1958 the pool and building were under construction. “The rec center and school, they
Sakai’s two boys took swim lessons and enjoyed the playground. Many parents and kids forged lifelong friendships doing the same. “Today,” he says, “there’s an expecta-
important, and we ought to have activities that show we value our kids.” One mark of the neighborhood’s success, cited by several observers, is that many people who grow up in the Highlands and move away for college or to work move back. “All your neighbors become your best friends,” says Liesje Nicolas, who grew up here, moved to Amsterdam and New York, then returned, and today is president of the Highlands Community Association. “I see my friends’ parents still walking in the neighborhood. My kids have grandparents and aunties and uncles who knew me when I was their same age and now know my children. What a beautiful thing it is to have a multigenerational neighborhood.” Folks love that the neighborhood is simultaneously isolated—yet close to things. “I really want to stress how special it is to have this secluded island in the suburbs that is also so convenient,” says Margo Tomaszewska. “It’s 15 min-
WALKERS’ DELIGHT. Top: The Highlands, which has plenty of flat areas in addition to its hills, is a great place for walkers, who are seen here along Lexington Avenue. Center left: Eichler owner Jonathan Feinberg, who loves to regularly bike throughout the neighborhood: “The mid-century modern revival has been the best thing to hit this neighborhood.” Inset photo: Exterior of Jonathan’s Eichler. Center right: In the pool at the Highlands Recreation Center on Lexington. Above: There are several beautiful views throughout the Highlands, including this one from Lundys Lane, located off of the eastern slope of Bunker Hill Drive. from the start the community was about little kids. The Highlands Community Association bought a parcel of land to create a recreation center and pool, and a year after the neighborhood opened,
were really the center of our attention,” says Sterling Sakai, who moved to the Highlands with his family in 1985. “Everyone rallied around them and participated, which was something that was going out of fashion in the crazy ‘80s.”
tion of quality that this community demands. People here are very independent thinkers and liberal, being San Mateo and the Bay Area. But there is an unwritten agreement in terms of family values that says, kids are very, very
utes to the ocean, 15 minutes to the airport, 20 minutes to San Francisco, 20 minutes to Stanford.” Rarden describes the neighborhood as “a breath of fresh air in a dense urban area. You don’t feel the urban C A M O D E R N 11
■F E ATU R E STO RYB O A R D density of downtown San Mateo here. It’s a very different feeling.” Margo says returning to the Highlands from Highway 101 or busy El Camino Real is a guaranteed stress reliever. “I feel like I live in a little retreat. I feel like I’m on vacation when I live in my house.” And it’s a great place for walkers. The steepness adds to the exercise. Margo and three friends, all moms, often take the loop walk. “The protocol is, we drop off our children at school, and we do a loop around the entire Highlands,” she says. “We have nice conversations. It’s very social, walking to the shopping center, grabbing coffee, then walking back up [the hill].” “It’s a neighborhood where everyone knows you,” Liesje Nicolas says, explaining why she feels safe to let her sons roam. And the Highlands, because it is surrounded by open space, has always been a great place to roam. One recently fended-off threat has been worrying Highlanders for years. It would have destroyed what many people
AROUND THE TRACT. Three shots at the home of Barry and Rosemary Brisco (pictured above), who have one of the most attractive and uniquely furnished Highlands homes. “It’s a little surprising, but it’s certainly a welcome surprise,” Barry says of the slowdown of second-story additions in the Highlands in recent years. most love about their neighborhood— besides their neighbors of course. Their greenbelt. Liesje Nicolas says the open land that circles the community provides a welcome feeling of isolation and peace. For more than two decades neighbors have been fighting efforts by the Chamberlain Development Group to fill 99 acres of steep canyon and creek with a varying number of homes. Dorothy Greene, a 56-year resident, recalls a proposal to build more than 12 C A M O D E R N
250 homes. By 1998 it was down to 96, but county officials still said no. Liesje says, “It is a canyon. It’s land that was not buildable or Eichler would have built on it.” The Highlands Community Association, led by resident Sam Naifeh, finally negotiated an agreement with the developer and county—11 homes. Three have been built on what had been vacant parcels on Bunker Hill Road, one of the main through roads. Eight more are to come, and neighbors are keeping a
sharp eye to make sure the developer adheres to the 24 pages of conditions. Another parcel of undeveloped land that borders the community is the San Francisco Fish and Game Refuge, otherwise known as the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Peninsula Watershed. This beautiful grassland slopes down to Interstate 280 and the Crystal Springs Reservoir, and is part of a 23,000-acre open space surrounding the reservoirs that mark the site of the
mighty San Andreas Fault. Although there are a few trails that make it to the reservoir, and a very popular bike and walking trail, the Sawyer Canyon Trail, that provides views, most of the land is off limits to the public. Many people want to see greater public access. Still, when it comes to the grassland just below the Highlands homes, the PUC seems a bit schizophrenic. Posted signs warn ‘Trespassing, Loitering Forbidden By Law.’ But other signs just
to access, several neighbors say, because it is bordered by private property and by watershed land. There are also concerns about slope stability and fire. One issue that has been contentious over the years has been whether more needs to be done to preserve the neighborhood’s Eichler looks. A recent count found that at least ten percent of the homes—70-plus—have been drastically changed, about 60 with full or partial or attic second stories, and several absolutely transformed or rebuilt from scratch. One has become a classic Tudor. There are so many houses with inappropriate changes, it’s easy for someone touring the tract to miss an important point: many more Eichlers appear essentially intact. Although the neighborhood originally has CCRs (covenants, codes and restrictions) that allowed for architectural control, they haven’t been used in at least 30 years, says Glenn Sennett, a broker who sells many Eichlers here. Sennett says how original an Eichler is “counts a lot” when it’s time to sell. He mentions one home being
county—which governs the unincorporated area—to rezone the neighborhood, with a goal of blocking tall replacement homes and second-story additions. “There were plenty of second-story additions. Some people were getting alarmed about it. All of a sudden people were looking into your bedroom, and I for one don’t want to put up curtains,” Brisco recalls. It was a hard-fought battle, with petition drives, political machinations, and harsh words. The effort failed in large part because “the president, the vice president, all the prominent members of the association” opposed the plan, he says. In recent years, “there have only been a couple of second-story additions,” Brisco says. “It’s a little surprising, but it’s certainly a welcome surprise,” adding, “I’m just happy it hasn’t turned into as much of a problem as I thought.” Several residents suggested that’s because most new buyers really love the Eichler homes. “The mid-century modern revival has been the best thing to hit this neighborhood,” Feinberg says. “The people buying now are pretty dedicated. For the most part people are keeping them in the Eichler style.” ■ • The San Mateo Highlands is bounded by Polhemus Road to the east, Lexington Avenue and the watershed lands to the west, Laurel Hill Drive and Seneca Lane to the
ROOM TO MOVE. Top: “I feel like I’m on vacation when I live in my house,” says Margo Tomaszewska-Richter, pictured here with husband Brad Richter working on the renewal of their new Eichler, on New Brunswick Drive. The couple recently sold their first Eichler (pictured left and right center), where they lived for the past ten years, looking for additional space for their family of four. Above: Second-story additions and teardowns unfortunately have also played a part in the story of the Highlands, where a recent count found that more than 70 of the homes have been drastically changed, including the two pictured here. Left: There are also some original Eichler twostory houses in the Highlands, including this one, home to Tiffany Chin and Ivan Eng along Yorktown Road.
feet away advise walkers who ignore the no-trespassing signs not to trample native vegetation. A third chunk of open space adds to the Highlands Greenbelt. This is a ribbon of steep ravine and creek that snakes
around the northern section of the Highlands. It was once owned by a developer, who couldn’t develop it, so it was deeded to the recreation district in the 1980s. Some people want it formally opened to walkers, but it would be hard
sold by an out-of-area broker that had been “de-Eichlerized.” “She priced it as though it had the true character of Eichler. It didn’t, so it didn’t sell,” he says. “The Eichler buyers didn’t like the style of the house. Just because it was bigger doesn’t mean it was worth more.” In the early 2000s a group of residents, including Barry Brisco, urged the
north, and Allegheny Way and Ticonderoga Drive to the south. Besides Eichlers, the neighborhood includes traditional homes built by Whitecliff from the 1960s and some later homes and townhouses, mostly near Polhemus. It’s notable that the Highlands has a couple of clusters of original, twostory Eichlers. These were built because of site constraints, and are strategically arranged to preserve privacy. C A M O D E R N 13
■ART ABOUT THE HOUSE
calling From Matisse to mid-century modern—East Bay painter Fernando Reyes wows fans with his joyous abstractions Story: Dave Weinstein Art: Fernando Reyes Photography: Sabrina Huang
Maybe Fernando Reyes was destined to win success as a mid-century modernist. Could a pencil drawing of swirling biomorphic shapes he made as a boy and titled ‘Modern Art’ be seen as a sign? That’s not to say Fernando lacked free will. Throughout his 20-year career, he’s made bold choices. He left his traditional, church-going family
MODERN ART. Top: Fernando Reyes in his Oakland studio: “Once I started work on this purely abstract artwork, it has opened up more doors for me…” Here, Fernando is holding up one of his relief block prints, entitled ‘My Muse.’ Right: Figurative abstract ‘Prudence.’ Above: Collage ‘It’s Not All Right to Be All White.’ in Fresno to become part of San Francisco’s gay scene. He quit a well-paid job as a senior manager for bankruptcy accounts at Bank of America to become an artist. He moved to Chicago when his partner began studying psychology there. Fernando has also worked hard. He began his career by bringing his portfolio to gallery directors, with little luck. He’d set up exhibits of his paintings at street fairs. But might it have been destiny that led him to Henri Matisse, an artist he 14 C A M O D E R N
had never much considered? It was an artistic encounter that changed Fernando’s life. He traveled to New York City to see an exhibit of the Austrian figurative artist Egon Schiele, a longtime favorite. Seeing Matisse was an afterthought. “Because Matisse was showing [at the Museum of Modern Art], a major art figure in history, we had to see the exhibition,” Fernando says. “Matisse had immense paper cutout blue nudes,” Fernando recalls. “It basically blew me away. I was in
has opened up more doors for me than the figure has ever opened.” Fernando has developed a style that is often completely abstract, with multi-colored forms that range from angular to curvaceous and seem to dance. The collages are complex in look, conception, and method. Unlike many collagists, Fernando doesn’t use preexisting or found images for his raw material. Instead, he says, “I make my own prints from my own designs.” Then he cuts them up and pastes them down. People love the collages and they have given his career a boost. “They just grab me. They’re fascinating to look at. I think they are
Like other of his fans, she digs the mid-century modern vibe. “I’m almost 60,” Murray says. “Visually, my childhood frame of reference is the ‘60s and ‘70s. Seeing those pieces just kind of threw me back. I told Fernando it reminded me of the Jetsons—the colors, the wacky shapes.” Jeff Haass, a San Franciscan who owns half a dozen of Fernando’s figurative paintings and several smaller works, says, “I like the precision of his work, even his freeform figurative drawings. There’s a lot of precision in his line. You don’t see that in a lot of people.” “His abstracts,” Haass says, “I can just look at them forever, trying to see all the pieces and how they fit together.”
MIX OF SIX. More fascinating abstracts and collages from Reyes’ hand. Top left: ‘Masquerade.’ Top right: ‘Carnival’ (left) and ‘Melange’ (right). Above: ‘Making the Cut’ (left), ‘Ebullience’ (center), ‘Marmalade’ (right). awe of the blue nude figures. They are very abstract and very simple.” This was four years ago, and Fernando, then 50, had never been interested in abstraction. “That wasn’t my idea of being an artist,” he says. “My idea of being an artist was being able to actually draw the figure.” But in recent years, some of his figurative drawings had been veering towards abstraction, and Fernando
wanted to try something different. Matisse gave him the push that led to his current crop of paper cutout abstractions that express a joyful, mid-century modern feeling. They also have brought much attention to his work, including a museum retrospective earlier this year. “That’s what changed everything for me,” he says. “Once I started work on this purely abstract artwork, it
masterful,” says Margaret Murray, a San Francisco lawyer who first saw Fernando’s work at the retrospective at the Mexican Museum. Yes, at only 54 he’s had a retrospective. Murray’s got a four-by-four-foot canvas hanging in her living room. “I can just look at it all day long. It’s just endlessly fascinating to me, the color, the shapes, the choices he made about where to place them,” she says.
Riding the mid-century modern wave was never his intention, Fernando says. “I wanted to discover other things I could do,” he says of the move to jazzy abstraction. He does note that his collages suggest the work of Rex Ray, a San Francisco artist whose wildly colored, abstract, or floral mid-century moderninspired canvasses, collages, and prints proved immensely popular. Ray died C A M O D E R N 15
■ART ABOUT THE HOUSE
MCM VIBE. Fernando stands alongside his five-foot-square collage entitled ‘Tribute.’ Above: Relief block print he calls ‘Les Femmes.’ Right: ‘Descending into Self,’ a woodcut with collage monoprint. young, in 2015. And Fernando notes that he grew up just as mid-century modernism was giving way to mod and hippie. “As a kid I noticed interesting colors and patterns. A lot of that stuff stayed with me,” he says. The collages were not Fernando’s first move in the direction of abstraction. He has a series of paintings in which groups of nude human bodies tumble and fall through space, creating semiabstract patterns. Destiny may have played a role here too. Frugality certainly did. Fernando, who paints from the model, was filling sheet after sheet with his sketches. “Paper tends to get expensive with 16 C A M O D E R N
one figure per sheet, so I decided to draw more than one figure on each sheet,” he says. He began drawing one figure on top of another and noticed that, “as the figures overlap each other, I am creating these abstract forms as well. So I took that idea and began doing them as paintings.” “Abstraction began to play more of a major role in my work.” There was a risk in adopting a new mode of painting, Fernando says. He had a fan base of collectors for his figurative work and didn’t want to lose them. One such fan is Rosie Torres, a member of the Oakland School Board. “My first painting by him is of a woman with her head down, sitting on
the floor, her shoulders hunched over. It’s very emotional. I’m a lawyer, I see a lot. That’s how I feel sometimes. I’m sitting sometimes like that, thinking, with my back against the world.” “So I confused a lot of people when all of this [abstract collage] started popping out of my studio,”
Fernando says, laughing. But even as he continues his abstractions, Fernando hasn’t dropped the figure. He still brings models into his studio and is working to ‘marry’ figurative and abstraction. “I love working with the figure and I don’t want to stop that,” he says.
Perhaps the most important role destiny played in Fernando’s career was convincing him to become an artist in the first place. If you can call a gift from your partner ‘destiny.’ Fernando and Daniel Jackson, today his husband, who were living in San Francisco, visited the Reyes family home in Fresno, and Daniel spotted “artwork I did as a kid when I was in school.” There were portraits of Fernando’s sister, fashion drawings, a burly
Spider-Man, a male figure copied from a bodybuilding magazine. “Daniel had no idea I had any artistic talent,” Fernando says. “That Christmas he gave me as a gift some drawing pencils and pads of paper, and he said ‘Merry Christmas. Now draw.’ That was a catalyst.” It didn’t take long for Fernando to realize he wanted to be a professional artist. Which raises the question—why hadn’t he decided that before?
Well, he might have. His family—dad a laborer, mom a housekeeper, six siblings in a compact house—were not gallerygoers. Other than art classes at junior and senior high school, art was not part of Fernando’s life. And when Fernando did have a chance for higher education—he was offered a scholarship to UC Santa Cruz—his folks said no because they wanted him to stay closer to home.
would be a lifetime banking career in the mid 1970s, seeking a “secure stable job,” joining Bank of America in Fresno doing entry-level data entry. He had no college. In 1976 he asked to relocate to San Francisco. He wanted out of the Central Valley. He was living in San Francisco’s Haight and then in the Castro. He worked at one of the liveliest Bank of America branches in town—North Beach. Customers included Carol Doda
ART RECYCLING. Top right: Storing leftovers from previous work in trays inside his studio, Fernando keeps these bits and pieces around for future collages. Top left: Collage ‘Cocktails.’ Above: ‘Waiting’ (left) and ‘Fling’ (right) from Fernando’s mini tower series. Left: ‘Sound of Color IX’ - oil on masonite board. “I ended up moving out anyway,” he says. “That was very traumatic for my family, because in my family, on either side, no one did it, unless you got married or went into the service.” Fernando began what he thought
and “all the dancers and all the barkers” from the Broadway strip. Fernando became pals with the people who ran Finocchio’s and often caught the comedic drag acts at the legendary club. He also enjoyed dancing. “I got into C A M O D E R N 17
■ART ABOUT THE HOUSE the disco crowd,” he says. “Oh, I loved the disco, and even today I listen to disco when I work.” Fernando finally came out as gay to his family at age 38 when Daniel was shifting careers from management to psychology and moving to Chicago to study. “I mean they knew, they already knew. But this made it real for them,” Fernando says. He went with Daniel to Chicago, hoping to become an artist. More destiny here—or maybe it was just innate talent. Fernando, who knew so little about art that he didn’t know the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was one of the top schools, saw a flyer advertising a portfolio review. “As soon as I got up to the front
Restoration Hardware. “It took me many, many, many years to be where I am today, but it’s been well worth it,” he says. It’s helped that Daniel has had a successful career. Destiny still steps in—as it did
Viewing Fernando’s art
CUTOUTS. Top right: Fernando, near his tray of leftovers, is busy with a new collage. Above: Two striking examples of his figurative work: ‘Reflecting’ (left), hand-printed paper cutouts, Japanese screen-printed paper and oil on wood panel; and ‘Vogue’ (right), hand-printed paper collage cutouts and oil. Top left: ’Script 1’ abstract. of the line and showed them my portfolio I got accepted. Just like that. I thought, ‘Oh, that was easy,’ ” he says, laughing. But following an art career hasn’t always been that easy. Fernando and Daniel returned to the Bay Area in 1998. A year later Fernando moved into his compact studio in Oakland’s then-rough but now up-and-coming Jingletown neighborhood. Fernando says it took time to find his own voice, and time to build a following. His work is varied, including cityscapes and landscapes, and public and private commissions. He even sells his prints through the furnishings chain 18 C A M O D E R N
September 19, 2017 with a rumble and a roar thanks to the god of earthquakes. The Mexican Museum in San Francisco had a show slotted for January—but the Central Mexico Earthquake made it impossible for the scheduled artist to appear. Then Tony Pernicone, chief operating officer of the museum, thought of Fernando Reyes, whose work he knew. “I was suddenly in need of a show,” Pernicone says, adding, “I liked the idea that here was a guy, obviously of Mexican descent, who had left the art world completely and then came back to it. We liked what he had done.” Retrospectives generally take
years to plan. This one took a month. The exhibit ‘An Artist’s Evolution 1991-2017’ showed work from all of Fernando’s periods, even his childhood, and proved successful. “I think he’s a great artist. He’s young,” Pernicone says. “Most artists don’t get this recognition until they are much older. He’s achieved some good things with his art, and I think he’s on his way.” Rosie Torres, who commissioned a large picture of a tree in the Oakland Hills, is saving up to buy one of Fernando’s large abstractions. She’s a fan of Fernando’s representational art who has been won over by his new
Fernando Reyes is a member of the Mercury 20 artists cooperative in Oakland’s Uptown district and frequently has exhibits there. At 475 25th Street, Oakland. Three of his landscapes can be seen at County of Alameda Administration Building. At 1221 Oak Street, Oakland. Work by the artist can be seen in the group exhibit ‘Califas: Art of the US-Mexico Borderlands’ at the Richmond Art Center. At 2540 Barrett Avenue, Richmond. The exhibit closes November 16, 2018. Also coming December 1-2, 2018: ‘Winter Art Walk,’ with art by Fernando, part of an open studios event in his Jingletown neighborhood of Oakland. For more of Fernando’s work, visit freyesart.com.
style. She also says Fernando has become an inspiration to her. “Because Fernando [became an artist] as his dream career. He definitely has a lot of confidence. It makes me think, maybe I don’t want to be a lawyer forever. I may go from law to something else in my career.” “I like his story.” ■ Additional photography: Dave Weinstein
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■MODERN RENEWAL Story: Tanja Kern Lead photography: Sabrina Huang
Turn on any episode of HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper,’ the home design show hosted by Chip and Joanna Gaines, and you’re likely to see the couple restoring or installing shiplap, a horizontal pattern of interlocking wooden boards that was traditionally used to build barns—not ships, despite the name. Originally used as inexpensive weatherproofing, shiplap is being utilized by many of today’s designers to create accent walls in traditional homes to add texture and interest. While the rustic look of shiplap isn’t appropriate for Eichlers and other midcentury modern homes, we can make a correlation in today’s design ethos between the Gaines’ obsession and many MCM homeowners’ desire to use textured accent walls to offset interiors that previously may have lost their character with the whitewashing of walls, posts, beams, and tongue-and-groove ceilings. A pop of texture, color, or new wood paneling, added to a single wall in a room, can bring a white interior back to life and restore some of the home’s lost original look and feel. From natural and painted wood to three-dimensional architectural panels and adhesive wall murals, there are a lot of interesting and affordable ways to add personality to mid-century interiors through accent walls. Some homeowners even extend their original exterior grooved siding into an interior wall of the home, as Eichler did with some of his original models, emphasizing the indoor-outdoor connection.
Love affair with paneling Of course, many mid-century modern homeowners continue to maintain their love affair with the mahogany paneling originally installed in their homes. And why not? Because wood —be it natural, engineered, stained, or even painted—can bring an inviting texture to walls, providing a neutral look, warmth, and beauty. “The original dark lauan mahogany paneling was an important decorative feature for Eichler homes when they were built,” says interior designer Lucile Glessner of Lucile Glessner Design, based in the South Bay. “It is a recognizable design element for those homes.” That lauan, commonly referred to as Philippine mahogany, is a hard wood that originates from several countries in Southeast Asia and is harvested from 20 C A M O D E R N
How lively accent panels awaken whitewashed and damaged interiors with renewed personality WARMTH & BEAUTY. A pop of texture, color, or new wood paneling can bring an interior back to life. Right: Two walls of mahogany paneling here do a nice job of offsetting the white paint that surrounds them. Bottom right: Story resources interior designer Lucile Glessner and house painter Lou Palladino. a family of trees. The original panels featured a wood veneer top layer that was used on walls and doors. Applying these panels simplified interior finishing during construction, requiring some light staining before becoming an instant palette for embellishing the interior. Over the years, these panels also minimized the need for maintenance, because they didn’t need to be stained or touched up as often as painted drywall. “One of the reasons Eichler used paneling is that it was cheap, easy to install, and works well to create the feel that is associated with mid-century modern homes,” says Texas-based designer Pablo Solomon who has an appreciation for MCM design. “Restoring damaged wood paneling is difficult—and it’s usually easier and cheaper to replace. However, painted panels can be easily touched up and repainted.”
Options and preferences MCM purists prefer to not disturb the Eichlers’ original wood paneling. However, over the years, many of those panels have been whitewashed, ruined, or removed. Unfortunately, the original lauan
paneling installations also lacked insulation and posed a fire hazard. As a result, many homeowners chose to remove the paneling, install insulation batts behind the walls, and cover them with fireproof drywall. Others just painted right over the panels. “By code, quite a few cities in California will have you install fire sprinklers if you open 50 percent or more of your walls, so some homeowners just tape and paint over them,” Glessner says. Depending on a homeowner’s decorative preference, they can either replace walls that have missing or painted panels with new wood, or add Sheetrock and
consider installing wood on the floors to regain some of the lost natural design aesthetic. Sometimes, even a single wall of wood will offer just the right amount of warmth and interest to a space. “This really depends on the clients’
to San Jose, says many of his customers will try to restore their paneling if they are intent on retaining the original look of their home. If the paneling is salvageable, Palladino will prepare the walls with a cleaning and a light sanding, being careful not to wear through the thin veneer. He follows with a toned polyurethane to restore the color and add richness. The urethane helps to blend in damaged areas and soften the overall look. For original wood paneling that
COUNT THE WAYS. The four Eichler interiors on this page use different approaches to accent walls covered in white: one painted wall, and another covered with textured wood paneling (top), grooved wood paneling (middle), grooved thin-line Eichler siding extending through the kitchen and into the backyard (above), dinette accented with one painted wall (top right). Bottom right: Single panels of line-textured Weldtex. aesthetics and overall condition of the home,” Glessner says. “It also depends on whether we are trying to keep the original design or do a modern version of it.” If you have a wall or two of original paneling, restoring or replacing those accent panels with new ones, if matching is possible, are ways of bringing
back some of the original look. “But the purists try to refinish or replace their original paneling, depending on how it looks,” Glessner adds.
Tips for restoration Lou Palladino, whose Palladino Painting services Eichlers from Burlingame
can’t be restored, or for homeowners who want to add a different kind of personality to their spaces, Palladino points to painting as a practical option. “For painting, we prepare the paneling by sanding, cleaning, and sealing with an oil-based primer,” he says. “If a homeowner likes, we can also conceal the vertical wood joints by taping them. To do this, we fill the joints with joint compound, lay a thin film of the compound over the joint, and then imbed joint tape in it.” If your panels are already painted, damaged, or removed, installing new wood finishes on walls is a modern way of adding natural texture to drywall. “It is easy and not very expensive to find new paneling [similar but not identical to the Eichler originals], or purchase used ones if you search a bit on online forums,” Glessner says. There are also a number of other options.
Weldtex midcentury revival Eichler Siding’s Jeff Nichols expanded his business as Vintage Plywood Millworks, manufacturing interior paneling after fielding hundreds of inquiries about how to restore or replace wood veneers. He discovered, among other things, that paneling is a challenge for many homeowners since the same kind of mahogany used in the mid-century is no longer available, and the mahogany veneers on the market just don’t have the same look.
After considerable research, Nichols began producing Weldtex, also called combed or striated wood. Most commonly produced in the mid-century in 3/8-inch-thick pine plywood, it was a common interior wall application in homes across the United States from the 1940s through the 1960s. The Weldtex panels fit together seamlessly and are simple for a contractor or even a homeowner to install. Starlight Village, a new development of MCM-style homes near Austin, Texas, recently incorporated Nichols’ Weldtex paneling into their interiors. “A lot of Eichler folks are trying to come up with ways to stay true to the mid-century period,” says Nichols. “And if they can get past the idea of painting paneling, Weldtex is a great option. “Weldtex is far better painted than stained—and that’s what Starlight Village did, with MCM colors.” “I really like those panels, as they are in sync with the Eichler style, seamless—and they provide a modern textured version of plywood or wood paneling,” adds Glessner. When used as an accent wall, the Weldtex pattern sports an appealing retro look—“and it looks great on tiki bars too,” says Nichols. Continued pg 22 C A M O D E R N 21
WALLS THAT SING (continued from pg 21)
Beyond Weldtex, there are a variety of architectural accent panels available today that can bring interest, warmth, and focus to a room’s design. What helps to make today’s wall panel options feel ‘modern’ is exercising self-restraint along the way—by using paneling as an accent statement only on one wall in a room, and on rare occasions two walls. Pair this look with clean-lined furnishings and plenty of natural light so that the texture and color of the panels stand out. The possibilities are endless. Read on to discover just a few of the many fascinating accent options on the market.
1 P lybooStrand Bamboo Plywood and Veneer For a natural wood look, consider Smith & Fong Company’s Plyboo bamboo architectural panels, which offer edgegrain bamboo plywood veneers. These can be cut and sanded with conventional woodworking equipment and glued and fastened in the same way as wood products. The veneers are either sheet-sliced or re-sawn, offered in thicknesses of .6 mm and 2 mm, and a choice of three colors: Neopolitan, Sahara, and Havana (pictured here). Plyboo.com
2 Stikwood Stikwood is a peel-and-stick reclaimed and sustainable wood planking. Made from reclaimed and sustainable woods sourced from various locations in the U.S., all the planks are products are responsibly sourced use European oil finishes and VOC-free paints. Available in many colors and texture options, including the deep shade of Charcoal (pictured here), inspired by the traditional Japanese art of charring wood. Stikwood.com
3 3-D Wall Panels WallArt three-dimensional wall panels, such as Squares (3-A) and Olivia (3-B) (both pictured here), are made of plant fiber and come in a variety of shapes,
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2 styles, patterns, textures, and colors. They can be painted and are lightweight and easy to install, and pricing starts at $2.49 per square foot. Mywallart.com
4 W ilsonart Laminate Surfaces manufacturer Wilsonart, well known for its flooring, also makes laminates for walls. Ralph Wilson, Sr., the founder of Wilsonart, designed and built the Wilson House in Temple, Texas, in 1959, a mid-century modern home that was built to showcase creative new ways to use laminate in the home. In the 1950s, laminate was an esteemed household material, prized for its durability and decorative qualities. Note the array of ‘Woodgrain’ product options online, which includes Buka Bark (pictured here). Wilsonart.com
5 The Vertical Havwoods International, a UK-based supplier of engineered hardwood planks, recently introduced the Vertical, a collection of wood planks that can be installed on both walls and ceilings. The collec-
tion is comprised of new and reclaimed planks, both solid and engineered, and all milled to today’s tolerances. The panels come in a variety of different widths and 14 different shades. These interlocking panels offer an easy way to create a simple wood walls or intricate
patterns. Pictured here: Organic Painted Pine. Havwoods.com
7 Crossfuse Wood Panels
These panels by Architectural Systems are handcrafted, veneer panels with overlapping of 3-D shapes. Available with seven geometric patterns, a standard
Armstrong Flooring has latched onto the resurgence of wood on walls by suggesting that any of its engineered
8 Bad Tile Job Made of recycled papers, Archoterraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dimensional panel collection comprises eco-friendly surfaces that can be used as veneer, laminate, or paneling for a variety of horizontal and vertical applications, including walls, ceilings, furniture, and cabinetry. The rigid finishes are offered in flat, dimensional, smooth, or textured surfaces, 38 colors, and 12 dimensional patterns, including the one pictured here called Bad Tile Job (DM-048). Archoterra.com
9 Susana Paz Murals
Portugese illustrator Susana Paz has marketed a number of her dazzling, multicolored designs as oversized wall murals (app. eight to 16 feet in width), including the MCM-friendly Minimalist Wall Mural (pictured here). Assembled in multiple panels, Pazâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s murals are made of Fab-Tac,
a print-and-stick wallpaper that looks like a carpet texture but is a decal that sticks to walls without glue. The material is a combination of fabric and paper that can be applied and removed easily. Houzz.com Additional: photography: David Toerge; and courtesy Modern Homes Realty
Lucile Glessner Lucile Glessner Design lucileglessnerdesign.com
wood, such as TimberCuts (shown here in Earthen Copper and Gray Timber), or wood-look laminate planks can be installed on vertical surfaces. The collections can be installed over existing drywall or paneling and come with coordinating trim and molding options. Armstrongflooring.com
Jeff Nichols panel measures 8 feet long by 4 feet wide, and 0.5 inches thick. Crossfuse is available in reclaimed wood veneer species including teak, ipe, ironwood, and walnut veneers. Pictured here: Ironwood Veneer. Archsystems.com
Vintage Plywood Millworks vintageplywood.com
Lou Palladino Palladino Painting palladinopainting.com
Pablo Solomon Art & Design pablosolomon.com
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At home with the Eichlers Tracing the revealing story behind Joe and Lillian’s 50 years living in 14 different places around the Bay Area Story: Dave Weinstein
The Eichler family couldn’t have found a nicer house in a nicer neighborhood. Four bedrooms and three baths, the 2,380-square-foot house was a Monterey Colonial, whitewashed, rectangular, with the style-defining second-story balcony stretching the width of the façade and unsupported by posts. The deeply inset front door suggested that the home was made of adobe, which of course it was not. Rather than windows facing the street, both upstairs and downstairs had two sets of glass-filled French doors—not unlike, in concept if not in look, the floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass doors Joe Eichler would, in later years, be providing on his ‘Eichler homes.’ The Eichlers—Joe, wife Lillian, sons Dick and Ned—had been living in this home since 1936. Located on Amherst Avenue in San Mateo, the house sits on a subtly curving street of fine homes built in the 1920s and ‘30s—a Colonial next door, and Spanish Colonials, Tudors, and the like marching down the street. They were just a few blocks from downtown and a few doors from the Hillsborough city line. The Eichlers even had a live-in servant. “Then one day [Joe] came in and said, ‘We’re moving,’” Ned Eichler, who died in 2014, recalled in a 2005 interview. And to where? A rental, for one thing. And a strange house, for another. “It had everything that seemed to me crazy,” Ned said, mentioning “metal bath tubs.” Ned’s bedroom was all of four by eight feet. Followers of the Eichler legend are well aware this was the Bazett house, a Frank Lloyd Wright creation that Joe rented for his family for two 24 C A M O D E R N
years, 1944 and 1945. The house is central to the origins of the Eichler Homes company, as it is where Joe fell in love with modern architecture. Two years after departing the home—he was forced out by new owners, who wanted to live there themselves—Joe began his career building homes. The Bazett house, in Hillsborough, may be the most famous house Eichler inhabited. Still, a survey of Joe’s other homes suggests that he was a man who liked quiet good looks in a multiplicity of styles, enjoyed the indoor-outdoor feeling long before he discovered modern architecture, and appreciated both quiet suburban neighborhoods and big city life. We also find a man who didn’t mind moving. Joe and Lillian came to the Bay Area circa 1924, but it’s not clear where they first lived. They came along with Lillian’s father, owner of a dairy business in which Joe worked as a manager and then treasurer. From 1927, when his name (‘Jos L Eichler (Lillian)’ first appeared in a San Francisco city directory, until Joe’s death 47 years later, Eichler and family lived in at least 14 different houses and apartments—six in San Francisco, at least two in San Mateo, one in Atherton, one in Sunnyvale, one in Los Altos, and three in Hillsborough. Sometimes, though briefly, Eichler maintained more than one home. Of his homes, six could be said to be ‘Eichlers,’ in that they were designed by his architects and built by Eichler. Two of these were regular tract homes—and he lived in both briefly; the others were
ATHERTON DIGS. Eichler’s most celebrated home during his building career was the custom Atherton one pictured above designed by Anshen and Allen. He and Lillian lived there for 13 years, beginning in 1951. custom Eichlers—and two of those he lived in briefly. Other than his Eichler-built homes, Joe only lived in one other home that was modern in style—a Nob Hill high-rise.
1 SAN FRANCISCO: THE MARINA (circa 1927-’28) The first reference to Eichler in a San Francisco directory finds Joe and Lillian living in an attractive, three-story apartment house of the type typical of the Marina district, a row house with Tudor half-timbered detailing. The building, at 1430 Francisco Street, is a block from Fort Mason. Back then, Joe was working at his father-in-law’s dairy and poultry firm, Nye & Nissen, with offices on Clay Street—not far from today’s
Embarcadero Center. At the time it would have been near the city’s produce center. Joe and Lillian had their first child while living on Francisco, Richard, in 1928.
2 SAN FRANCISCO: PACIFIC HEIGHTS (1930) It might have been with an eye to increasing the family’s size that in 1930 the Eichlers moved a dozen blocks uphill to a brand new building, 1945 Broadway Street, in Pacific Heights They rented apartment 33, which had enough room for a servant, Ada Weber. It’s a stylish seven-story apartment house, with gilded Spanish Baroque detailing inside and out. Given Joe’s position and taste, chances are the
Eichler apartment had a view of the new Golden Gate Bridge.
3 SAN FRANCISCO: BACK TO THE MARINA (1931-’36) The Pacific Heights apartment must not have pleased, or the Eichlers may
have wanted to buy their first home. In 1931 the Eichlers moved to 2337 Bay Street, a typical Marina district singlefamily, stucco-fronted row house, two levels of living above a garage. The home, which still stands, has arches over glassed doors that open to
the street, not through windows but through French doors. It suggests that Joe may have sought out this openness to the out of doors long before he grew fond of modern architecture.
4 SAN MATEO: AMHERST COLONIAL (circa 1936-’44) The Eichlers lived at 220 Amherst Avenue from 1936 or 1937 to 1944, housing as well two servants, a married couple. Their eight-year tenure on
After the war, coincidentally, the house became famous among the left-wing intelligentsia of the Bay Area as a gathering spot. Telesis, a group of progressive architects and planners, met there, as did artists and writers, thanks to Betty Frank, who shared their artistic and progressive interests.
6 SAN MATEO: PENINSULA GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB (1946) For a brief time after the Eichler family
Amherst was the longest the Eichlers ever stayed in a home, except their first ‘Eichler,’ in Atherton, where they remained for 12 or 13 years.
5 HILLSBOROUGH: THE BAZETT HOUSE (1944-’45)
6 recessed balconies on both floors. Ned was born here in 1931. It’s notable that, like the Eichlers’ next home, in San Mateo, both living room and bedrooms of 2337 Bay face
The Bazett house, 101 Reservoir Road, was built in 1940 for Sidney Bazett and his wife Louise. They lived there a few years then decided to rent it out. It’s not clear how Joe Eichler learned the house was for rent—but he jumped on it. That surprised Ned because, to that point, his father had not expressed interest in modern architecture, though, he says, “My father was interested in new things.” The Eichlers were reluctantly made to move out when the Bazetts sold the house to Betty and Louis Frank.
was booted from the Wright house, they lived at the Peninsula Golf and Country Club, at 701 Madera Drive, not far from their former San Mateo home, according to a San Mateo directory. Joe was an avid golfer and must have had connections.
7 SUNNYVALE: PRE-EICHLER ‘EICHLER’ (circa 1947-‘48) It’s not clear where the Eichler family lived throughout the late 1940s. It’s clear though that they remained in the San Mateo area because their youngest son, Ned, was finishing high school. He graduated San Mateo High in 1947 at age 16 and left for Dartmouth. Once Ned was out of the house, Joe and Lillian relocated to San Francisco in 1948. But the Eichlers also lived, at least briefly, in one of Joe’s very early tract homes in Sunnyvale—address unknown and not pictured here— before he adopted the modern style that made him famous, Ned recalled. Joe C A M O D E R N 25
■CAMODERNFLASHBACK had just gotten into homebuilding. Joe was already working with architects Anshen and Allen to design a custom home for himself and Lillian in Atherton, but had not yet hired them to design tract homes.
8 SAN FRANCISCO: NOB HILL (1948-1951) Once Ned had decamped, Joe and Lillian moved back to San Francisco —to 7 Leroy Place (not pictured here), an unpretentious, six-unit, three-story building from 1908 on a narrow street that can only be called an alley. Apartments are large though—one has seven bedrooms—and the location is urbane, a few blocks from Grace Cathedral and Huntington Park. They were minutes from downtown San
self, was building in San Francisco by the early 1960s—townhomes, low-rise garden apartments, and high-rises. The top of the line was the Summit atop Russian Hill, a 32-story concrete tower with 24 floors of elegant, glass-walled residences— Eichlers in the sky. While the Summit was being built, the Eichlers moved to the recently completed Comstock, at 1333 Jones Street, on Nob Hill, not far from Leroy Place but with a view. They lived on the 10th floor, in apartment 1006, of a glasswalled building of the sort Joe could have developed himself. Eichler and Lillian moved into one of the two penthouses at the Summit, 999 Green Street, in 1965 and remained until 1970. The building remains one of the most coveted addresses in the city (as is the Comstock), with views of the Bay, Marin, and the Golden Gate.
12 LOS ALTOS: EICHLER TRACT HOME (1968) Although Joe and Lillian continued to live at the Summit, in 1968 they also lived in a tract home at Eichler’s Fallen
10 Francisco, North Beach, and from what became Joe’s favorite restaurant, Jack’s.
drives at this time of his life, especially at night. It’s likely they lived at the subdivision for convenience. An original owner at Fallen Leaf Park, Margot Gordon, recalls Joe and Lillian socializing with the neighbors.
9 ATHERTON: LINDENWOOD (1951-’64) Anshen and Allen completed a rambling redwood home at 19 Irving Avenue for the Eichlers in 1951, inspired by Wright’s Bazett house. Joe and Lillian remained there until 1964. It was larger than the Bazett house, with more and bigger bedrooms, and it opened onto a leafy yard with a swimming pool. It was while living in this home that Eichler Homes flourished. The firm hit financial troubles in the mid-1960s, in part because of the urban ventures that included Joe and Lillian’s next Eichler home—the Summit in San Francisco.
10 /11 SAN FRANCISCO: TWO MODERN HIGH-RISES (1964-’70) Eichler, never content to repeat him26 C A M O D E R N
13/14 HILLSBOROUGH: TWO CUSTOM EICHLERS (1970-’74) HOUSE-HOPPING. Joe and Lillian Eichler circa 1970. Leaf Park, in Los Altos, which was opening then. Several neighbors recall seeing Joe and Lillian around their home, a model with a large atrium at 1684 Clay Drive. By this time Eichler Homes had gone through bankruptcy, and Joe was running a smaller operation, sometimes selling homes himself. Eichler didn’t like making long
In 1970 the Eichlers moved from Russian Hill to Hillsborough, where they had last lived in the Frank Lloyd Wright home. This time it was to a custom Eichler at 20 Buckthorn Way, an attractive street of large houses. Architect Kinji Imada, who worked with architect Claude Oakland on its design, has said the home was built as a spec house—but the Eichlers decided to live there. “When a buyer showed up,” recalled Imada, “Joe found another Hillsborough lot that he could build the same house on—he liked it so much.”
14 The home on Buckthorn has several low, shingled, gabled sections surrounding a central courtyard. From the exterior it does not resemble Eichler’s next home, also by Oakland and Imada, at 1145 Barroilhet Drive. The Barroilhet house, home to the Eichlers from 1972 to ’74, has one of the more unique plans Eichler ever used, based on an octagon. But Imada said the floor plan was essentially the same for both homes. Before the Barroilhet house was remodeled out of existence, glass-walled rooms opened onto a central, octagonal atrium. In 1974, at age 74, Joe Eichler continued to build houses. But he didn’t get to enjoy octagonal living for long. On July 25 of that year he died, according to his obituary, of “heart troubles.” ■ Photography: Ernie Braun, David Toerge, Walter Nelson-Rees, Dave Weinstein
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C A M O D E R N 27
■ T H A T ’S E N T E R T A I N M E N T
Hollywood stars who savor living modern New book shows off homes of celebrities that exude the aura of the avant-garde Is it surprising that a book about the homes of Hollywood stars should be filled with drama, comedy, and tragedy—or that it should make a grand claim for the importance of California in the development of modernism? Not if you know the work of Alan Hess, the lead author of this well-illustrated book, which mixes vintage and modern architectural glamour shots with photos of your favorite stars. Hess has argued that California, rather than being a ‘Left Coast’ backwater, played a crucial role in
SILVER SCREEN SPIRIT. In the early years of modernism in California, Hollywood stars made a statement: ‘We are of the avant-garde and we wish to embrace that spirit in the places where we live.’ That included Charlton Heston, pictured above in his Jaguar XKE at his home (also seen bottom left) designed by William Beckett.
Hollywood Modern: Houses of the Stars By Alan Hess and Michael Stern. 248 pages. Hardcover. Rizzoli.
the birth and spread of modern architecture. It also did much to popularize modernism. “Cubist painters…led the way when Modernism stormed the bastions of traditional culture at the beginning of the twentieth century. But it was Hollywood that institutionalized the aesthetic revolution in modern culture,” Hess writes. “There had never before been a more powerful medium than the movies to promote and fashion public taste,” he writes. “Millions of people worldwide thirstily drank in the movies several times every week; on the silver screen they saw sights 28 C A M O D E R N
and fashions they could hardly have dreamed of.” In his introduction, Michael Stern points out that Hollywood stars were among the earliest adopters of modern architecture. “In the early years of Modernism in California,” he writes, “the actors who would commission Modern residences were decidedly making a statement: ‘We are of the avant-garde and we wish to embrace that spirit in the places where we live.’” The celebrities include silent-film legend Ramon Novarro, Josef von Sternberg, Groucho Marx, Frank Sinatra, Charlton Heston, Tina Turner, Johnny Carson, Faye Dunaway, Leonardo DiCaprio, and more. The homes are mostly in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. As the book proceeds house by house, giving each a full spread, we hear plenty of Hollywood gossip— but in a nice way. Within three or four paragraphs Hess can summarize a star’s career, talent, and stumbling blocks—and do the same for the
house’s architect, with less attention to stumbling blocks. Ironically, perhaps, the architect who is seen here to stumble most is Frank Lloyd Wright, as Hess reveals Wright’s failed attempt to convince Arthur Miller and wife Marilyn Monroe to build a sprawling house in Connecticut. The playwright dismissed the design as “an entertainment house fit…for a corporation and not two people in the country. He simply had us all wrong.” Hess does his best to suggest how each star’s personality and style of performance links to his or her choice of dwelling. On Tina Turner’s Ray Kappe-
designed house, he writes, “There’s a rhythm, a counterpoint, and an excitement to the design that must have appealed to the queen of rhythm and blues in music and dance.” Only one Eichler-related architect has a house here, the A. Quincy Jones home for Gary Cooper. Hess writes that in his grand homes, Jones “refined the idea of Modern aesthetics and planning that he brought to the famous mass-produced tract homes he designed for builder Joseph Eichler. If Gary Cooper brought elegance to his roles as the average man, Jones brought his design elegance to the homes of the average man and woman.”
Motel California By Heather M. David. 184 pages. Hardcover. CalMod Books.
bleached white towels,” David writes. “It is the story of the rapid rise and subsequent declines of the individually owned ‘mom and pop’ motel in the Golden State.” David knows her stuff. Her book introduces us both to the “prestigious” architects who designed many motels, and the various motels themes (from storybook to western to “seaside escape”). The book is a plea to preserve the great motels that remain—by staying at them. She gets into the details too, focusing on a device that turns mattresses into vibrating islands of pleasure. “Although increasingly rare, Magic Fingers [mattress vibrator] can still be found in some motel rooms,” she writes, “and surprisingly, the price remains twenty-five cents.”
Heather David is a collector, and it shows to advantage as this well-designed book explores some of the coolest motels ever, with enticing images from postcards, brochures, maps, matchbook covers, and renderings. “Motel California is a celebration of sparkling blue pools, flashing neon signs, automatic ice machines, and
Banking on Beauty: Millard Sheets and Midcentury Commercial Architecture in California By Adam Arenson. 359 pages. Hardcover. University of Texas Press. Commercial architecture. Sounds hohum, right? Not to fans of Southern Californiabased Millard Sheets, who love stumbling upon the many banks and other buildings his firm constructed and filled with art starting in the early 1950s. Sheets and his teams designed the buildings and all their detailing, with murals, stained glass, sculpture and more. The Sheets Studio and his followers kept at it even after Sheets retired in 1977. The art is colorful, with masterful mosaic work. Topics are historical, and can be hokey. But from the start, the work Sheets turned out for his lead client, Home Savings of America, has been beloved by the public. The branches, now owned by others, can be found in towns throughout California and well beyond. Many retain their art. Over time, though, the art has often been ignored, defaced, or removed—or the entire building torn down. Arenson argues for the importance of this work and for its preservation. This is a detailed book, exploring Sheets, his artists, the business of art and banking. Only one thing would make it better—a complete list of all the existing buildings with addresses so fans could visit.
The authors are two academics, serious but not too serious, in love with each other and with 12-inch longplaying records. Yet, despite the 150 mostly fullpage reproductions of album covers and some illuminating thoughts, Designed for Hi-Fi Living disappoints—and for an obvious reason. The title. Its broadness suggests a true history of the LP, how it was invented, improved in quality, and affected life and culture. Better to have called this book How LPs Taught Americans How to Live. As the authors write, their goal was “to illuminate how LPs provided listeners with guides for becoming more culturally confident, cosmopolitan, and sophisticated.” Still, many of the covers are great and show iconic mid-century items like Bertoia chairs. Each cover receives a deep reading. About one, with the white pianist George Shearing alongside the black singer Nancy Wilson, the authors observe: “Such covers are particularly interesting for their cross-promotional possibilities, selling music, furniture, and the modern lifestyle—including hints of racial equality in one tidy package.”
This disc, which collects five industrial and promotional films from the late 1950s and early ‘60s, hits its highest notes right at the start, with ‘American Look,’ an ode to American designers from the folks at Chevrolet. Chevy was high style at the time, and we see its Eero Saarinen-designed
as Coltrane quits cold turkey. “Please God,” she prayed, as he suffered for days, “don’t take my father.” The film, which starts with astral imagery, emphasizes the spiritual side of Coltrane as his music drew from the East and explored extended forms. Sonny Rollins calls it “celestial,” and John Densmore, drummer for the Doors, recalls concerts that were so far out much of the audience left. “People who heard them,” trumpeter Wynton Marsalis says of the classic Coltrane combo, “their lives were transformed.”
Dorothy Ashby: The Jazz Harpist Three-CD set (with booklet). Fresh Sound.
Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary Directed by John Scheinfeld. DVD. 110 minutes plus bonus footage. Universal Music.
American Life Films #3: MidCentury Design 1950s-1960s DVD. App. 90 minutes. The Video Beat.
Designed for Hi-Fi Living: The Vinyl LP in Midcentury America By Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder. 420 pages. Hardcover. The MIT Press.
GM Technical Center, plus families enjoying life in modern homes with designer tableware and Eames chairs. We are also shown the amazing church in Sedona, designed by Eichler’s architects Anshen and Allen, boldly erupting from a hillside of boulders. All, we are told, represent “expressions of utility, convenience, and beauty in the things that serve us.” The most compelling section shows us the designers of a gullwinged Chevy Impala, whose production we watch as it grows from design to clay model to the road. Also entertaining is the program ‘American Thrift,’ which portrays the American woman of 1962, representing the best of America, as someone who “spends to save and saves to spend.” Basically, these films are all about nostalgia—and in that way, they provide light fun. Available from: thevideobeat.com.
Listening to John Coltrane is a guilty pleasure. His music may have been avant-garde—but he always kept a beautiful tone on tenor sax that made his recording of ballads so beautiful. And his solo on soprano sax turned ‘My Favorite Things’ into a rarity of rarities—an avant-garde jazz radio smash hit. Scheinfeld successfully dramatizes Coltrane’s life without recourse to recreated scenes. We see Coltrane at an early pinnacle, playing with Miles Davis; then at a low point, fired by Miles when Coltrane’s heroin addiction keeps him from the stage. His stepdaughter has us watching
Young women leading jazz combos were a relative rarity at the start of the 1960s, but that didn’t stop Dorothy Ashby even though her chosen instrument was another rarity. But the five LPs collected here, recorded from 1957 to 1961, are not filled with novelty numbers, nor with crossover classical jazz. This is straight-ahead, modern jazz, with varied ensembles and moods. The harp suggests a guitar at one moment, mandolin the next. The full lushness of the strings creates a sound that works in such settings as angular and bluesy and exotica. On ‘Taboo,’ drummer Roy Haynes moves from brushes to jungle drums. The harp works well on three dates, on which Ashby trades solos and plays unisons with the great flautist Frank Wess. The harp also blends well with vibes of Terry Pollard on the album Soft Winds. ‘Secret Love,’ from a trio date, provides a Latin groove, and ‘John R’ is rhythmic soul jazz with an Asian vibe. And if you’ve always associated the harp with quiet romance, this is the collection for you. ‘You Stepped out of a Dream’ is one of many numbers ideal for late night romance. Photography: Steve King, David Sutton (courtesy MPTV Images) C A M O D E R N 29
On the Homefront Price picture Home-improvement pros share know-how on ways to analyze contractor bids Hiring a general contractor for
your home-improvement project is one of the most important decisions you ever make as a homeowner, and frankly, one that is very easy to mess up. Some mistakes can be avoided, however, simply by “clearly deﬁning a vision” of what you want your project to be, says veteran Eichler contractor Ron Key, 40-year owner of Mountain Viewbased Keycon, Inc. “Most people start on the wrong tack. They start by talking about all the beautiful things they want,” says Key, who sees homeowners too often having their eye on the prize instead of on the long road to get there. He suggests starting your contractor interview asking something like, ‘How do I match my budget with my vision?’ But even with 20/20 foresight, you still are likely to end up comparing bids for your project from several general contractors that vary widely in format and content. To learn how to intelligently compare bids, we consulted another remodeling professional with tons of experience working on mid-century modern homes, San Francisco architect John Klopf of Klopf Architecture. Of course, some obvious means of comparison spring to mind, like the length of competing bids. Is bigger better? Or should we just KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid? “It kind of depends on the project,” Klopf equivocated. “On a small project, you’re not going to be specifying everything.” “The speciﬁcity of the bid depends on the project size and the specs that the [architectural]
30 C A M O D E R N
drawings call for,” he continued. On a full remodel or other large project, he says, “I kind of appreciate more information.” “User-friendly is ﬁne, but then you really have to have a level of trust,” says the architect, noting that the length of the bid can sometimes be considered in conjunction with
ing up walls or ﬂoors that have been sealed up for a half-century or more, “A lot of projects, if you dig down and see it, you would be shocked.” Some contractors will include the required permit fees in their bid, but Klopf notes, “Usually, permit fees are the responsibility
a contractor’s approach to the site walk-through. “Contractors who bring their subs along for the walk-through are serious,” he commented in reference to proposed subcontractors, adding, “If they show up alone, and then they give you a one-pager, you get the picture.” “When you’re looking at a bid, you can get a sense of how they take care of their paperwork,” Klopf says, based on past experience. “You can see whether they’re careful or careless, or whatever, from their bid.” Ultimately, he says, “You’ve got to decide if you feel conﬁdent that they are going to follow through.” Some items you might expect to ﬁnd on a competently prepared bid would include a timeline for the project, payment schedule, speciﬁc product names, warranty information, and exclusions in case of surprises (such as removal of asbestos or lead-based materials, etc.). When working on a 50-plus-year-old home like an Eichler, Klopf says an owner can and should expect a certain number of surprises. “There’s a lot of things that end up getting done that you didn’t think were going to be done,” says the architect. When you are open-
of the homeowner.” “What we do is create a spreadsheet,” Klopf says of times when his ﬁrm, Klopf Architecture, has helped homeowners compare competing bids. He explained that this approach allows owners to directly compare what a contractor has included or omitted from their bid, as well as comparing prices quoted for different parts of the project. “Then you can see how a contractor structures their bid.” For example, says the architect, “Depending on the contractor, [some] will be forthcoming about what their proﬁt and overhead is.” Others “will try to bury it” by inﬂating other line items. This is the type of thing that is revealed by the spreadsheet approach. By comparing apples to apples on a spreadsheet, he added, “You start to see questions you should ask.” Furthermore, Klopf says, you shouldn’t be the only one who needs answers. So should the contractor. “No questions [from the contrac-
tor] is a red ﬂag,” he says of discussing the job during the bid process. “It probably means they’re not working on it, or they haven’t thought the thing through.” Ultimately, says the architect, “You’ve got to be careful about bids, and make sure they’re realistic.” This happens to echo advice given online
GETTING A SENSE. “You can see whether [a contractor is] careful or careless, or whatever, from their bid,” says architect John Klopf (above). by the California Contractors State License Board. “In fact, you should beware of any bid that is substantially lower than the others,” warns the board’s website. “It probably indicates that the contractor made a mistake, or is not including all the work quoted by his or her competitors. You may be headed for a dispute with your contractor if you accept an abnormally low bid.” –Dan Smith
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C A M O D E R N 31
nBLAST FROM TH E PAST
UNSUNG MASTERS OF THE MID-CENTURY JAZZ GENTS OF SONG
Ranking the most important instruments in jazz music, let’s say we put piano, saxophone, and trumpet at the top, followed in the middle by guitar, bass, drums, and vibraphone. Vocals? Probably of less importance, somewhere in the middle, below the aforementioned. What about male vocals? Well, even further down the jazz chart, down there with banjo, harmonica, and tuba. Yes, jazz singing is one of those rare fields where, if any gender
By Dan Smith
This Boston native had his share of fame in an abbreviated life—at least his last name did. He was the least celebrated member of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, premier jazz vocal act of the mid-century. All three had solo careers, but Lambert’s was aborted by a 1966 auto accident, killing him at 49. Lambert was also a drummer and a superb arranger who made zippy jazz records with many excellent singers and players. Check out the charging ‘Gussie G’ or the melodic ‘The Best Thing for You.’
This quirkiest of all jazz singers hit the big time in the late ‘30s as leader of Slim and Slam. The novelty act with bassist Leroy ‘Slam’ Stewart had two hits that Gaillard wrote, including the finger-popping ‘Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy).’ Gaillard, who recorded throughout the midcentury, was not constrained by the musical limits of English and routinely sprinkled words from a half-dozen languages into his playful music. He also invented his own verbiage and even wrote a jive dictionary of Vout-O-Reenee.
WHERE TO START:
WHERE TO START:
Sing & Swing Along with (Cherry Red)
Laughing in Rhythm (Proper)
OSCAR BROWN JR.
This Chicago-based balladeer was the only singer to record with the great John Coltrane, and though the 1963 release is a classic, Hartman spent his final two decades after that toiling in nightclub obscurity. Then, 12 years after Johnny’s passing in 1983, actorturned-director Clint Eastwood put four Hartman songs in his film ‘Bridges of Madison County,’ including the dreamy ‘I See Your Face Before Me.’ Only then did his beautiful velvety baritone make a long overdue impression on the masses.
This onetime Congressional candidate from Chicago was one of the major activists in all of jazz, validated many times by references to and covers of his songs to this day. Most recently, his daughters called out the current president for twisting the meaning of his song ‘The Snake,’ based on an Aesop’s fable. Brown also drew on African-American folklore and used these themes in writing music and stage plays. Listen to the politicized artfulness in his bluesy ‘Brown Baby’ and swinging ‘Signifying Monkey.’
From the age of 12, this Cleveland native was gifted with the voice of a nightingale. Due to a genetic condition, Scott’s genderbending voice barely changed in seven decades of performing. An involuntary career hiatus in the ‘70s and ‘80s had him manning a hotel elevator and other jobs until a performance at a funeral spurred his career’s greatest heights in the ‘90s. Hear what Ray Charles called the “pain and prettiness” of Scott’s countertenor in his soaring rendition of ‘Why Was I Born?,’ sung at two presidential inaugurations.
WHERE TO START:
WHERE TO START:
WHERE TO START:
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (Impulse)
Sin & Soul…and Then Some (Columbia)
Lost and Found (Atlantic)
32 C A M O D E R N
gap exists, it is in favor of what some folks call the fairer sex. Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan—there have been no male singers who could touch the jazz feel and mastery of these ladies and a few of their colleagues. Thus by the very nature of the genre, no matter how valiantly and artistically the guys sang, they were predisposed to be unsung— which makes some of them great candidates for this series. In prior installments we have profiled underrated jazz saxophonists (all
male, for example), furniture designers (both genders), and ladies of jazz. Now, the fellas step up to the mic. Not that it was a fulltime gig for all these gentlemen of jazz—several had to take other jobs, ranging from bit acting parts to running the elevator at the local Sheraton. Only one of them became a big success in his day job, and none had extended success singing. All our candidates, however, earned the undying respect of their peers, who appreciated their talents as undeniable masters of the jazz song.
Troup left his native Philadelphia for Hollywood in 1946, penning a little ditty about the road he took that became a hit for Nat King Cole: ‘(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.’ He later married actress Julie London, then produced an album for her so skillfully that it outsold his own. Eventually, London’s ex-husband, Jack Webb, cast the couple in his 1970s TV show ‘Emergency!’ and that brought Troup more success than any of the cool, understated jazz singing he did on a dozen albums in the ‘50s.
Henderson started his career at 26 singing with jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis in his native Chicago and went on to sing with Basie and Oscar Peterson. He peaked with a 1958 jukebox hit patenting his polished, soulful style on ‘Senor Blues.’ He made numerous records over the next 20 years and eventually relocated to L.A., where he moved seamlessly into three decades as one of Hollywood’s go-to character actors. Most of that time, Henderson continued to sing in clubs and sessions around town, a true jazzman at heart.
It’s tough to have a better jazz pedigree than being Charles Mingus’s favorite singer and the only vocalist ever to tour as part of the Charlie Parker Quintet. Paris also toured with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and won numerous magazine polls as best vocalist, but it never led to fame or substantial sales. Though his biggest hits came with 1950s recordings of the honey-sweet ‘Skylark’ and Thelonious Monk’s melancholy ‘Round Midnight,’ this dedicated bopster continued to make records in each of the five decades that followed.
WHERE TO START:
WHERE TO START:
WHERE TO START:
Sings Troup, Mercer and More (Jasmine)
His Complete Vee-Jay Recordings, Vol. 1 (Koch)
Sings the Lyrics of Ira Gershwin (Fresh Sound)
Jazz vocals often take a backseat to piano and wind instruments, so it makes sense that some singers take their lead from great jazz soloists. It’s a style called vocalese, and few have done it better than Pleasure, whose birth name was Clarence Beeks (namechecked in ‘Trading Places’). Another master of the form, Eddie Jefferson, mentored Pleasure in a style less freeform than scat singing. Hear the innovative takes on two of his best-known tunes, the kicky, twisting ‘Moody’s Mood for Love’ and the sauntering ‘Red Top.’
Bebop revolutionized jazz, but it didn’t always sell a ton of records. That kind of thing would stunt the career of a devotee like Gonzales, born Lee Brown in Newark, New Jersey, 1919. He was a pioneer of vocalese who wrote one of bop’s greatest songs, the galloping ‘Oop-Pop-A-Da,’ but he made few records and was practically reduced to a cult figure by the 1950s. A 1992 compilation on Blue Note, Weird Lullaby, deserves a listen by anyone wanting to experience innovative mid-century jazz.
WHERE TO START:
WHERE TO START:
Golden Days (Origin Jazz Classics)
Real Crazy (Proper)
Photography: courtesy Rico Tee Archives
C A M O D E R N 33
CHERRY . . . America’s Queen of Modernism, Manners and Mirth!
Dear Cherry: I have a whole lot of holiday décor to display. Do you have any tips? —Décor Diva Dear Diva: Everything in life is about contrasts. It is what makes life interesting and exciting. Imagine if everything you ate was mushy and mild. You’d be bored. But on the flip side, imagine if everything was excessively spiced. You’d wind up with a tummy ache. So approach the décor in your home as a fine multi-course meal, or if you wish… the dance of the seven veils! You wouldn’t place a huge pile of spicy food out for an appetizer. It would ruin everyone’s appetites for more. No, you’d start with small bites, or a little hint of what is to come. Likewise, keep your front door and entryway simple and tasteful. Your entry should invite intrigue, not overwhelm the senses. When you enter the great room, living room, or multi-purpose kitchen, here is where the crescendo of décor might take place. But make sure you strategically divide and conquer the space: i.e., a subtle unveiling here and another one there. For instance, try not to make your kitchen so over-the-top kitschy that the rest of the house suffers from overexposure. Your remaining public rooms on display are like the dessert that delights, once the main course has been visually consumed. If your main rooms are set up so impeccably that your guests want more, then please do not disappoint them with a bland bath or a messy bedroom. Why not get a little unpredictable? Instead of doing the ‘Night Train’ (that’s an over-played burlesque song reference) unveiling of décor, kick things up a notch with unusual placements of decorative items. Perhaps consider a holiday-themed mobile in the bedroom, or hiding a vintage Santa Claus in the shower! How about a winter-wonderland village display with a choo-choo train running in the middle of your atrium? The discerning details you display in these adjunct rooms are the cherry on top. Dear Cherry: What is the proper etiquette for discussing politics at parties? —Left Wing on a Right Bird Dear Left/Right: Thanks for giving me a chance to 34 C A M O D E R N
assuming that everyone agrees with their specific way of thinking. Usually no one disagrees because they are so embarrassed for this oaf. Now, I may or may not agree with their point of view, but to begin any conversations making assumptions about what anyone thinks is plain rude. Just because someone looks like a hippie does not mean they support leftwing ideals. And just because someone goes to church every Sunday does not mean they back right-wing causes. It is time we all stop this silly conflictridden nonsense of black and white, dualistic thinking. We are all grown-ups, right? We should be able to let everyone have their freedom of thought, even if they oppose what we personally believe. Let there be many shades of gray between black and white. And let there be many shades of purple between red and blue. If you want to maintain a happy, modern gathering, please keep the discordant and disruptive topics to a minimum. Let’s look to the things we
Cherry’s Easy N.A. Glogg TASTEFUL ENTRY. As Cherry says: this holiday season let your front door invite intrigue (and not overwhelm the senses) like the inviting door above. share about good old-fashioned modern manners! All those seemingly out-of-date rules of conduct concerning manners exist for a good reason. And like good modernism, they are never out of style. I firmly advocate the long-accepted standards of not talking about sex, politics, or religion in mixed company. The topics can be too divisive. There is enough dissension in this world without choosing topics that cause even more strife. There is no exception to this good-manners rule. I have witnessed the curious condition of people assuming that everyone in the room agrees with them. I’ve seen people at a party strike up a fairly pointed political or sexual conversation
This is a non-sweet glogg. There are other recipes that have currant or grape juice as the base, and to me these are much too cloying. So try this: • 3 cups hot black tea (regular or decaf) • 10 ounces juice (apple cider, grape, orange, or a combo of these) • 2 tablespoons honey • 2 tablespoons molasses • 1 tablespoon lemon juice • 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise • raisins • spices (add to taste): cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, allspice, cloves Add all ingredients to already hot tea and bring to a slow simmer. Serve with a few raisins in each cup.
do agree upon: a well-shaken martini, fine Eichler homes, and a great Sinatra long-playing album on a real analogue record player. “The heart of hospitality is making people comfortable and happy under your roof.” —Betty Crocker’s Guide to Easy Entertaining (1959). Dear Cherry: How do you say ‘cheese’? —Fondue you in Frisco Dear Fondue: I say it very Gouda. For those of you who are well cultured (and old enough too) to remember when Hickory Farms used to have stores in shopping malls, between 1959 and 2009, it was a good run. The biggest shopping treat was when they had their seasonal nutcovered port-wine cheese ball out for sampling. While you can still order their products online, it was an extra special treat back then to walk into their store and smell the scent of sharp cheddar in the air. You can recreate that magic by hosting one of my favorite types of theme festivities: the BYOC (bring your own cheese) party! This is a perfect activity for a cold winter afternoon. You supply an assortment of quality crackers, some grapes to cleanse the palette, and some goodquality port wine and/or sherry. Also cranberry juice, vegetable bouillon, and a non-alcoholic glogg as a nice drinkable substitute for teetotalers in the crowd. And make sure you supply at least one type of cheese in case of emergency. A red, round ball of Edam is quite festive. Got lactose intolerance? Or maybe vegans? Well, you might be surprised at the vast array of plant-based cheeses that have become available recently. What is most exciting is that many of these chesses are made from nut milks that have been properly fermented and aged just like dairy-milk cheese. There are some made from soy, of course, but also from cashews, hazelnuts, potatoes, almonds, and aquafaba (chickpeas)—and they come in different traditional styles, from brie to cheese balls. There just is no reason not to smile and say, ‘Cheese!’ So cut some cheese! And let’s make America grate again! :-] • For more Cherry, visit CherryCapri.com Photography: Taso Papadakis, Cherry Capri
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