Saving Bukowski’s Bungalow
Bukowski’s long gone, though his Bungalow still stands, but not for long unless we DO something about it!
A few years back Mrs Benway and I went to Key West where we saw Ernest Hemingway’s house, writing studio and a few of his favorite watering holes. How cool would it be to be able to take a similar tour a la Bukowski in LA? Hey, maybe they can make Pink Elephant Liquors a landmark too! B.B, 09/16/07
A friend of mine, Bill Benway, publisher of the excellent sexgunsandmotorcyles, recently asked for a little help in saving Charles Bukowski’s bungalow. I happened to be in California at the time, but was too occupied documenting the Beat memories of Frisco to get down the coast to Los Angeles and really stir shit up. When I finished with that, I found myself trailing a Mexican drug-dealing, gun-running, people-smuggling, hard-drinking, farm-working friend of mine around San Luis Obispo. So instead, I sat back and watched a twenty-six year old office temp called Lauren Everett try and get the property declared a cultural heritage site, and prevent its nefarious current owner from having it demolished.
So for Bill, who initially informed me of the potential injustice; Lauren, who fought a fight I was too lazy to fight; and for old Hank, infamous resident of that nasty little bungalow we all want to save, and whom would no doubt have chastised us all for bothering our asses, Beatdom belatedly joins the fight…
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and thank you
for locating me there at
5124 DeLongpre Avenue
From ‘Trollius and Trellises’ by Charles Bukowski
The above excerpt is from a poem Bukowski wrote for his publisher, John Martin, who founded Black Sparrow Press in 1969, having discovered stacks of Bukowski’s poems in a cupboard, and who published the author’s work from then until his death in 1994. It highlights his affection for his life-long publisher and the home at which his literary abilities were first discovered, and then developed. Bukowski recognized the significance of DeLongre Ave. in his career, as does Martin, who says of discovering Bukowski’s poetry:
That’s where I met him. You just knew this was someplace special. He had a whole closet full of unpublished poems. Literally, they were stacked up on the floor leaning against the wall two or three feet high. So I went through and picked out ones I thought were especially good, and I began, one way or another, to publish Bukowski.
And it’s not as though Bukowski’s fans will be entirely ignorant of his place of residence between the years 1964 and 1972. No, the story of his discovery and saviour by John Martin is legendary, because it freed Bukowski of the emotionally crushing experience of working for the post office, and allowed him to write his debut novel, based upon the experiences of which he’d been freed, Post Office. The house was also where Bukowski took a number of women over the years, providing some of the material for his novel, Women. He had his only kid when living there, adding a bit of personal significance. Just around the corner is his old haunt, the Pink Elephant liquor store, which is still in business today. Not only is his old boozer still going, the neighbourhood remains much the same as it was back then – same style of buildings, same untidy mess of a place, same Eastern European immigrant dominated population.
But Bukowski is dead and his works live on, popular and widely available, and he is constantly published posthumously as more and more of his writings surface. He has earned his place in the literary canon of the late twentieth century, as a Beat, only later, and as a cranky and mad old alcoholic, the sort of guy one wouldn’t want to run in to, but who we all love to read. He has, of course, been immortalised in film, notably in Factotum, staring Matt Dillon, and soon in an animated feature from Johnny Depp (a celebrity, yes, but with impeccable tastes…) He is not liable to drop from memory any time soon.
There is even a Bukowski tour of Los Angeles, which naturally includes the bungalow as one of its features. It’s called ‘Haunts of a Dirty Old Man’ and is run by Richard Schave, who says “It was at DeLongpre where his explosion of work began. This place was the rocket booster that propelled him through the rest of his life.” DeLongpre isn’t the only stop on the tour, either:
This tour focuses on Bukowski’s great passions: writing, screwing and Los Angeles. We’ll take in the canonical locations of his life and myth: the Postal Annex Terminal where he gathered the material for “Post Office,” the De Longpre apartment where he briefly experimented with marriage and fatherhood, one of his favorite bars Musso & Frank, and many other spots. Along the way, we’ll explore the people and ideas that made up the warp and weft of Buk’s rich inner life.
So why all the fuss? Surely the old bastard is untouchable by now. We treasure our literary icons, right?
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Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 2007-09-18, 8:00AM PDT
Approximately a 12, 500 square foot lot – currently holds a completely vacant apartment building (bungalow style). It is a REAL INVESTMENT, perfect for builders, investors, contractors, etc. You can easily tear down the old building and do new construction! This is a rare-find in a high-demand area; Hollywood – close to restaurants, studios, shopping centers, etc. The dimensions of the lot are 53 ft by 230 ft.
The address is: 5124 – 5126 ¾ De Longpre Ave, Los Angeles CA 90027
For more information please call (323) 851-7736
This was the craigslist ad that kicked off the storm that has gotten people all riled up. The greasy fucker behind the ad obviously got hard up for some meth cash and tried to offload his little claim to some literary heritage. He booted out his tenants and stuck the property up for sale. But did he advertise it as a lit. landmark? Did he shit! He wants to throw Buk’s memory down the pan and get another Starbucks or McDonalds on the American streets. Prime real estate means more than anything to some folks. But sadly, those folks are dead inside – soulless, immoral scum who should be beaten with chains until they understand that people can feel some things. History matters, literature matters, ideas and people and memories and love matter… But no. If you’re too ignorant and cold to get such things, all you can see is green.
It’s up to those of us with an appreciation for anything that is not measured in dollars to stand up to those without. When this asshole tried to sell a piece of Bukowski’s life, he infuriated people who can read, who can think, and who care. One of those people was Lauren Everett.
Lauren Everett read Bukowski for years, and shared his pain as an underappreciated employee for some faceless corporation. She slaved away and took solace in his work. So when she learned of this swinish greenhead’s evil deeds, Lauren took to the interweb, the city and people with her plight. She created ‘5124 De Longpre’ (sic), a blog appraising the general public of the developments and facts, and called for the city to declare the bungalow a culture heritage site. Pretty soon she had a following. It wasn’t front page news or any such thing, but Time Magazine, Johnny Depp and Beatdom were on the case!
Or rather, Time, Depp and Beatdom were monitoring the case as Lauren appealed to the city for help. She submitted a surprisingly flawed Significance Report to the Cultural Heritage Commission, which contained enough obvious accuracy to justify recognition, and encouraged others to e-mail and call the Commission via her website. She managed to get the Commission to hear the case for 5124 DeLongpre on their 09/20/07 meeting.
The Commission decided to take the property under consideration for historical landmark status and to visit it in order to establish its structural viability, announcing that within sixty days of the meeting, the Commission and the City Council would give their verdict. And during those sixty days the owner is prevented from demolishing the building.
All is looking hopeful – the building reflects a period in LA’s architectural history, that, coupled with the literary and cultural significance of the building, should ensure its designation as a significant place. So long as it remains structurally sound, the Commission will probably bestow upon it the necessary title to hand its owner a tax break that won’t quite meet the millions he’d have wanted to have the place levelled and turned into a fucking parking lot and five Starbucks.
But one cannot be certain of victory just yet…
No, the world isn’t ruled by readers. The world is ruled by developers. And City Hall? Well, we all know you can’t fight it, but while you can persuade it, remember that it’s ruled by those damn developers, too. Those fuckers would stand to profit from some large scale development, especially when the ‘best alternative’ at present is Lauren Everett’s ‘Bukowski Bungalow Endowment’ idea:
One of the bungalows and one unit in the main house will be made available for four months to established, mid-career artists in the fields of writing, photography, painting/drawing, film or theater who are interested in producing a piece of work on the subject of Los Angeles. These Bukowski Fellows will be selected by a Board of Directors based on their proposals submitted to the Bukowski Bungalow Endowment.
Two of the bungalows and one unit in the main house will be made available for one year to individuals currently working in manual labor trades, having spent at least the past five years working similar jobs, who have artistic ambitions in the fields of writing, photography, painting/drawing, film or theater. These Bukowski Fellows will be selected by the Board of Directors based on their proposals and biographies submitted to the Bukowski Bungalow Endowment. While some weight will be given to those who have worked longer at manual employment, all Fellows will be selected based on the quality and promise shown by their work.
The front bungalow, which was Charles Bukowski’s residence, will be restored to the condition in which it was at the time Bukowski lived there, and will be used as a community space shared by the Bukowski Fellows, with occasional public events including but not limited to screenings, art exhibits, musical performances, etc.
At the end of their residence on De Longpre, all Bukowski Fellows will be expected to make an excerpt of their work available for publication, screening or showing to the East Hollywood community.
What’d ya think, friend? I don’t much care for it. ‘restored to the condition in which it was at the time Bukowski lived there’? Jesusfuck, that’s not even legal! What kind of madness is that? Bukowski lived in squalor, and while that may work for some, and may appeal to those writers and artists for whom straightforward plagiarism works, it’s not really the way to go for inspiring the new literary breakthrough. Hell, the whole idea’s retarded. Why would the city want to restore an old bungalow so that it could be lived in by a writer? Everyone in LA wants to be a fucking writer, and they all have crappy little houses like this. Hell, tear it down before you stoop to taking away a man’s property and giving it to some talentless asshole who couldn’t make it on his own…
No, that idea’s idiotic. Why not do with Bukowski’s old home what they do with many other artists’ former places of residence? Declare it a cultural heritage site and slap a plaque up, preventing demolition. Let the owner sell it or do with it what he will – it’ll remain there for the tours to pass by and as an adequate memory for a guy who quite frankly wouldn’t give a shit whether or not his fans could come see his old place, or even whether they bothered to try and save it.
Or, as it seems the city wants an excuse to make a move either way, how about a museum. It’s a no-brainer, friend! A museum will pay tribute to Bukowski and drag in some cash for the city. It’s so fucking simple…
Hell, I’ll know something’s caught in the gears of justice if the city passes up their opportunity to do the right thing. All should go smoothly, but if it doesn’t, then Beatdom orders its readers to raise hell over the matter. Tear down the city until Bukowski’s crappy old shitheap is made untouchable! The case should be won, friends, and if it’s not, then treachery is afoot.
According to the Hollywood Heritage Foundation’s Robert Noodleman:
When you look at this building, you see a nice little Spanish bungalow, which is usually associated with the happier times of L.A., and then to think from that building came what Charles Bukowski was saying … shows an interesting metamorphosis of Los Angeles’ architecture and its literary history binding together to come out of that one place.
So get ready for one of two things – to visit a new literary landmark and justify this little fight; or watch for the signs of injustice (a media blackout surrounding the city’s decision to allow major development and the rape and pillage of all surrounding communities) and be prepared to riot!
In the meantime, stay vigilante. The owner is evidently a madman, and Bukowski’s not as popular with the illiterate population as he should be. Some prick calling himself ‘Bustard’ has his destructive, blog-chronicling, eye on the residence. Watch out.
For a little more on Bukowski and the effort to preserve his memory, see our interview with his friend, Neeli Cherkovski.