Thursday, July 19, 2012

An event of national importance

I've been procrastinating blogging about this for weeks. Sorry.
About a month ago my family got to be a part of a 'once in a lifetime event'. I was less than thrilled about it at first, but the hundred and fifty strangers in my grandfathers living room all seemed pretty stoked about it.
So who do my family, an old Victorian house and 150 strangers all have in common?
Ben Hecht, that's who. A man who before a few weeks ago, I knew absolutely nothing about.
He was one of Hollywood and Broadway's most famous and highest paid writers between the 1930's and 1960's. He wrote scripts including Gone with the Wind, Scarface, and 155 other plays, screenplays, tv series and novels. Needless to say, he's pretty important. And for a couple years before he became famous, he rented a room in my grandparents house. (Before it was my grandparents house, of course.)

This was the house. (I say was because it's in the process of being sold.) It has 3 floors plus a fully furnished basement and attic, 12 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and far too many walk-in closets. While it was in my grandparents possession it was also covered ceiling to floor in mirrors. Really. You think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. It got creepy at some points, like when I was trying to sleep and opened my eyes and saw myself peering back at me from both the side wall and the ceiling.

See the turret that goes all the way up on the right side? The 3rd room up was where Ben Hecht stayed. 
And here is the sign that has been in front of the house, marking it as a place of national importance. Cool. (Too bad I never bothered to look at this sign once in my life before that day.)
Long story short, about a year after the house had been put on the market, a lady came through to look at it and noticed the sign out front. She had connections to a group who puts on literary salons and historical reenactments, and a couple months later she had somehow managed to gather 150 interested people in the living room of the house.

Having known basically nothing about it before I showed up at the house that night, I was expecting around 30 to 40 family friends in an intimate theatrical setting. Not 150 strangers traipsing through the house, peering in every bedroom and closet. Having just got back from Spain the week before, I was still in a strange adjustment period of meshing together how I remembered things with how they had changed. I was still coming to terms with the idea of my childhood holiday house being sold, and so seeing tons of strangers walking about didn't put me in the best of moods.

However, once I came to terms with it, I had a blast. I introduced myself to people as the granddaughter of the owner, which led them to ask me a million questions about what life was like growing up there. It was strange to think that people were actually interested in my childhood. (I felt a little important.)

Also, all of us who 'lived' in the house or were there to set up the event got to dress up in period costumes. I'll post pictures later, because at the moment my camera cord is MIA.  I got to wear an awesome black dress embellished with silver 'jewels', and then when I did my makeup and wrapped a bandana around my hair, I looked like a fortune teller. I'm not quite sure how that was a period costume, but I looked awesome so I didn't complain.
Stay tuned for the pictures! I think promise I'll get to them soon!

Also, this article was published just recently. It has a video showing the inside of the house and a man talking about the history of Ben Hecht. Check it out!


  1. What a cool story! I can't believe you had never noticed the posting, then in a small way it changed your life! Such a wonderful post.. Thank-you for sharing the story and can't wait to see the pictures!

  2. You should start blogging again, I miss reading these :)