David Bruce: Landlords Anecdotes

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 The clientele at Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s Jewish retreat and outreach center, which he named the House of Love and Prayer — was somewhat odd (it was located in Haight-Ashbury, after all), and soon complaints poured in to the landlord, who gave an eviction notice to Rabbi Shlomo. A nun from a nearby convent, which was filled with religious who adored the good Rabbi, saw Rabbi Shlomo looking sad, and asked him what was the matter. He explained the situation, and the nun grew angry, saying about the landlord, who was a member of her church, “He’s got some nerve! I’m going over to give him a piece of my mind right now!” The nun talked to the landlord, and he quickly changed his mind about evicting Rabbi Shlomo. Later, Rabbi Shlomo asked her what she had told the landlord to make him change his mind about the eviction. The nun replied, “It was very simple, really. I told the landlord that if he ever brings grief to Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, he’s going to burn in hell.”

Opera great Leo Slezak once was concerned about the flooding that occurred in a small Austrian town where he and his family were staying. As the water lapped at the house he was renting, he promised God that if the water should recede, he would give a charity concert to help the inhabitants of the town. Almost immediately, the water began to recede. The charity concert was a huge success, but Mr. Slezak’s landlady was so impressed that such a benevolent celebrity as Mr. Slezak was staying in her house that she raised the rent.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Albert Strunsky was a dream landlord in Greenwich Village for musicians and artists because he was very forgiving when a tenant was late with the rent. Sometimes he would make the tenant move, but it was always into another of Mr. Strunsky’s studio apartments. Eventually, Mr. Strunsky was owed so much money that his daughter sent out bills in an attempt to collect. This made Mr. Strunsky angry, and he made his daughter apologize to his tenants.

African-American comedian Angela Scott talks about an apartment becoming vacant in her building. She wanted to have a friend move into it, but the landlord wouldn’t allow that. Therefore, whenever the landlord showed the apartment to white people, she wore curlers in her hair, put on slippers and a housecoat, went out on her landing, and loudly said, “Leroy, don’t start no sh*t. You put that knife down. Come out here, kids, all twenty of you.”

Early in his baseball career, pitcher Lefty Gomez spent time in the minor leagues, where he didn’t make much money and fell behind in his rent. Because he was lacking funds to pay his back rent, he told his landlady, “Just think, someday you’ll be able to say Lefty Gomez the great pitcher once lived here.” His landlady replied, “If you don’t pay me, I’ll be able to say it tomorrow.”

Early in his career, French artist Honoré Daumier had difficulty paying the rent. He told his landlord, “The time will come when people will visit this miserable hole and say that Daumier, the artist, once painted here.” Unmoved, the landlord replied, “If you don’t pay your rent now, they’ll be able to say it tomorrow.” 9Sometimes, the same anecdote is told about more than one person.)

Oscar Levant was kind of a perpetual house guest at the house of Ira Gershwin and his wife, Leonore. Once, he said something that annoyed Leonore, so she told him, “Get out of this house.” Mr. Levant stood up a moment, then sat down again and said, “I’m not going.” “Why not?” she asked. “Because I have no place to go.” This caused Leonore to laugh, and Mr. Levant stayed as a house guest for two more years.

One of Jeremy Nichols’ friends had a rather nasty experience with the interior decor of a room that was rented to itinerant actors in England. He saw a fur-covered lampshade in his room. Thinking that his landlady had horrible taste, and wondering whether the fur was real, he touched it — only to discover that what looked like fur was a coating of dust, one-half inch thick.

Maxim Gorky once stayed at a hotel in Southern Italy. The next morning, he complained that he had not been able to sleep at night because his bed was infested. His landlady denied the charge, saying, “We have not a single bug in this house.” Mr. Gorky replied, “That is true. The bugs are not single — they are married and have very large families, too.”

A man called a biological supply store and asked for immediate delivery of 10,000 cockroaches. The store was able to fill the order, but the salesperson asked the man why he needed so many cockroaches. The man replied, “I am moving out of my apartment, and my lease says that I have to leave it exactly as it was when I moved in.”

Groucho Marx’s small son once ran away from home. Groucho, of course, went after his son and brought him back home — but told him to give some advance warning the next time he ran away from home, so Groucho could rent his room out.

When John Adams was old, Daniel Webster called upon him and asked how he was. Mr. Adams replied, “The top is all off the house, the windows are getting dim, the foundation is very shaky, and as far as I can see, the landlord does not aim to make any more improvements.”

Pablo Picasso often painted over the white walls of the apartments where he lived, turning them into works of art. Early in Picasso’s career, an angry landlord forced him to pay to have a wall painted again. Years later, Picasso said, “What a fool. He could have sold the wall for a fortune.”

Some of the parties held by Divine, an actress who appeared in many of John Waters’ films, were remarkable. At one party, she auctioned off all of her landlady’s furniture in the furnished apartment.

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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