Two-Story Circa 1800 Wooden House

Location Fort Greene
Rent $31,000 (1979)
Square feet 3750
Occupant Woody Panttila (painter); Daniel Jogalsky (dancer)

Woody, you have so many paintings of vegetables! I see a rhubarb on the wall! So, here we are in your red shingled, pre?Civil War home with the peeling yellow paint, three furry barking dogs, pots full of soil. Why don't we leave all the dogs and go to the garden for some crisp autumn air? How lovely—a Chinese-moon garden gate, red holly berries, and a Blanche Sweet lilac tree named after the lovely silent film star. [Woody] Danny wants us to go back inside.

What's this on the dining room wall? A black-and-white photograph of the two of you taken in 1947 at the Chicago Art Institute, where you met. Danny, you've got that Gene Kelly dancer's look—sideburns, short sleeves rolled high on the shoulder. So before we talk about how you both moved in '79 to Fort Greene—where free blacks settled during the 1840s and found work in the shipyards . . . we have to skip over a few years . . . then Olmsted designed the park, projects were built in the '60s, the neighborhood got fancier in the '80s, about 70 percent of the population is African American—first let's reminisce about 1949, when you moved to New York and rented a floor of a loft building at Warren and Greenwich for $70 a month and Betty Grable came to visit. [Danny] I think it's called Tribeca now. It used to be the Washington Market. [Woody] The building next to us was a honey warehouse. We lived over a bar. [Danny] The jukebox played all night long. [Woody] "Goodnight Irene" was the big thing. [Danny] There was no hot water. [Woody] We had a little space heater. [Danny] We had ballet people come to see us. I'd worked with Betty Grable in Las Vegas. [Woody] She came. [Danny] We had vegetarian. [Woody] We had carrots. [Danny] Betty loved margaritas.

What's that in your hand? [Danny] The video from Kismetwith Beatrice Kraft. I was one of Miss Kraft's dancers. Then I joined The Caribbeans. We did the mambo . . .

Did other artists live around you in Tribeca? I thought everybody lived in Greenwich Village in the '50s, like when Dean Martin is in this movie and he says, with a wild look in his eye, Let's run the show—down in the Village.[Danny] There was a musician on the top floor, an architect. Over the years, the building got weak. Every time the wind blew, it moved from side to side. [Woody] About '75, we started looking. [Danny] We'd managed to save a little money. We're not clotheshorses. [Woody] Of course Manhattan was out. [Danny] Couldn't afford it. I'm not going to take my life savings and put it into $15,000 in fixtures.

But people talk about the '70s as the good old days. [Danny] We couldn't even afford to buy a house in Park Slope. If we'd started in '65, we could have bought one for $30,000, but they wanted $100,000, $150,000 then. They're a million today. [Woody] Now we could get a half million for this house. [Danny] Everyone says sell it. But where will we go? This is our retirement home. When we closed on this house, '79, I was in I Remember Mama with Liv Ullman at the Majestic . . .

I just realized you've lived together half a century! [Danny] I was always traveling, on the road with Mame . . . [Woody] It helped a lot that we were opposite. [Danny] I do a lot of the shopping and cooking. [Woody] I fix the boiler. When he got out of the hospital . . . [Danny] I had a triple bypass, arthritis in my ankle . . . [Woody] I had to do the shopping. [Danny] I said, you forgot the coupons. I told him to get a five-pound bag of Idaho potatoes. He comes back with Eastern. [Woody] That's the way he yells at me. [Danny] They're the same price but Idaho are better. [Woody] I said I'd go back and get the Idaho. [Danny] No, then we'll have too many potatoes.

 
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