Rabbit Duplex


Duplex Co-Op In Tenement

Location: Chelsea

Price: $110,000 ($852 maintenance)

Square Feet: 800

Occupants: Richard Watts (money trader, Norddeutsche Landesbank); houseguest Marika Maiorova (recent film school graduate); Peewee (Chihuahua)

So, every day at three o’clock you walk out of the bank where you sit in a big glass trading room with 40 phone lines talking to 25 brokers at a time about interest rates and you come downtown to your tenement building and walk up five flights of carpeted stairs— the building was renovated in the ’80s— and you walk into your apartment with the hoopskirt hanging from the skylight, and the bowls of 1950s Christmas ornaments in shiny emerald green, pink, and midnight blue and you slip on your Dolce & Gabbana beach clogs and there, waiting for you on your second floor deck which looks so California with the wood planks and purple petunias, is Peewee, your Chihuahua. He’s such a gentleman.

You lived in a $1500 one bedroom on 37th and Fifth for eight years. You bought this two and a half years ago. It took a while to buy. You were picky. I only wanted to be within such and such blocks, facing a certain direction. I had my dream apartment. I looked every Saturday for two years. One day I said to my broker, You better find me an apartment today or I’m going to spend all my cash. He took me here. It’s across from the projects. I said, My mother is going to kill me. Then I went in and saw the fireplace, the skylight. When I saw the deck, that was it. Coming from Mississippi, I needed some outdoor space. I’m a little farm boy.

The critic Dave Hickey was giving a lecture at the Columbia School of Architecture on Las Vegas, sex, and Flaubert, and he said the spaces people and architects like most are the ones that first made them happy. For him, it’s a low, darkened bungalow. For others it could be a white modernist house with walls of glass and clear blue rectangular pools and all built-in furniture and a heliport with a pink helicopter and a room full of Superman and Batman comic books and a closet with 100 Comme des Garçons skirts— white— and a visual imaging room with the latest up-to-date projection devices and also a room full of gold coins for rolling around in. I grew up in a ranch house with two grandmothers who sewed quilts all the time. I’ve always loved velvets and fabrics.

You were in the navy for four years, in Sardinia, in the resort town that you said was built by the Saudi billionaire who was involved with Imelda Marcos. You came to New York in 1987. Marika’s been your houseguest since December. [Marika] I’m from Georgia, which was a part of the Soviet Union. I lived in a big apartment. No, we didn’t have samovars. Georgian culture is more Asian. More of a backgammon culture. My happiest space is that old apartment. Big rooms, lots of big lamps. Lot of grandparents and parents. The door was never closed. [Richard] My house was like that, kids were over all the time. This is an open house, too. People are always here. More often than not my friends meet here rather than go to clubs. There’s Alan, an aspiring Romanian model. Alisa, she was a model in Russia. [Marika] She’s just beautiful. [Richard] We have Ivan, who’s an aspiring Dominican actor. He wants to play the guy who dated Zsa Zsa Gabor and married Barbara Hutton. That’s the core group. Sometimes there are three, four downstairs, others upstairs. We take a lot of pictures. Then everyone looks at the pictures the next time. [He shows photos from leopard-covered albums.] Here’s a party. There’s Marika. She made her silver dress in 15 minutes. We served sugarcane and bananas. That’s Anita, the one in leather pants, holding a cigarette, another dear friend. Here are three stylists. On New Year’s eve we had a party in an hour’s notice. The only thing we served were carrots. [Marika] My mother called from Georgia. She said, You have to dress in white and have carrots because it’s the year of the rabbit.

Archive Highlights