Silver Pants in the Backyard


Location Asbury Park, New Jersey

Price $135,000 (2000)

Square feet 2,400 (1882 Victorian house)

Occupants Douglas Fogel (stage manager); John Bjostad (food stylist)

Your house looks like an old woman without a brassiere, you said. [John] It’s because the house is missing its front porch roof. Maggie said that. She and her husband are renting a room here right now. Maggie’s a prop person. Her husband’s the sound guy for The Producers. We come every weekend. We’re about five blocks from the beach. We’ve had an apartment in New York for 21 years. Now we’re in the West 50s, $1,244, rent stabilized. We just bought the little house landlocked behind this one—$68,000 in 2001. It was like a mother-daughter house situation. We’re fixing it up. We already have a renter. [Douglas] We put in a new door, started the siding. [John] We watch This Old House, Hometime.

What about that Donna Hanover on her home show? She went through more home trauma with Giuliani and here she is, a host in her little Levi’s jacket, smiling. [Douglas] Actress! This land around here was bought by James Bradley, an Ocean Grove resident, in 1876. He decided it would be parceled as resort property. [John] See, in Ocean Grove you can’t drink. Asbury Park became the naughty-sister town. [Douglas] Oh, time for a rehearsal.

There’s a man in the backyard in silver underpants. [John] Our neighbors. They’re rehearsing the act they’re going to perform on the beach. It’s the first Asbury Park Beach Umbrella Contest. [Douglas] That one’s a travel writer. That one’s a high-end shoe designer. Rich is a guidance counselor. His partner’s on the city council here.

[Music up. Four men do a dance. Maggie works a bubble bucket. Douglas calls out during the water ski number: “Switch. Then, switch. And next, it’s going to be both hands. Now the surfer number, wave the wave.” The rehearsal is over. We go back in the house and sit in the room with the props.]

[John] Asbury Park was touched by hard times after the ’60s riots, major black-white strife. Not where our house is, but further west. As a resort, it steadily declined. It’s not for the faint of heart. [Douglas] The community runs the gamut, young, old, gay, straight, black, white. [John] Rich, poor. [Douglas] I found out about Asbury Park when I was working on The Lion King. Now I stage-manage TV—Crossing Over with John Edward. He speaks to the dead. Lots of people are buying here. My friends Kathy, a stage manager, and Samantha came to visit. They owned a candle store in Chicago. Samantha said, “Honey, we have to buy a house.” Kathy said, “Honey, I love it here.” Our big house had been totally remodeled inside by developers when we bought it. All we did was plop our stuff in here. This is midsize by Asbury Park standards. [John] The houses are either really big or really small. This house had been abandoned. There was a whole land scam in Asbury in the early ’90s where developers bought houses that had tax liens, sold them to fictitious owners, and those owners drew out mortgages on them at highly inflated prices. Appraisers were in on it and the developers ran away with the cash. When the scam was discovered, all property was seized. The houses came out of litigation and were bought by developers. [Douglas] Before that, a developer worked a deal to buy all the land by the boardwalk to develop a condo building. [John] He went bankrupt. Since ’88, the building stood as a shell. [Douglas] It was in court until the city council said, “Enough,” and— [John] No, they didn’t. They worked out a deal for transferring the development rights. [Douglas] Well, Rich will know. [John] Now they’re tearing down the shell. There are going to be a lot of new condominiums. [Steven runs in to get his silver dress.]