Rent $1,851.94 [rent-stabilized]
Square feet 750 [one-bedroom apartment in 1917 elevator building]
Occupants Mike Barrett ; Jade Zapotocky Barrett [author’s assistant]
A red-padded bar with liquor bottles and shot glasses. [ Jade] We got it at Los Venus. We have another bar in the bedroom. [ We go
look.] When I was growing up, it was the only thing I enjoyed playing with at my grandparents’. When they died, I said, Please let me have the bar.
What did your grandparents do—Joliet, Illinois, was it? My grandfather sort of worked for Al Capone but he pretended he didn’t. He was in construction. He would find empty buildings that Capone could store his booze in. My grandmother was a hairdresser. She was British. She was with the Land Army when they met. She ran a beauty shop out of the house in Joliet.
It’s very mid-century in here, black bathroom tile, a photograph of Marlene Dietrich behind the living-room bar. You yourself have the aura. There’s a mug shot of Mike hanging up. [ Jade] It was a misunderstanding. [ Mike] I was with a friend who thought it would be funny to steal his ex-girlfriend’s purse. [ Jade] I got the chandelier for my birthday. It’s the only one we could have because it didn’t take any wiring. I said he had to give me a chandelier by my 10th anniversary. [ Mike] I made it by our second. [ Jade] Ever since I went by Lincoln Center, I had to have one. [Mike] I got it from my Halloween party at work.
The dogs are so miniature. [ Jade] This one’s tongue is so big it doesn’t fit in his mouth. I’m writing a vegan cookbook.
Silver bowls of candy are all over. My aunt’s friend said once, Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker. I never forgot that. It meant more as I got older.
On the phone you were so proud to have lived in Hell’s Kitchen before you moved here six years ago. Here you should be beaming. You’re near Cartier for diamonds, Fendi with the purple velvet evening gown and purple mink stole in the window—I only noticed this because of the transit strike and I was walking—and Michael’s restaurant, very moderne, where people in publishing go and have fresh veal cheeks at lunch. Then there’s the more modest La Bonne Soupe, where the French tourists and people who go to MOMA film programs have salad in a little bowl. How did you come to live in this early-20th-century building? An ad. At first it was a nuisance, no laundromats. [ Mike] You can’t get stuff. [ Jade] It’s so hot, nothing grows here. A pizza place is downstairs. [ Mike] Our floors get hot from the oven. Most of the one-bedrooms go for $2,600 now. We got in just at the last minute.
I have to tell you something about your building. [ Both] What?
Please remain seated. In 1981 there was a murder. No!
Yes. A 37-year-old lawyer, according to news accounts, was found shot in the back of the head on the kitchen floor of his apartment. The bullet was large caliber. The apartment was burning. He graduated from Princeton and did his thesis on Tristram Shandy. His father owned the building and he had lived there 10 years before, alone. [ Jade] We’d heard something about a murder.
Dreadful that a person becomes remembered for his horrific death. Did you ever hear the story of Lucy? The window was open, the curtain was blowing, and Lucy was dead. There was glass and water on the floor. Do you know how Lucy was killed?
Lucy was a goldfish. The wind knocked over the bowl. [ Laugh.]
Your little dogs are so full of life. [SFX: Squeak.] One has something in its mouth. One has a stuffed perfume bottle in its mouth. It’s Chewnel No. 5.