The Secret Life of a Mid Century Modern Dollhouse: Here Comes the Bride

1961, Vintage Wedding Dress, Barbie, “Bride’s Dream”

Hunca Munca hung by the hem of the wedding dress, caught on a nail on the dollhouse window ledge.

She swayed to and fro, yelping, wildly waving her paws in distress. She could hear a car (humans!) in the driveway outside.

“Tom Thumb! Help me! Help me!” she screamed.

Her husband, Tom Thumb, stared at her helplessly. He was carrying a miniature telephone, that he lifted from the dollhouse’s library. He dropped it immediately.

Tom Thumb, a mouse, didn’t quite know how to help his wife, also a mouse. The humans were outside. The door would creak open at any moment.

He flung himself onto the table where the dollhouse was set, missing Hunca Munca by a fraction of an inch.

The door creaked open. Heart pumping, Tom Thumb jumped again, this time grasping Hunca Munca’s paw. He yanked her down, ripping the wedding dress, which had once been worn by Barbie (the doll) and packed away in tissues in the dollhouse attic. Hunca Munca hadn’t been able to resist trying on the dress.

The two looked briefly at the shredded lace still on the nail. Hunca Munca winced looking at the ripped dress train.

“We need to run!”

The two ran as if a huskie were chasing them. They scampered as if a siamese cat were hot on their trail, a housewife with a broom was beating them down, eager to flush them down a toilet.

Tripping over the dress, Hunca Munca gripped Tom Thumb’s paw as if her life depended on it, well, because it kind of did.

The two raced to their hole underneath the kitchen cabinet. Just in the nick of time as they hear the commotion of humans returning from church.

“Mommy, look at what happened to Barbie’s dress!” could be heard above the din.

And, “Sally, it must have been a mouse. Remind me to buy a trap the next time I’m at the hardware store next week.”

….to be continued soon. 

Mid Century Modern: Flashback Friday: Hotel Valley Ho, Scottsdale, AZ

Hotel Valley Ho, Scottsdale, AZ

HOTEL FLASHBACK: A SCOTTSDALE MAINSTAY’S RETRO REVAMP
By Mary Beth Klatt

When we think about the year 1956, there are a few things that come to mind that truly capture the zeitgeist: Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” entered the music charts, Norma Jeane Mortenson became Marilyn Monroe, and the Hotel Valley Ho opened.

For more, read here.

The Mystery of the Haunted Mid Century Modern Home: The Importance of Being Frank

Helvetica typeface, 1957

Just think – I ended up in jail on charge of trespassing private property thanks to a nun.

Yes, a nun. Somewhat older.  Hard to say how old she was 55, 65 with her hair hidden behind her black veil. She had the cherubic round cheeks of the young nuns of my youth and that relentless, disarming cheerfulness that seems to be the hallmark of the sisters of the cloth. Or at the least the ones you see on TV and in the movies. Not that smart-ass Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act.

Back to how I ended up in a jail. A first since my high school days when I was jailed for illegal possession of marijuana. I’ve forgotten that, and believe it or not, that youthful indiscretion derailed my career for a while since it was a felony.

So I called this nun to the building I manage, the late and great Frank Sinatra’s Desert Palms home. It has a kidney-shaped pool overlooking the city. The one you see featured in movie videos, commercials and more. It’s one of our most popular properties in our portfolio, well worth the $27 million our company Staywell Investors LLC spent to buy it a decade ago.

We’ve never had a problem filling that property since the day we we closed on in it. Until now. Now it’s too popular – thanks to Frank Sinatra’s ghost.

Or at least that’s what my AirBnB renters believe. I’ve never met this ghost and I’m cynical guy. I stopped believing in Santa at age 4 after I saw my dad putting presents under the Christmas tree. No more cookies and milk for that guy.

My renters have said they have started hearing Frank sing in the middle of the night. A lot of his swing-era favorites – Come Fly with Me, etc. Accompanied by his signature cigarette. At first they thought it was somebody playing the record player. But that record player – a defunct Philco model 49-1401 radio/phonograph  – doesn’t work. I know. Arm is broken and there’s no needle.

The news quickly spread that Frank was singing nearly nightly in Desert Palms. An impersonator who knew Frank back in the day says it’s really Frank.

The problem is people are breaking in to hear this ghost sing. These break-ins affect our daytime rentals as police need to fill out reports and more..

So I called the ghost buster nun. Paid for her fly out to Desert Palms, put her up in the swankiest hotel. Told her she needed to get rid of this ghost.

She even stayed one night. Communed with the ghost.

She told me Frank is upset. Very upset.

“Upset about what?” I responded. “He’s singing happy songs, I hear. Come Fly with Me. Upbeat songs.”

“He’s upset they’re planning to tear down his childhood church in New Jersey,” she said.

I blew a gasket or two. “Frank is dead and upset about a demolition? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

That wasn’t all. Apparently, Frank – a guy I never met while he was alive – wants me to stop the demolition.

“He’s afraid that all those souls who are attending Mass there now will not go to Heaven,” she said, fingering her rosary. “He’s fearful they won’t attend another church. They will just stop going.”

“That’s my problem?”

It turns out that if I want to save my imperiled Desert Palms property I have to save that church in Jersey. I don’t even go to church anymore, I’ve forgotten how to say the Rosary, none of my family members go, let alone my circle of friends. Church is passe.

But I was desperate to stop the travesty of break-ins at Palm Springs. I went to Jersey, fastened  myself to a chain link fence surrounding the condemned church, threw myself in front of a bulldozer and got arrested. All to appease the ghost of Frank Sinatra.

The nun bailed me out long distance. “I’m sorry, I got it all wrong,” she said in her phone call to me. “Frank doesn’t care about that church-”.

I didn’t bother to hear the rest I was so angry. I hung up on her.

Mid Century Modern: Flashback Friday: Gottlieb Memorial Hospital

Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (courtesy Epstein Global)

This state-of-the-art medical facility addition was completed in 1961. Its entrance canopy was considered controversial at the time.

by Mary Beth Klatt

For this week’s walk down memory lane, we visit Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill., a Chicago suburb.

Local construction and engineering firm A. Epstein and Sons Inc. was hired in 1959 to expand the general-treatment facility, then a 120-bed medical institution. Over the next six years, the company designed additional floors and enlarged ancillary services, nearly doubling the number of beds to 225.

When the first phase was completed in 1961, a marketing mailer touted the facility’s state-of-the-art technology: a heating and air conditioning system powered by radiant ceiling panels, remote-control television, a bedside-operated audio and visual nurses’ call system; “ … in general, the interiors are pleasing and designed for patient comfort.”

Read more here.

This story originally appeared in Hospitals & Health Networks, May 21, 2015:

The Mystery of the Haunted Mid Century Modern Home: It’s Not A Big Deal, part 2

Helvetica typeface, 1957

continued from Part 1:

“You’re a nun but not an exorcist?”

Apple stood at the entryway, confused. She stared at this woman who was the epitome of 1950s religious chic garb in her habit and veil. She had a roly poly face not unlike Santa’s. In fact, she could have been Mrs. Claus’ sister with those ruddy cheeks, twinkly eyes and grey hair peeking from her veil.

“That’s right,” she said, extending her hand. “I’m Sister Barbara from St. Ita’s. I’m not an exorcist but I have experience working with spirits. May I come in?”

Sister extended her business card with her name, title. And her specialty: Counselor to the Real and Spirit World.”

“Well, all right,” Apple said, warily. “Just for a little while. Just what order did you say you were with?”

“BVMs, Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Sister Barbara stepped into the vestibule, gazing at the vintage Sputnik chandelier overhead. Gazed at the 1950s abstract artwork on the wall. “Your home is so beautiful, I grew up in a house with similar chandelier,” she said in awe. “Your neighborhood reminds me of where I grew up.”

Apple ushered her into the living room. Sister sat on a the bright orange wave chaise. Sister Barbara stared at the vintage Zenith record player console. “We had one just like that when I was a little girl,” she gushed.

Apple sat across from sister. How could this woman dressed in black help her? She looked like she could fly right up and away like the Flying Nun, the television show.

“You are right to be suspicious. What is your name again?”

Sister repeated her name again. She told Apple about her work at St. Ita’s, working as a principal in the school, playing the church organ on Sundays. Her calling as a spiritual counselor of the other-worldly variety, how it evolved from calls to the rectory for an exorcist.

“Unfortunately, there is only one exorcist recognized by the archdiocese. One only for the entire Chicago area. He is very busy as you can imagine since he must cover so much territory and there a growing number of old houses possessed by spirits.

“I step into on occasion to help with the overflow on ad hoc basis. I help evaluate whether there is a genuine spiritual emergency.”

She paused, cleared her throat and tugged at her habit.

“I would say your house is possessed by friendly spirits. They mean well. You might not like to hear what I have to say about getting rid of your friendly spirits. My intuition and reading of these two spirits tells me you need to attend Mass every Sunday. Your ghosts will not go away until then. They’re concerned you are not headed toward Heaven.

“They themselves are in Purgatory, If you can commit to Sunday Mass for the rest of your earthly existence, they will leave you alone and they themselves will go to Heaven.”

“What?” Apple said. She stood up as if to get a glass of water and fainted.

Mid Century Moderne round up: Disney World and More

Butterfly House, 1957

Here’s this week’s round-up of Mid Century Modern homes and related news around the country.