Gershwin House Demolished
By Dan Foliart
I trust that you have all heard that George Gershwin's house was demolished recently. There was an article on the front
page of the LA Times California section on August 12th with dramatic shots of the destruction. Marilyn Bergman, Nancy Gershwin
and many concerned citizens including myself wrote letters to the Beverly Hills Planning Commission and Beverly Hills
Mayor Briskman urging them to rethink issuing a demolition permit. Before we were given a forum to voice our concerns, the
permit had been issued and the house was gone. I enclose a letter to the editor that I sent to the Los Angeles Times.
No Rhapsody on Roxbury or
"They Can't Take that Away from Me"
I would like to thank Martha Groves for making the public aware of the tragedy that occurred last week, when
George Gershwin's former residence at 1019 Roxbury, in Beverly Hills was
needlessly demolished. I am writing today as the President of the Society of Composers and Lyricists, an organization representing over eight hundred
professionals in the field of film music. The former residence of George
Gershwin and later the home of Rosemary Clooney was the subject of a two
year campaign, culminating in letters
to Mayor Linda Briskman and Audrey
Arlington of the Beverly Hills Planning
Department.We were shocked to learn
that the home had been demolished
without the opportunity for public
comment or advance notice of the
Few individuals can be considered
icons in their professions, but even fewer can attain the status of icons of a country.
George Gershwin's legacy is clear and irrefutable. In the course of his brief lifetime he achieved more and left us more
as a society than any other figure in his profession. His sonorous melodies will forever be a part of our cultural history.
His accomplishments would have been legend if only confined to his popular songs. However his achievements in cinema, Broadway and the concert hall
have so defined excellence in each genre that his legacy is synonymous with American music wherever it is heard throughout the world.
As an individual he was revered and loved by his peers. They visited his home in Beverly Hills and many of his most famous works were conceived
there. Recently I traveled to Charleston, SC, where Mr. Gershwin lived for only a brief time, but the home where he stayed during the writing of Porgy and Bess is
considered a city treasure.
Ira and George moved into the home
at 1019 Roxbury when they relocated to
Los Angeles in 1936. It was during this
period that his "Three Preludes" were
composed that have become a staple of
the concert hall repertoire. However, it
is George and Ira's work in Hollywood
that will be forever associated with the
home. The films of Fred Astaire "Shall We
Dance" and "Damsel in Distress" provided
George and Ira a platform for some
of the classic songs of the American
In the spacious living room, George
was known to return from the glamorous
parties of the day and spend hours
at the piano entertaining friends such as
the great composer, Arnold Schoenberg
as well as all the celebrities of the day.
It was on one such evening that he sat
down and in a very short period he had
composed "A Foggy Day In London
Town." Other classics that were conceived in the livingroom were "Let's
Call The Whole Thing Off," "They Can't
Take That Away From Me," and "Nice
Work If You Can Get It."
Perhaps the most poignant melody
to have been written there was "Love
Is Here To Stay," which Ira completed
shortly after George's death on July
11, 1937. This song along with the classic "Love Walked In" were to be the
collaboration of these two giants
of American song written for the
If having George and Ira as residents
were not enough, Rosemary Clooney,
who was recognized by Life Magazine
as one of the preeminent singers of
the twentieth century moved into the
house with her husband, Jose Ferrer.
Her biography even mentions the home: "...in the summer of 1953 she and her husband moved into a glamorous Beverly Hills home." While she lived and
raised her children here, she starred in
her own series, The Rosemary Clooney
Show from 1956-57. Frank Sinatra wrote,
"Rosemary Clooney has that great talent
which exudes warmth and feeling."
Ms. Clooney received the Lifetime
Achievement Award from the Academy
of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2002
and had a complete resurgence of her career
after signing with Concord Records
and recording numerous records for them.
At the risk of seeming jingoistic, I feel
that Los Angeles and its surrounding
communities are among the greatest in the country. Too often, however I believe that we are short sighted in celebrating
our own cultural landmarks. Perhaps we
are too close to appreciate the greatness
that has been created here. However,
if we can't save the home of one of our
most famous Americans from the wrecking ball, then I think that we must take a
long hard look at our civic pride.
The Society of Composers and Lyricists