Carol Burnett’s Childhood HomeApr 30th, 2010 | By Lindsay | Category: Celebrity Homes
A few weeks ago, fellow stalker Lavonna gifted me with a copy of one of her all-time favorite books, Carol Burnett’s autobiography entitled One More Time: A Memoir. I finished reading the tome this past week and, let me tell you, I absolutely loved it! Even though I’ve never been a huge Carol Burnett fan – not that I had anything against the comedienne, I just didn’t really know all that much about her – I literally couldn’t put the book down. It’s a fascinating, and somewhat heartbreaking, story about growing up in Depression-era Hollywood with an alcoholic mother and an alcoholic father and a very loving, if at times off-beat, grandmother. One of the things I liked best about the book was the fact that in it Carol dolled out quite a few addresses, one of which being the Hollywood apartment building where the actress lived for over a decade during her formative years. Carol was actually born in Texas and spent the first few years of her life with her grandmother “Nanny” and her great-grandmother “Groggy” in a home located at 2803 West Commerce Street in San Antonio. Her parents, Louise “Lou” Burnett and Joseph “Jody” Burnett, had moved to Los Angeles in the early 1930s in order to make it in the movie industry, leaving their infant daughter behind in the Lone Star State. Lou and Jody ended up divorcing a few years later and didn’t send for Carol until she was seven, at which point she and her grandmother said goodbye to Texas and headed West where they moved into a one bedroom studio apartment in a building named the Hollywood Arms. So, of course, as soon as I finished the book, I had to run right out and stalk the place.
Because Carol had been raised pretty much since infancy by her grandmother, she chose to stay with Nanny and not her mother upon moving into the Hollywood Arms. Nanny and Carol settled into Room 102, a studio apartment on the building’s first floor, just a few doors down from Lou. The tiny room, which Carol described as a “12 foot by 16 foot box”, was comprised of a kitchenette, a tiny bathroom, and one single Murphy bed, which is where Nanny slept. Carol bunked on a small couch in a corner of the room and used the shower rod in the bathroom as her closet. During her childhood years, she spent quite a bit of time on the building’s roof, staring up at the Hollywood sign and dreaming of one day becoming a famous actress. She would also often play “movie star” on the roof with her best friend and neighbor, Illomay Sills. Carol and Nanny remained residents of Room 102 for the next fourteen years, until 1954, when the wanna-be actress migrated to New York to pursue a career on Broadway. Nanny stayed behind at the Arms until Lou passed away in 1959, at which point Carol moved her to a bigger apartment a few blocks away on Cherokee Avenue.
With all of the changes in Hollywood in recent years, I wasn’t sure if Carol’s former apartment building would still be standing today. But, thankfully, it is! The 49-unit building, which was originally built in the 1920’s, was purchased by a real estate development company named StarPoint Properties in 2003 and underwent an extensive renovation and restoration process shortly thereafter. And, while the exterior supposedly looks much the same today as it did when Carol lived there back in the ‘40s, the building and surrounding area are much more upscale now than they were then. You can see some current interior photographs of the building here.
And, let me tell you, I just about died when I noticed that one of the hallway windows was open while I was stalking the building yesterday, allowing me a quick glimpse of the interior. I could only just barely see the entrance to Room 104, which I am assuming is located just two doors down from Carol and Nanny’s old studio, which, unfortunately, was not visible. Oh, how I would have loved to have seen the doorway to Room 102! And, believe me, I tried, but my neck just wouldn’t crane that far. 😉
In 1985, long after she had become a star and her beloved grandmother had passed away, Carol returned to the Hollywood Arms and Room 102 to revisit old memories. The new occupants graciously left the premises for an hour, so she could spend a bit of time in her childhood home. Of the experience she said, “You think when you’re gonna go back that it’s going to look different . . . maybe smaller, because you’re taller, I don’t know, but this is just the way I remembered it: the same walls, the same size, the same colors.” The above photograph was taken during her visit in 1985.
She also stipulated that day that “this’ll be the last time I’ll ever see it, I know that . . . ”, but, in fact, she was wrong. In 1998, Carol and her daughter, Carrie Hamilton, began a five year process of co-writing a play based on Carol’s childhood. They named the play “Hollywood Arms” in honor of Carol’s former home. In 2001, while in the midst of the writing process, Carol went back to the Arms building and was shocked to find the place undergoing StarPoints Properties massive renovation. When she discovered that Room 102 was vacant, she immediately rented it to use as her writing office. Prior to moving in, Carol and her daughter burned sage in every corner of the tiny studio in the hopes of removing the bad spirits and sad memories. “Hollywood Arms” went on to become a hit, but sadly Carrie passed away in January of 2002, a few months before the show opened on Broadway. You can read more about the play here.
Big THANK YOU to Lavonna for giving me One More Time: A Memoir, which led me to write this post.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Hollywood Arms, aka Carol Burnett’s childhood home, is located at 6434 Yucca Street in Hollywood. Carol and her beloved Nanny lived in Room 102.