Have you ever wondered what occupies the space above the Coldwell Banker office at the corner of Beverly & Larchmont? Well, wonder no more. Tucked away in a former apartment building are the private offices of Hollywood writers and producers Andrew J. Fenady and his son, Duke.
After you climb the decades-old carpeted stairs to their offices, you are immediately struck by the signage on the door. “Sam Marlow, Private Investigator, ‘I Don’t Sleep.'” Upon entering, the scent of cigars is striking. The wood-paneled walls are covered with faded photos: Angela Lansbury, Charles Bronson, Christopher Reeve, John Wayne. You think, “This is Hollywood. The way it SHOULD be.”
Fenady, known to his friends as A.J., was raised in Toledo, Ohio. He started his career traveling the country in summer stock theatre, but quickly decided the action was in Hollywood. He and his wife of 56 years, Mary Frances, landed in L.A. and raised a family of six children-five boys and one girl in their Hancock Park home.
“I thought, I’ll go out there and give it a glancing blow,” laughs Andrew. “If it works out-fine-and if it doesn’t, I’ll go back to Toledo, get into politics and become the governor of Ohio. Happily for the state of Ohio, that didn’t happen.”
Fenady moved into television with the creation of “Confidential File,” Paul Coates’ national expose television series that was a precursor to “60 Minutes.” Andrew wrote and produced more than 150 episodes and won three Emmys. “We did much bolder topics than they did,” he says of 60 Minutes. “We were the first to do a show on homosexuality, and the first to do shows on prostitution and child molesters. You name it, we did it.”
Andrew soon jumped into the motion picture world, writing and producing titles such as Warner Bros.'”Stakeout on Dope Street” and “Chisum,” starring John Wayne, and Paramount’s “The Young Captives.” Fenady has also written many westerns and more than 12 novels and numerous made-for-TV movies.
In 1983, Andrew’s son Duke graduated from UCLA and joined his father’s production company. Together, they produced “A Masterpiece of Murder” starring Bob Hope and Don Ameche, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” and “The Love She Sought,” starring Angela Lansbury.
“Iâ€™d come up here and Dad would be writing 10 or 12 pages a day,” remembers Duke, “and I’d type them out. That’s basically how I learned to write!”
“Dad creates the show, writes the treatment, pitches it, draws up the budget, then line produces and executive produces it, so I learned how to do this from the ground up… I learned how to do it the right way.”
Andrew is also a Hollywood chameleon. As westerns faded, he realized that he needed to reinvent himself by writing more detective and mystery stories. His office is actually the setting for one of his novel’s heroes, Sam Marlow in “The Man with Bogart’s Face.”
“When we shot that movie, we shot hereâ€¦ and that’s why when you enter, the door says “Sam Marlow, Private Investigator.’ It’s been there since 1979.” Andrew and Duke get a good laugh over the confusion it causes local tax assessors and women seeking divorce attorneys.
Current projects for the father/son duo include several radio plays, including “The Sea Wolf,” based on Jack London’s novel, and Andrew’s 16th novel, “Destiny Made Them Brothers,” to be published next year.
Fenady Assccoiates, 249 N. Larchmont Blvd.
Just down the street sits the unpresuming storefront of another father and son team, Robert and Zeb Vacca.
Lipson Plumbing has been a Larchmont Boulevard institution since 1931 when the original owner Jack Lipson began his business in a garage behind the current storefront. (He is the late husband of Charlotte LaBonte Lipson. Her father, Julius LaBonte, was one of Larchmont Blvd.’s early developers.)
Eventually, Earl and Pat Willy took over. A position opened up at Lipson in 1974, and Bob Vacca came aboard fresh out of trade school. In 1976, Earl Willy, who had at one point jokingly called Bob a “snot-nosed kid,” suffered a heart attack and passed away. His wife, Pat, sold the business to Bob.
Today, Bob and his son Zeb proudly continue the tradition of quality workmanship, integrity and longevity. Their clients include CBS Studios, Occidental College, the A.F. Gilmore Company and plenty of loyal residential customers. “We get to know the passers-by on the boulevard and we’ve become a fixture here,” says Bob. “We’ve met fantastic people and struck up lots of great relationships on the projects we do.”
Zeb landed at his father’s business somewhat unintentionally.
“When I was in high school, I would ask my Dad for money and he would say, ‘You want money? You gotta put in a hard day of work.'” Zeb began working during summers and school breaks, and eventually came on full time in 2001.
All 10 Lipson employees go by first names: there’s Pete, a 33-year Lipson veteran; Donny, clocking in at 16 years and Mark, a longtime employee and grade school friend of Zeb’s. In all, the employees’ on-hand experience totals to more than 120 years.
“We have a good nucleus here,” states Bob. “Our employees are loyal, and they are like family. Not one employee has ever gone without a paycheck or health insurance. We are honest and we pride ourselves on being neat, clean, polite and accommodating.”
“I’d like to pay my Dad back by letting him retire early,” says Zeb. “It would be nice to keep the tradition going of a honest plumber who works with integrity.”
Just like their relationships, friends and family, their business is built to last.
Lipson Plumbing, 148 N. Larchmont Blvd.
Note: Three other father-son businesses on Larchmont Blvd. were profiled in the 6/3/11 issue; go to archives at larchmontchronicle.com.