Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bridget Fonda Wouldn't Want to Live There Anymore

One of the reasons the world fell in love with the city of Seattle in the early 1990s was the grunge rock movement.  Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains.  Kurt Cobain and Pearl Jam.

The other reasons were the films SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE and director Cameron Crowe's brilliant Valentine's Day card to his native city, SINGLES.  This 1992 film shot on location in Seattle starred Bridget Fonda, Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, and Kyra Sedgwick and centered around life in an apartment building where all the tenants knew each other and were desperately searching for love.

Well, the apartment building featured in the film is located at 1820 East Thomas Street in Seattle in the Capitol Hill area of the city.  I decided to visit the location after recently seeing the film again (for about the tenth time!) and report what I found.

Bridget Fonda would no longer want to live there.

The crisp and neatly manicured apartment building in the film is now poorly maintained, rundown, and seedy.  There are tall weeds and debris everywhere. 

The building is far smaller than the film's lens makes it appear.  You get an almost claustrophobic feeling spending time in the small courtyard which, by the way, never had a fountain like the film portrays.  It was added just for the movie.

What is ironic is that this building is in a far nicer neighborhood today than it was in 1992.  Back in Bridget's day this area, east of 15th Avenue on Capitol Hill, was extremely gritty and rundown to put it mildly.  There has been extensive gentrification over the last ten years with many of the old rooming houses replaced by modern condos and townhouses.  For those who remember the grunge era, for example, the home called "The Rat House" occupied by murdered singer Mia Zapata and her band, The Gits, was just four blocks away from Bridget's place.  The band gave this distinctive name to their own home because the owner of the building claimed that by eating the rats that lived in the house he scared the other live ones away.  He proved to them who was boss when he made a soup from their corpses.

Understand what kind of neighborhood this was back when SINGLES was filmed?

I spoke to a tenant at the property, a young girl who was four years old when the movie was released.  She did not know the film or the building's place in movie history but she was excited to learn the facts about her apartment.   The opportunity to market these apartments through the film have been completely lost by the owners.

I have posted a bunch of photographs I took of the building on my Picasa website here.  You can see for yourself what the building looked like then by watching the movie (available on Netflix and everywhere) and what it looks like now.

After analyzing thousands of rental properties over the last thirty years I can tell you this without any doubt.

This property needs a good resident manager.  None lives on site.  There is no sign even telling prospective tenants who manages the building or how to contact the owners in the event of trouble.  The tree growing on the street on the right side of the building blocks the iconic view most people remember from the film and needs to be pruned.  There is rust, peeling paint, and tall weeds everywhere all can be.

SINGLES is one of those great undiscovered gems of a film and that's probably what Cameron Crowe, who went on to direct the Oscar-winning film, ALMOST FAMOUS, intended when he made it.  Simple characters in a simple story.  You can't watch this film without wanting to live in Seattle because the city itself becomes a leading character in the film, as naive, proud, fun, and unique as Bridget, Matt, or Kyra are on screen.

Unfortunately the Seattle of the film is long gone, not better, but different, and my visit to 1820 East Thomas Street on Capitol Hill yesterday proves it.

Robert J. Abalos, Esq.