Carpenters' family home under threat
Monday 18 February 2008
Fans of the Carpenters call it their Graceland, and a steady trickle have come up the little residential street in suburban Downey, California, ever since the saccharine pop duo featured the house across the fold-out cover of the 1973 album, Now & Then.
Only now it is threatened by the wrecker's ball, and aficionados are campaigning to save the Carpenter family home for posterity.
This relatively modest five-bedroom house in peaceful Newville Avenue, is in truth about as different in size and style to the bling-riddled home of Elvis Presley as can be imagined.
It was bought by Karen and Richard Carpenter for their parents in 1970, with the first dollars that flowed from their hit song "Close to You". Here, in a specially constructed annex, they recorded songs that would defy the rock sensibilities of the 1970s and become some of the decade's biggest hits. Here, in 1983, the anorexic Karen collapsed from the heart attack that killed and immortalised her.
"This house is our version of Graceland," insists Jon Konjoyan, a long-time fan who is now fighting to rescue a property he first tracked down and visited in 1974. "They were such a huge American act. So many people loved them. When they photographed the Now & Then cover here in 1973, the house was instantly immortalised."
The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that Manuel and Blanca Melendez Parra, who bought the home from Richard Carpenter after his mother's death in 1996, have finally had enough of the devotees who turn up at the doorstep and ask to be shown round. Initially, the couple would auction off items left in the property – anything from signed posters to the bed on which Karen is assumed to have slept. But in recent years, fans have grumbled about how areas such as the Japanese garden in the back have not been kept as the Carpenters intended.
Well, enough, the Parras said last year. They have pulled down the annex and started work on a larger house. They have also asked for planning permission to raze the main house.
"In the beginning, we let everybody in. But honestly, it became horrible, not only for us but for the neighbourhood," the couple's daughter, Jessica Parra, told the LA Times. "People peek in windows and take pictures. They leave flowers on the front porch."
Mr Konjoyan's campaign aims to raise enough money to buy the property outright from the Parras, or at least to fund a relocation of the main house to another site.
Richard Carpenter has so far stayed out of the dispute, and with no legal reasons to halt the Parras' plans, fans are starting to lose heart. Soon, maybe all that will remain of the historic home will be its image on an old LP sleeve.
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