Charles Bukowski’s bungalow is safe — at least for the time being. On Thursday morning, to the cheers of a half dozen Bukowski fans in attendance, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted three to one in favor of making the writer’s former home on De Longpre Avenue a cultural landmark. Recent allegations by the bungalow’s owner, Victoria Gureyeva, that Bukowski was a Nazi sympathizer had threatened to derail the cultural landmark process, but the commission apparently paid these accusations little heed. “If I thought that any of the claims were true, in no way would I consider this,” said commission president Mary Klaus-Martin.
Despite Gureyeva’s threats to “get the whole Jewish Westside involved in the debate,” no Jewish protesters showed up at the hearing to condemn Bukowski, and Gureyeva’s lawyer, Joseph Trenk, was the only person who spoke in opposition to making the bungalow a cultural landmark. His lack of public support, however, didn’t stop Trenk from continuing to advance the allegation that Bukowski was pro-Nazi. “Bukowski talked about things like gassing Jews,” he said. “To have somebody with potential Nazi ties have this property designated in his honor, while the property is owned by someone whose family has gone through the Holocaust, is ridiculous.”
De Longpre preservationist Lauren Everett countered by referencing longtime Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin’s quote in the L.A. Weekly: “Bukowski wasn’t a Nazi, he was a contrarian. Anything he could say to get people’s goat, he’d say.”
Everett also noted that Bukowski biographer Neeli Cherkovski recently denied the Bukowski/Nazi allegation and challenged anyone to find any hint of anti-Semitism or pro-Nazism in any of Bukowski’s books. “Cherkovski is also a Russian Jew,” she said, alluding to property owner Gureyeva’s ethnic background.
With his Nazi arguments falling flat, Trenk then challenged the Haunts of a Dirty Old Man tour operator and De Longpre cultural-landmark advocate Richard Schave on his support for preservation.
“A tour operator is one of the proponents of this measure,” he said, eliciting an audible groan from Schave. “I think the commission needs to take into account the possible monetary incentives for this cultural landmark.”
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Trenk also addressed the owners’ potential financial losses should the building be made a landmark — an argument for which Commissioner Richard Barron had little sympathy. “As the only architect on this commission, I can assure you that the property would benefit little from tearing down the existing structures and trying to shoehorn in some other type of building,” he said. “If it were my building I would market it as the ‘Bukowski Court’ and double the rent. I’m sure Bukowski would have hated that, but hey, it’s Hollywood.”
After the hearing, the debate spilled out into the hallways as Hollywood preservationist Sara Berkowitz confronted Gureyeva and Trenk over their Nazi accusations. “I think using these false allegations is absolutely disgusting,” Berkowitz said after the encounter. “I’m Jewish and heavily involved in the Jewish community and I give these charges absolutely no credence.”
“Was he a Nazi?” Trenk asked later at a makeshift press conference on the steps of City Hall. “I don’t know. Did he say stupid things in that regard? Apparently so. Is this a guy you want to honor in the city of Hollywood?”
The answer to that question is expected soon. The bungalow’s fate is now in the hands of the City Council’s planning committee, where its designation as a cultural landmark already has the support of City Council President Eric Garcetti.