Best Garden Anti-Gnomes
When Norwood Young bought the house at the southeast corner of Muirfield and Third in 1997, he had a lurker problem: Some leafy trees in the front yard had become a favorite hiding place for a few neighborhood hooligans. So Norwood chopped down the pesky trees. It got rid of the lurkers, but the result was a barren, lifeless driveway. That’s when he decided to place his first couple of miniature, 3-foot-high David statues in the front. But the handful of demi-Michelangelos didn’t look quite vibrant enough, so he ordered some more to line the entire driveway, bringing the grand total of identical statues to 17. Soon, a white iron fence was erected. Classical busts were installed up top. Two years ago, gold lion-headed medallions were added to the façade. For Norwood, the extravagant front driveway is just part of his home, which he considers a reflection of his “artistic flavor and eccentric vibe.”
While many have seen Norwood’s front driveway — he describes it as a Versace-inspired tribute to the classical — few have seen the other side of the house, where Norwood has attempted to cultivate a backyard oasis. Chocolate brown dominates the house’s exterior back walls, and a variety of sculptures — a Japanese pagoda, a King Tut bust and an Indonesian enchantress mid–hip swing — evidence his worldly interests. Also showcased are two murals of Norwood himself: one of him open-shirted and midsong on the back wall, and one portrait where he's flanked by sea turtles at the bottom of the swimming pool.
Eccentric vibe or not, Norwood is a gracious, eager host. When I paid my visit, he introduced me to his “children” — his two Maltese dogs, neon-blue Divo and neon-pink Diva (the latter of whom is now pregnant by the former) — and proceeded to illustrate the logic of his unusual digs: “What my home has taught me to do is use every level of who I am in expression. And not to be pigeonholed like a lot of people are. Your house is the only place you can find fortitude, the only place you can have solace.”
Solace wasn’t so easy at first. Norwood and his property’s accouterments were subject to boisterous complaints from the Hancock Park Homeowners’ Association, which snowballed into a good deal of national news coverage in late 1997. Some people even offered him double what he paid to move in to leave. Though the hate mail, egging and paintball attacks haven’t stopped, Norwood has moved on, letting tour buses snap pictures daily, and, every December, spreading holiday cheer when he and his three-person staff top off each David with a fluffy red Santa hat. His property, which he named Youngwood Court, is said to have won many awards for its seasonal decorations. Juan Gutierrez, Norwood’s groundskeeper, has put up each and every white Christmas light since 1999. He describes maintaining the grounds, and the Davids, with a humble passion. “It’s something I love. It’s like, I see animals, I see plants. I make them grow. I gotta take care of them and make sure that everything’s perfect. I’m a perfectionist,” he says. “I keep things looking good.”
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17 Davids at Youngwood Court Third St. and ?South Muirfield Rd., Hancock Park