Pink House. 130 North Street. Back In The Day.

Fellow residents from the 1991-94 years were Clint Curtis, Shyam Patel, Raj Krishnasami, Lydia Craft, Jess Deltac, Kyle York Spencer, Caroline Rivers Hall, Mel Lanham, Michelle Sinnott, Jay Murray, N'Gai Wright, Scott Bullock (who crashed on the couch for a year before finally moving in), Bryan Ellerson, Karen Hurka, Sally Stryker, Ryan Mathias, Charlie Speight, Chris Palmatier, Trent McDevitt, and Steve William.

Besides holdovers and returnees Jay, Scott, Mel (& Laverne!), Chris, and N'Gai, residents during 1995-97 included Allen Sellars (who, like Jay, lived at both the Pink House and 401 Pritchard), Ian Williams, Zak Bisacky, James Dasher, Linden Elstran, Jiffer Bourguignon, Grant Tennille (who first made the scene as a fixture in N'Gai's room circa summer '93), Zia Zareem, Ben Folds, Tom Holden, and Chris "Chip" Chapman.

- Erik Ose

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Confessions of the Switchboard Operator - Part 1

by Jessica Deltac ('91-'92)

1991. That was the year the Pepto-Bismol house was liberated from the sorority house next door and its real reputation got started. I have an incredible slew of memories of not just the original housemates – Raj, Clint, Lydia, Erik, Shyam & myself – but all the regulars who were always hanging around or just crashed at the house (if you cooked for us honorary status was immediately conferred): Pam, Deepu, Raj, Dana, Kendall, Pedigo, Dave, Ian, Jason, and... Oh, my mind isn't sharp enough to remember any more names – I just see the faces of the friends and the faces of the short-lived boy and girl friend/toys we had too.

At times living at the Pink House seemed like having a part time job that was a cross between Cruise Dir. Julie McCoy and a Switchboard Operator, as everyone seemed to call our house looking for where to go that night or the upcoming weekend. Looming over our housephone was a corkboard overflowing with flyers and handwritten addresses to the best shows and parties! I really am amazed that I got great grades while living in that house. But to me, the aforementioned Social aspects of University life far outweighed the value of my GPA-incented learning.

I have been requested to share my version of the first time the 2nd most mentioned person on Pink House Forever ever stepped foot into our community house. (How is it that he has 29 posts about him, anyway?)

Jay Murray in his (formerly Jess's) room. Photo courtesy of Mel Keister (Lanham).

(Editor's note - 'cuz he's so he stuck around for FIVE YEARS! But Jess is right - to date, only N'Gai has gotten more blog love.)

Well it was the night of the BIG party in October. It was our coming out party if you will, the one that started the all-campus craze. But it was also slated to be a Birthday Party for our Lydia, the soft spoken but willful feminist of the house. And it was also to be the Debut Show of Chapel Hill's latest band with our Dramatic (drama addict) housemate, Clint Curtis, debuting as frontman!

The band name itself had arisen from a heady post-dinner chat with housemates. I don't remember any other band members present beyond Clint. Raj and I pushed the name Dada Veda after our impressive discourse on fusing the untouchable Hindu scriptures that existed for over 4,000 years, the Vedas, with Dadaism, the art movement that questioned the validity of art. With just a name, we were questioning one of the world's oldest spiritual arts, while covertly Raj & I were questioning the validity of the band itself.

And only days before the party, I had designed the T-shirts that would have one day made epic cover art – the back for Dada Veda and the front celebrating Lydia's Birthday. I wish I knew what I wrote on them, but I am being blackmailed to pen this account in order to get one of the last remaining shirts that were made for the party! Sadly, Dada Veda were short lived and never gave me the chance to design their album covers, owing to the typical tragedy of differing musical dreams that most bands experience before any real money is dangled by signing labels. Or maybe it was just because of Clint. Who knows?

So back to prepping for the party. We were all on switchboard duty that week, as everyone seemed to be calling the house to confirm the BIG PARTY. With Erik as a housemate, you know the party had been well publicized. We were beginning to believe the Pink House Party had been Over-Advertised. And we weren't just plugged into the UNC campus, we were plugged into the local scene as well, so there seemed to be no parameters for the invite list! The whole house was starting to get nervous. What was the phrase in the early 90s? We were Buggin!

And that wasn't all. The 100 t-shirts Erik had ordered to help recoup for the beer and what ever else we had spent money on weren't done and the almost full keg we were supposed to get from someone had mysteriously disappeared (that's not so mysterious, is it?). This all led to the serious conversation we had about what if we locked the doors and killed the lights in an attempt to pass on having this party.

In the midst of this somber and yet paranoid mood, Erik brought a big cardboard box into the house that shifted the vibe upward. The shirts were completed and looked great.

Everyone was thrilled. I went out and spent parental funds earmarked for food on four dozen OE's from the bowels of Big Bertha's. Olde English - brewed since the 800's! With no legitimate coolers, I filled up my kiddie pool with ice and water and loaded them all in. If we were anything, Pink Housemates were resourceful. I think there was also an amp issue, (isn't that a given with every band?), but by the time the sun started to set, it was getting squared away. Somehow we got the backyard trimmed too. I don’t know if we borrowed a weed-whacker or what, but it was well groomed by the time we put sofas outside and other suitable furniture absconded from the sidewalks of nearby neighborhoods.

And then with a toast to the Gods, other Housemates, and honorary Pink Housers, the First Pink House party began!

To Be Continued...

Pink House O.G.'s. Photo courtesy of Jess Deltac.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two Mayor Marks and a Cowboy on Election Night

On the night of Nov. 3, two-term Chapel Hill town council member Mark Kleinschmidt was elected mayor of Chapel Hill in a hard-fought race, becoming the first openly gay and youngest mayor in the town's history. I may have seen a sign for his opponent in Larry Short's front yard, but that might just be wishful thinking.

Mark threw his victory party at the R&R Grill (aka Papagayo's), and it was packed with Chapel Hill's liberal political establishment. As an official Kleinschmidt campaign donor to the tune of $20, Mani was there to witness her investment paying off, and got to hang with her former FTI co-workers who came out in force to congratulate their director.

At one point, I was sandwiched in conversation between Donna Bell, who was calling out election results from the Board of Elections website, and a tall, dark stranger in a ten-gallon hat and black leather jacket who was talking about what Chapel Hill used to be like circa 1970. He turned out to be...Randy Jones, the original cowboy from the Village People!

Former Morehead scholar at UNC, graduate of Enloe High in Raleigh, who knew? And the only member of the group to ever really live in Greenwich Village (from 1975 to this day). He happened to be in the neighborhood, and dropped by to celebrate Mark's historic win. Not just a pretty face, his book Macho Man: The Disco Era and Gay America's "Coming Out" is a behind-the-scenes account of the emergence of gay culture in the 70s. It tells the real story of disco's black and gay roots, and how the music changed America.

Anyway, Mark joined two-term incumbent mayor of Carrboro Mark Chilton (who was re-elected to a third term the same night) in an elite club, besides N.C. mayors named Mark - mayors who can say they attended Pink House parties back in the day, and still managed to get elected to public office. Congrats, guys!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gorgeous magnolias, purple living room, and gooey mold on the ceiling

By Mel Keister (Lanham) ('93-'95)

Originally I lived in the Mona Lisa room with Sally. Then I lived in the little pink room upstairs, then moved across the hall into Erik's old room. The upstairs rooms were the BEST.

There was an older lady who lived next door. She was the house mother for one of the sororities. She was a sweetheart, and she also asked us girls about our lives. I don't know if she chatted with the guys much.

I was always cleaning that place - especially the dishes. And the downstairs bathroom would get this virulent-looking gooey mold on the ceiling, all brownish-black, that looked like it would drip on you.

Painting the living room purple was a bitch! Looked cool though. I'm sure whoever came after and repainted it was cursing my soul.

I had heard the place used to be a garden showplace (maybe someone else had heard it from a neighbor?), even having been photographed for a magazine. There wasn't much left of that, but in the spring, these odd-looking lilies would pop up in the far back yard, right in the middle of the grass. Like red alliums, but with no leaves - just a big ball of delicate flowers.

And there were these gorgeous magnolias, but they were being killed by the wisteria, so I got Steve to help me save the trees. He wasn't into it, so I promised we could dress up in ridiculous outfits first. Wish I still had that picture!

Oh, God! And those creepy spider crickets! They were always in the bathtub! Jay was so freaked out by them - I used to get the critters for him. It was so fun saving the day for Jay. He was always making those huge pots of spaghetti.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pink House For Rent...Again!

In a twelve-year rewind, the Chi's have once more (at least temporarily) abandoned their ill-timed plan to sell the Pink House to a deep-pocketed single family, and instead put the place back up for rent.

It's been renovated again, and now features amenities like carpeting on the stairs and hardwood floors nearly everywhere else. When I visited recently, courtesy of the contractors who had just finished re-painting inside and out (covering the Mona Lisa with yet another coat of white), the place was sparkling. But there was clearly still work to be done, because the downstairs bathroom looked as grungy as ever. Leaning over the tub to take a picture, I half expected spider crickets to come swarming out of the air vent.

The current asking price on a Pink House rental? Thirty-two hun a month, or roughly twice what I remember our crew last paying when I moved out fifteen years ago. After figuring in inflation, that's nonetheless a steep rate for a five bedroom (or 4 1/2, taking Jay's room into account) student crash-pad. And since today's kids are less likely to want to share bathrooms than the Gen-X'ers who came before them, and even Chapel Hill's sorority girls who deal a little coke on the side have lately fallen on hard times, maybe it's no wonder the place is still available (as of 9/20/09) six weeks after I first saw the for rent sign.

UPDATE 10/25/09 – As Fall Break 2009 for UNC students drew to a close, I drove down North Street on my way to the Franklin Street post office. Lo and behold, no renters yet.

UPDATE 11/26/09 – The day before Thanksgiving, and I finally got the memo that Hell closed down nearly a year ago. While checking out the debris piled at the top of the outside stairs (including Hell's soft pretzel cabinet), evidence the space is still being excavated, I looked up through the chain link fence and saw a bicyclist zoom through the deserted parking lot of the Phi Mu sorority house. Curious, I noticed the rider was headed for the Pink House. Could it be rented? There did seem to be a couple of trucks parked in the back yard.

No, it was only the blogger next door on his way home. I introduced myself and explained I used to know the old couple who previously lived in his house. He was remarkably cool for being accosted at dusk outside his own crib by a quasi-cyber stalker, and said the place is still sans residents. And he thought Sylvia's initial rental asking price this go-round had actually been $3600, thirty-two was at a discount.

Rosemary Street will never be the same

During the first decade I spent in Chapel Hill, from 1989 through 1999, the landscape really didn't change all that much. Sure, residential and commercial ("mixed use") developments like Meadowmont and Southern Village got built on the outskirts of town, sapping energy from Franklin Street. And the intersection of Franklin and Columbia would never recover its former mojo after the hole-in-the-wall convenience store Top Of The Hill got replaced by the monstrous, character-less building that houses the restaurant/bar Top Of The Hill and formerly, First Union and Wachovia branches on the first floor. Where I memorably stood mesmerized in front of the bank's big screen TV on December 10, 2000, when the newsflash hit CNN that the Supreme Court had halted the Florida hand recount, two days before handing the stolen election to George W. Bush with their 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore.

But if you drove downtown circa 1999, things would have looked remarkably similar to how they had ten years before. And this was true of my favorite Chapel Hill avenue Rosemary Street even more so than Franklin. Rosemary's human-scale, low-key, underdeveloped charm was marred only by a multi-story student apartment complex called The Warehouse that sprung up in the late 90s courtesy of guess who, everyone's least favorite next-door neighbor, Larry Short.

As the next decade got underway, things started changing for the worse. Construction started in late 2003 on the towering condo complex that was built where the Lost City used to stand, across from Henry's / Fuse and the Skylight Exchange / Nightlight. Once it was done, the rush was on to build more. Plans were laid for Greenbridge and another Larry Short path to riches, Shortbread Apartments, half of it to be built on the land where the original Breadman's stood before moving across the street in the early 90s.

When Greenbridge finally broke ground in 2008, and construction picked up steam in 2009, it was clear the Rosemary Street landscape would never look the same. I had been out of town for a few weeks that summer and this was probably my first glimpse of the accelerating construction. The rising, hulking structure looked so out of place to me that I had to document the moment.

Rosemary Street on August 11, 2009.

Later, Greenbridge would be plagued by financial troubles, and actually went into foreclusure. Partially because of timing, since the project was completed right before the bottom dropped out of the real estate market thanks to the dawn of the Great Recession. But also because its developers never gave enough thought to the question of whether they might have difficulty attracting rich buyers to live in luxury condos built at the entranceway to Northside. The area that's one of Chapel Hill's only historically black neighborhoods, and still home to lots of working class families, fixed-income elderly residents, and plain ol' poor folks.

(Editor's note from 2013 - Even today, as the development remains half empty, plenty of Greenbridge apologists exist, but the fact is that it was out of character for its surroundings, and a blight on the Rosemary Street landscape. Chapel Hill is steadily being ruined by developers, and Greenbridge was a major signpost along the way.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

R.I.P. Laverne (1994-2009)

I adopted Laverne on May 14, 1994. She was about four months old. Although I adored her, I shouldn't have gotten her while I was living at the house, since none of our housemates were into the idea (plus Sylvia's whole "no pets" rule!).

One time, she got onto the roof. Terrifying experience! I think a couple of us came back from the video store, and that slum-lord guy across the street was outside saying there's a dog on the roof. I had just moved into the pink room upstairs with the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling, and didn't know about the loose screen window that could be flipped open. Laverne had been waiting for me in the room.

Anywho, she went out the window, where the roof was over the porch, but then made her way to the very slanted part of the attic area. She was trying to grip the roof, but you could hear her nails scraping the roof tile as she slipped. So of course, I ran up the stairs, popped out on the roof and climbed over to her. Pretty tricky carrying a dog off a roof!

We euthanized Laverne in May because she was having kidney failure. Broke my heart. It was almost 15 years to the day of her adoption.

- Mel Keister (Lanham), 9/18/09

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Jay Murray returns for Gerald's 40th B-day

In April, Gerald Bundy turned 40, and Jay made the scene, taking a train up from Davidson to do it. Gerald hung out with Jay a lot at the Pink House and found him a room at 401 Pritchard when everyone got kicked out in '97.

On Friday night, we grabbed some grub at Milltown in Carrboro, then crossed the road to meet up with former housemate Karen Hurka (summer '93) at a free record release party at the Cradle for the latest LP from her husband Ryan's band the Kingsbury Manx. This show sparked even more Pink House memories when we all ran into Grant Tennille and Matt Hedt.

The next day, enroute to Gerald's in Durham we picked up Barbara and Jeff, and did a drive-by on Sam's Quik Shop. I had invited Lydia to come along, but she couldn't make it. Also at the party was Allen Sellars, Chez Pink resident during 1995. Before that, Allen also lived at 401 Pritchard. Many Pink House and 401 stories were told, including the tale of the two hippies who lived in the Pink House driveway. Gerald fed us oysters, wine, and gourmet root beer.

"Jay and I missed getting to hang with you at the birthday party the other weekend. He had a tough night's sleep on our lumpy futon couch, but was good to go after shaving his head on the porch. Here's a photo, the other people are Jay's friend Gerald, Barbara, who used to live at 401 Pritchard Ave with Jay, and her husband, Jeff."

- e-mail to Lydia

While in town, Jay also owned up to various Pink House housemate misdemeanors.

J: I remember once I was making out with my girlfriend at the time Julia, and somehow we ended up fooling around in Steve’s room. Then Steve suddenly came in and cut the lights on, and we were like, oops! Busted! I also remember when Steve took my fan. I came back home one day, and my fan was gone, and I was like, what happened to my fan? And it quickly mushroomed into a conversation about how I wasn't doing enough around the house.

E: This was your fan?

J: It was supposedly a house fan.

E: And there was a confrontation between you and Steve?

J: Yeah, but you were there, backing him up.

E: That was cold.

J: I wasn't the perfect housemate. A couple times, I mooched some of Sally's food, and when she found it missing, she immediately blamed you. And I was okay with that.

E: Fifteen years later, the truth all comes out in the wash.

Friday, February 13, 2009

North Street is burning!

More from the guy next door. There was a FIRE on their lawn one recent spring afternoon, and if not for the intervention of one of Chapel Hill's trusty Carolina blue fire trucks, the Pink House could have burned down. So nearly seventeen years later, Raj's bad fire feeling came to pass. And on the star-crossed date of Friday the 13th, no less.

"Flames!? On the front bank, 50 feet away and moving towards our house?! Ah!!! I shoved an empty bucket underneath the bathtub spigot. As it filled I could hear the fire truck approaching. I ran outside and dumped the water on flames closest to the house..."

- Further Musings, "Fire!"

Here's a whole bunch of his posts about life on North Street.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The view from next door...

Next door lived a very nice old couple (the Sommerfelds), whose bedroom faced my upstairs room. I was constantly afraid the techno, disco, jazz, hip hop, house, funk, and all the rest of the records I played until late hours of the night were going to give them seizures. This wasn't the little blue house where Phi Mu's sorority mother lived, but the white house on the opposite side. The Sommerfelds kept a beautiful backyard garden. Like ours, it stretched all the way back to the chain link fence that separated North Street properties from Rosemary Street parking lots.

The Sommerfelds both passed away several years ago, and now there's a young married couple who live in their house. He and his wife are huge gardeners, so they've kept the backyard garden thriving. And the guy, when he's not attending grad school at UNC, keeps a blog. Since June of 2008 he's watched the Pink House sit vacant, grumbled at Sylvia's failure to maintain the place, and occasionally written about it.

Like in this post:

"This afternoon, under the warm sunlight of these first days of another Chapel Hill spring, I cut behind the empty pink house next door on my way home..."

- Further Musings, "The Beauty of Spring"

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mini-reunion '09 at Weathervane Cafe

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in February, a few Pink House alums' paths crossed in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels were playing UVa, and Caroline Philson swung through from ATL to go to the game with Susan Comfort, in town from D.C. Meanwhile, another epic sports battle was about to go down, as Dana Lumsden drove up from Charlotte with his kids Alec and Kyle for the first annual Mardi Gras bowling invitational.

Kyle, Alec, Erik, Dana, C-line & Mani, 2-7-09

"We were sitting around having brunch at the Weathervane Cafe inside A Southern Season (the first time I've actually eaten at that overpriced joint since it moved to U-Mall a few years ago). Caroline's former roommate Donna Bell was there, too, along with her new baby who's a few months old. Turns out Donna is married to Jason James, who used to run the Carolina Critic. But he saw the light and converted to the Democratic Party at some point.

When I found all this out, I thought of piping up, "Be sure to tell Jason that the reason his office supplies kept disappearing was thanks to me." But I didn't. Mostly because Caroline had just told a story about watching me pee into the can-I-take-your-order speaker outside a Dunkin Donuts on our Fall Break '92 roadtrip because they wouldn't let me use their bathroom without buying something, and Mani wasn't feeling it.

Dana and his kids showed up, and were deciding on the perfect flavor of pancakes, when who walked in the place to eat with his girl but Lem! It was a trip. Everybody said what's up and exchanged love.

Re the weekend's bowling tournament, I'm proud to report that the Alec-Kyle-Erik team beat the Mani-Dana team by a resounding 149-141. Although there was a disputed six points that Mani insists Dana accidentally scored on one of my frames, which would have been enough to swing the outcome in reverse."

- e-mail to N'Gai

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Remembering the Pink House, 15 Years Later

2009 marks fifteen years since I graduated from Carolina and moved out of the Pink House, the legendary off-campus crash pad located at 130 North Street in Chapel Hill. To celebrate the occasion, I'm digging up some Pink House photos and stories from the early 90s, the last time control of the house was wrested away from civilians and turned over to the bohemians.

Pink House dinner at El Rodeo, 1993. Firas, N'Gai, Erik, Jay, Scott, Kyle, Caroline, Lydia, and friends.

I lived in the Pink House for three years, from the summer of 1991 through the summer of 1994. By the time I left, most of our original crew had graduated, except for Jay Murray, who took over as Pink House den mother. We passed the torch onto a new group of nonconformists, who went on to have three more years of their own adventures. Some former denizens from the early 90s even moved back into the house, most notably N'Gai Wright.

More freewheeling parties were thrown, with DJ Pez continuing his residency behind the turntables. Although most events were not quite as off the chain as the ones we got away with during our era, before the neighbors got completely fed up with Pink House Jams. The house even inspired a feature-length movie, named, aptly, The Pink House, written by Ian Williams, who lived there during 1995-97 and has done his best to chronicle everything he remembers of those years in occasional posts on his own blog, XTCian.

Freestyling in the kitchen at Pink House party, mid-90s.

Unfortunately, six years of tomfoolery and hedonism took their toll on the poorly maintained Pink House infrastructure, and the place predictably deteriorated. The absentee landlady had a Hong Kong lifestyle to maintain, and kicked everyone out in the summer of 1997 so she could renovate the place and rent it out to kids with more of Daddy’s money to burn than slackers in our circle could ever hope to scrape together. They paved the beautiful, overgrown backyard, and as a final insult, painted over the Mona Lisa mural in the downstairs front bedroom that Clint and I shared during our first year in the house (Ian wrote a great column for the Independent Weekly in 1997 about what a tragedy the loss of that mural was).

For several years afterward, in a stunning twist of fate, born-again Christians and traveling Mormon missionaries took up residence. But I recently stumbled across an on-line stash of Pink House pics dating from the spring of 2005, showing drunken party antics in the spirit of yesteryear. It warmed my heart, even though the house had come full circle and was full of sorority girls again.

The property was put up for sale in the summer of 2008 for a cool $625,000. I haven't driven down North Street in a while, so don't know whether it's still on the market or not. But even if evil next-door neighbor and local developer Larry Short was to buy it for a teardown and put up a McMansion, the friendships that were formed there (and the spiritual lessons learned during all-night "rap" sessions) will live on forever.

Pink House reunion dinner at Mariakakis, 1995. Scott, Zak, Jay, Jenny, Erik, Mel, and Lydia.


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