In early 1964, Steven Anthony, 33, a Barney’s Beanery bartender and ex-marine, his wife Elona, 22, and three young children, Steven,2½ Deborah, 1 ½ ; and Pam, 5 months, were living, just south of the Hollywood Bowl, in a bucolic 1920s English cottage at 6655 Alta Loma Terrace.
Then they were served with an eviction notice. And told to vacate their home because it stood in the way of a proposed $6.5 million Los Angeles County-Hollywood Museum.
(2017 Dollars: $51,492,200.65)
When LA Sheriff Deputies arrived Saturday, February 8, 1964 to evict the family, Mr. Anthony, “cradling a shotgun in one hand and a baby in another,” held the deputies at bay for seven hours and won a reprieve to stay in the home for a few more weeks.
The case of the shotgun wielding marine, Brylcreemed, burly and courageous, seems to have captured the support of his neighbors, and sympathy from a wide variety of Los Angeles, a city, that saw a little guy battling forces bigger and better financed.
If the Sheriff returned to evict him, Mr. Anthony promised that he would have a dozen ex-marines at his side. His attorney, Paul Hill, filed a brief with the US Supreme Court. While the motion was being considered, deputies were told to stay clear and allow the law to adjudicate.
The county argued that the new museum was a public project and they had the right to seize an obstructing private home. A jury awarded Mr. Anthony $11,750 for his “half” of the home but he thought it was too little. He sent his wife and kids out to Big Bear City while the matter boiled. The US Supreme Court turned down the review.
Now Mr. Anthony waited….
On the evening of Monday, April 13, 1964, as the 36th Annual Academy Awards aired, Mr. Anthony welcomed two “pals”, ex-marines he thought, into his home, along with a woman, and another attorney. The bartender trusted the men because he had met them at Barney’s Beanery, and later at a Young Republican’s meeting where he was honored.
At the same time, some 30 deputies, and a moving truck, all under the cover of darkness, gathered outside.
Quickly, Mr. Anthony was slugged in the jaw by one of the “marines” (really an undercover mercenary), taken down, law enforcement stormed the house and he was taken into custody and jailed. The ruse finally got him.
The movers quickly emptied the house, and the structure was soon demolished. Neighbors raised money for bail and Mr. Anthony was released. But he was soon put on trial.
He was sentenced to serve six months in jail, and afterwards he sued the county of Los Angeles for two million dollars. His family moved up to Sonora, in central California, where he made a living building houses. Tragically, in 1976, his 15-year-old son Stephen fatally shot himself.
After spending $1.2 million for a public-private venture with film mogul Sol Lesser, a three-man committee, headed by the late financier Bart Lytton, decided the Hollywood Museum project was unfeasible and would not pay for itself.
In a 1976 interview, Mr. Anthony, who was even accused of having Communist sympathies for standing up to the so-called law and the so-called Hollywood elite, said: “Wherever we go, people mention it. But we had to fight the system. Otherwise they’d take anything they want under eminent domain. We were harassed, just like in a Communist country.”
It seems quaint now, really, to imagine a lone, shotgun-wielding bartender holding off law enforcement, if only to keep his house and family intact. The lethality of modern weapons, the electronic spying tools of our government, the drones, the copters, the smart phones; in the militarized nation of America, would this drama, re-enacted today, ever end so peacefully, a potential mass killing tripped up by two phony men play acting?
What seems even more improbable today is that anyone would demolish an artsy English cottage in the Hollywood Hills. Anyone lucky enough to own one would probably be a millionaire. The fight, if any, would be over the house: who could keep it, who owned it, who could restore it.
Timing is everything in life. A family was evicted, they lost their home, they had to move out of the city. And the museum that instigated the exile was never built.
Yet a parking lot was.
It’s a fitting memorial for Los Angeles. The car always win in the end. We have no controversial statues to pull down. Our history is the parking lot. It rules over us all.