Tony Prince & his wife Gerri bought their home on 3038 Fernwood Avenue in 1964, for $32,000. At 1,200 sq. ft., it wasn’t a large house. Tucked on one of Silver Lake’s meandering terraced streets it emanates a naturally quiet and modest seclusion. But the Princes knew it was perfect for them–though cozy and intimate, this mid-century contemporary easily transformed for entertaining. Tony Prince would go on to live in 3038 Fernwood Avenue for 50 years, making close friends with movie stars and celebrities along the way. His half century of devotion to his home and neighborhood is a story worth telling.
In the year 1948, President Harry S. Truman was in office, the first monkey astronaut, Albert I, was launched into space, Samuel L. Jackson and Al Gore were born, and 3038 Fernwood Avenue was built in Silver Lake. The Princes’ castle was perched 22 steps above the street, where Tony reigned over spectacular views from both the front and back of the contemporary home.
“Culturally, Silver Lake has always had a reputation for being home to artists, musicians, writers, and creative people, unique in its acceptance of a racially and ideologically diverse as well as politically progressive population. Innovators and celebrities such as Anais Nin, Raymond Chandler, and Woody Guthrie, at one time resided here, as well as such current notables as Jorja Fox, Katy Perry, Giovanni Ribisi, Daniel Lanois and author Janet Fitch. Harry Hay’s Mattachine Society and the Black Cat Bar, thought to be originating points of the gay rights movement in Los Angeles, were also located in the neighborhood.” Courtesy of Silver Lake Neighborhood Council : http://silverlakenc.org/history/
The original stone fireplace comforts the spacious living room, and hardwood floors add to the warmth. Light floods in from the secluded backyard oasis.
The Princes found that this cozy two bedroom, single bath charmer was the ideal place to host parties and social gatherings. Everyone who knew Tony Prince was keenly aware of his deep passion to entertain. Stories of elegant parties with scores of people were not unusual. Guests easily spilled out into the secluded backyard and patio area.
“Oh the parties we had there. It’s not a big house at all, yet you couldn’t believe how many people wanted to be there–to be around Tony and to come to his parties. The home lent itself to indoor, outdoor entertaining,” recalled Burt Carter, Tony’s best friend. “It’s seen its share of good times.”
In the mid 1960’s, when the Princes were just settling in, Fernwood Avenue in Silver Lake was on the verge of blossoming. Freshly planted trees had not yet reached their mature heights allowing for views deep into the valley. A new wave of celebrities and industry insiders, bolstered by the local music and film scene, found their way into the quiet, laid-back community which was just the sort of environment to support creative individuals.
Iron Eyes Bill Cody was the Prince’s friend and neighbor.
Iron Eyes was a famous actor who starred in over 100 Hollywood movies and television programs. He always portrayed roles as a Native American character. His most famous character was the “Crying Chief” in 1970’s Keep America Beautiful PSA. While he claimed to be of Native American decent both on and off the screen, in reality, Iron Eyes was 100% Italian. It seems his long braided hair was actually a wig. Few people knew the truth about Iron Eyes. Tony was one of them. Iron Eyes passed away in 1999.
The Prince’s Galley Kitchen had a perfect course for entertaining indoors and out. The indoor BBQ, tile floors and breakfast room features were top selling points of this amazing property.
“It was a very comfortable house, it flowed very nicely, and the backyard was nice and shady in the summertime,” said Melinda Earl, friend and executor to Prince’s Estate.
The late afternoon sun bathes the West-facing breakfast room in a brilliant golden light as it journeys towards sunsets.
The breakfast nook and dining room share the incredible view. Lighting and a swinging door transform the dining area into a more formal and intimate setting.
Running the width of the property, backyard is cool and private.
Tony Prince was known for being able to create or build almost anything. In the 80’s, Tony, himself, extended the living room. The end result was a seamless addition to the house.
The Princes enjoyed this verdant view for over 50 years. “It was a very quiet neighborhood, they found Silver Lake to be a wonderful place to live,” said Melinda Earl friend and executor of Prince’s estate.
“Tony’s favorite thing about the house was really the view. It was very comforting to him, he wasn’t just looking at four walls,” said Melinda Earl.
Tony at age 25 – a young man that dreamed big. Tony Prince was born Antonio Piniero in Darian, Connecticut.
Tony had an idyllic childhood on the East Coast, but life out West called to him.
Tony made his way down South, to Florida. His love of fine automobiles landed him a job selling sports cars. It was in Florida where Tony first saw Gerri. As the story goes, Tony met his future wife, Gerri, at a bus stop. Before him stood a pretty girl, and he’d mustered all of his courage just to say a simple “Hello.”
Theirs was a whirlwind romance. They quickly married before journeying to build a life together in Los Angeles, California.
Gerri worked for the Tishman Corporation and traveled a great deal, while Tony had many business interests over the years.
Tony and Gerri had one son, Glenn. Tony, passionate for the opera, passed his love of music down to his son. Glenn is now a pianist for the Stuugart Symphony Orchestra in Germany.
Tony possessed a natural aptitude for art and design. He created the Silver Lake Publishing Company, dealing primarily with art publications.
It was around this time Antonio Piniero legally changed his name to Tony Prince. He felt it sounded more professional for his business. Over the years, friends and associates had referred to him as a prince among men. Now, as Tony Prince, he would carry the moniker forever.
Prince was a true philanthropist. He volunteered endless hours working with professional organizations and donated resources to brighten the holidays of the less fortunate.
After his wife Gerri passed away, Prince spent every Christmas morning hosting a holiday brunch with the Volunteers of America. It was through Prince’s charity involvement that he met and befriended Mohammed Ali.
Prince became Ali’s trusted companion. For many years, whenever Ali was an honored guest at an event, you could find Tony Prince by his side.
Prince was also something of a matchmaker. That’s Astronaut, Buzz Aldrin to the right. Prince was responsible for introducing his good friend, Aldrin, to his future wife, Lois Driggs Cannon.
Prince was a philanthropist of the arts. He continued to sponsor and host art-related events throughout the remainder of his life. Yet his true love was that of opera. It was his passion for opera that led Prince to the Tam O’Shanter restaurant in Los Feliz, where live music plays at the piano bar most nights of the week.
Tony Prince would make the Tam his regular hangout for decades.
The Tam O’Shanter Inn was established by Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp, founders of Van De Kamps’s Holland Dutch Bakeries, who went on to found the Lawry’s restaurant chain. Designed by Harry Oliver, the storybook style building was constructed using movie studio carpenters. The Tam O’Shanter Inn opened in June 1922 and was a great success. The bar and restaurant were popular hangouts for the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age–John Wayne was even a favored customer. The owner said, “Every piece of wood which was used in this structure was thrown into fire first with the result that we never had to paint it and it got more beautiful as the years went by.” (L.L.Frank to B.Stohler). The restaurant’s decor still features English and Scottish medieval weapons, kilts, and family Coat of Arms and Medieval Family Crests. Many a nights Tony Prince could be found holding court at the Tam’s piano bar. After his passing, his memorial was held there.
Many famous people knew and respected Prince. He was always meeting somebody new.
Prince was unique spirit. His friend and future executor to his estate, Melinda Earl, recounted a story that summarized the kind of man Tony Prince was.
Prince’s home was his castle. He loved and cherished it along with all the memories it carried within its walls. He had hoped to remain in his Fernwood Avenue home for the remainder of his life. Yet after numerous heart attacks and health relate issues, the 22 steps from the street to his front door proved to be too much. He reluctantly chose to put his beloved home on the market.
When the time came to choose a realtor, Brian Ades was Prince’s first and only choice.
“Tony admired Brian’s vast knowledge of the area. It wasn’t about just selling a property. It was about finding a new owner and transferring to them a home with all of its charms,” said Melinda Earl.
“In my opinion, Tony is the perfect person. He was loved by everyone and he was a gentleman to everyone.” – Melinda Earl (Friend & Executor of his Estate)
At Legacies of L.A. we believe every home tells a story. Tony Prince, along with his deep ties to his community and to his home at 3038 Fernwood Avenue, is one of the Silver Lake’s lasting legacies.
Such a lovely story and homage. Thanks for sharing.