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DESIGNING WITH SPIRIT
Interviewed by Marlene L. Laskey
Completed under the auspices
Oral History Program
University of California
Copyright ® 1986
The Regents of the University of California
This manuscript is hereby made available for research
purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript,
including the right to publication, are reserved to the
University Library of the University of California,
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted
for publication without the written permission of the
University Librarian of the University of California,
Biographical Summary viii
interview History xiii
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (November 7, 1984) 1
Early education and exposure to art — Schooling
in Vienna — Enlists in the army — Conditions in
Hungary after World War I — Enters the
Staatliche Akademie der Bilden den Kiinste in
Stuttgart — Quits school and begins working for
the architect Fritz August Breuhaus in
Cologne — Working for Leo Nachtlicht in Berlin-
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side Two (November 7, 1984) 18
LSszl6's preference for small architectural
firms — Begins working as a free-lance furniture
designer in Vienna — Moves his office to
Stuttgart — Contributes to the VJeissenhof
exhibit — LSszl6 designs an apartment for an
exhibit in Dusseldorf--Wins a competition held
by Meissen Royal China Manufactory in Dresden —
Other projects in Vienna and Hungary — Designs a
home for Max Bleyle in Stuttgart — V7orks as both
a designer and an architect.
TAPE NUMBER: II, Side One (November 21, 1984) 36
The "Secessionists" and the Bauhaus — LSszl6's
feeling that he was influenced more by the city
of Vienna itself than by any particular move-
ment — The Max Bleyle House — How L5szl6 got into
interior design — More on the Bleyle House —
Cultural life — The Robert Weir apartment.
TAPE NUMBER: II, Side Two (November 21, 1984) 54
More on the Robert Weir apartment — LSszlC
designs gloves for the Jeittele glove company —
Designs a home for the Jeitteles — The Marx
House — The Walter Kahn House — The Fleischer
House — Designing paper products for the
Fleischer firm — Skiing with his son, Peter Paul
L5szl6--Peter Paul's achievements in golf--
remodeling of the Brentwood Country
The copyright law of the United States (Title 17,
United States Code) governs the making of photocopies
or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under
certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and
archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other
reproduction. One of these specified conditions is
that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used
for any purpose other than private study, scholarship,
or research. if a user makes a request for, or later
uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in
excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for
copyright infringement. This institution reserves the
right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its
judgement, fulfillment of the order would involve
violation of copyright law.
RESTRICTIONS ON THIS INTERVIEW
LITERARY RIGHTS AND QUOTATION
This manuscript is hereby made available for research
purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript,
including the right to publication, are reserved to
the University Library of the University of California,
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted
for publication without the written permission of the
University Librarian of the University of California,
Interview History xii
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (April 14, 1982) 1
Genealogy of May's maternal ancestors, the
Estudillo family — The Estudillo house and the
functional quality of early California adobe
ranch architecture — Memories of his aunt Jane
Magee and Las Flores Ranch--The process of
proving land ownership after California's
annexation — May's extended family in
California — Las Flores Ranch — Functional
quality of ranch and barn architecture —
Ramona ' s marriage place.
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side Two (May 12, 1982) 36
May's paternal grandfather, Charles E. May —
May's father, John Clifford May — May's boyhood
neighborhood in San Diego--Irving Gill houses
in San Diego — Basement and layout of May's
childhood home — Never being able to please his
father — His brother, Henry C. May, wants to
make money--Prominent citizens of San Diego —
May's musical interests as a youth.
TAPE NUMBER: II, Side One (May 12, 1982) 73
Learns to play the piano — Enters college — The
stock market crash of 1929 — Begins designing
and building furniture — Designs and builds his
[Second Part] (June 9, 1982) 86
The modern California ranch house — Importance
of a designer to an architect — Few regulations
and low costs when May first started building —
Building styles which May considers poor
architecture--His low opinion of Le Corbusier
and the International style — May's first use of
the pullman lavatory — His use of cement floors.
TAPE NUMBER: II, Side Two (June 9, 1982) 115
Importance of rock cushion in cement floors —
The problem of working with clients who do not
want to take the designer's advice — Builds a
house for John A. Smith and Smith offers to put
up money for May to build houses in Los Angeles —
May builds a house for his own family — Various
houses May built in San Diego — His association
with John A. Smith — Difficulties with the Board
of Architectural Examiners — Feuds between
architects and builders — Riviera Ranch
development — Decision to build good houses
rather than cheap houses.
TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (June 9, 1982) 154
Becomes acquainted with Paul Frankl's
f urniture--Building houses for Frederic M.
Blow — Building for John Galvin.
[Second Part] (July 21, 1982) 163
Early California ranch architecture — The
Monterey box-style house — Maximizing space on
building lots by building up to the property
line--Dif f erent ways of disposing of garbage —
Need to adapt each house to the client — Need
for architect to examine the site before
building — The designing of Balboa Park by the
Olmstead brothers and Bertram Goodhue — Other
builders of ranch houses.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side One (September 15, 1982) .... 190
The spreading of the ranch house idea —
Innovations in May's houses--Costs of ranch
house construction — Puts out the book Western
Ranch Houses with Sunset magazine--May ' s
"Pacesetter House" featured in House Beautiful-
Other architects begin copying May's houses —
The need for larger living rooms--Mandalay (CM
No. 5) originally seemed too big, now does not
seem big enough — House and Garden features
Mandalay--May ' s development of one-room houses
with movable partitions.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side Two (September 15, 1982) .... 230
Advantages of the open plan which is not
divided up into a number of rooms — The Skylight
House — May's designs plagiarized — Building
prefabricated houses in the fifties.
[Second Part] (September 30, 1982) . . . 240
Copyright laws and architecture — Development of
the nail-on sash — Lawsuits May has initiated
against builders who copied his plans — Lawsuit
against Fletcher Jones.
TAPE NUMBER: V, Side One (September 30, 1982) 269
May's assistance for architects with legal
problems — General Motors' and DeVilbliss's
unauthorized use of May houses in advertisements.
[Second Part] (January 13, 1983) .... 278
May's opinion that famous people make good
clients — Designing an apartment building for
Shirley MacLaine and her husband — May's
involvement with low-cost housing across the
country — Low-cost housing and the problems with
building regulations — After designing low-cost
housing. May returns to designing more
expensive single-family homes — Designs the
Mondavi Winery — Mandalay.
TAPE NUMBER: V, Side Two (January 13, 1983) 308
Houses with movable partitions — Problems in
making skylights too big — Need for space in
houses — Need to observe a few basic design
rules — Walk-in refrigerators — Indoor swimming
pools — Means of heating homes — May's music
room — May's book collecting — Antique
furniture — Flying — Tendency for artists' work
to improve as artists get older — The house for
Joe W. Brown that was never built.
Born : February 6, 1900, in Debrecen, Hungary.
Education ; Elementary and secondary schools in Hungary
and Austria; Staatliche Akademie der Bilden den Kunste in
Stuttgart, Germany; apprenticeship with Fritz August
Breuhaus, architect and designer, Cologne, Germany.
Spouse ; Maxine Fife.
PROFESSIONAL AND ACADEMIC AFFILIATIONS:
Private practice in Vienna, Austria, 1924-1927;
Stuttgart, Germany, 1927-1936; Los Angeles, California,
1936 to the present.
Member of American Society of Industrial Designers since
1925 Kopfensteiner House, Szombathely, Hungary
1926 City Hall (remodeling), Szombathely, Hungary
1927 Schmidt House (interior), Stuttgart, Germany
1927/36 Laszl6 office building (interior),
1928 Apartment interior and furniture for the "Deutsche
Kunst Ausstellung , " Diisseldorf, Germany
Jeittele (later Jeffries) House, Stuttgart, Germany
1929 Bleyle House (remodeling), Stuttgart, Germany
Fleischer House (interior), Goppingen, Germany
1930 American Consul apartment (interior), Stuttgart,
Weir apartment (interior), Stuttgart, Germany
1932 Brauchbar House, Zurich, Switzerland
Kahn House, Heilbronn, Germany
Marx House, Stuttgart, Germany
1933 Jeittele (later Jeffries) House (remodeling),
1934 Weir House, Zurich, Switzerland
1937 Bullock's Wilshire department store (interior), Los
L5szl6 House, Beverly Hills, California
Loewendahl House, Pacific Palisades, California
Loewendahl shoe store, Los Angeles, California
Weingarten House, Beverly Hills, California
1938 Crenshaw movie theater (now Kokusai Theatre), Los
Koster House, Hollywood, California
1939 Auer House, Bel-Air, California
Blanke House, "Peasant Acres," Tarzana, California
1940 Harrison House, Holmby Hills, California
Philips House, Pacific Palisades, California
Rosenson House, Bel-Air, California
Shipley House, Hollywood, California
1941 Laszl6 showroom and studio (interior), Los Angeles,
1945 "PL-47" helicopter terminal (unbuilt project)
Saks Fifth Avenue department store (interior),
Beverly Hills, California
Williams House, Beverly Hills, California
1946 Buchman House, Beverly Hills, California (unbuilt
Eddy Harth clothing store (now Lanz), Beverly
1947 Beverly Hills Hotel, "Rodeo Room," Beverly Hills,
Illing of California Building, Los Angeles,
LSszlO House, Brentwood, California (remodeled,
1948 Zacho House, Beverly Hills, California
1950 "Atomville," a city of the future (unbuilt project)
McGaha House, Wichita Falls, Texas
1951 Perlberg House, Beverly Hills, California
1952 Herzog House, Houston, Texas
VJohl condominiums. New Orleans, Louisiana (unbuilt
1953 McCulloch Corporation offices (interior), Los
1954 Genis House, Beverly Hills, California
Hudspeth Center shopping mall, Prineville, Oregon
Newman House, New Orleans, Louisiana
Shong House, Oakland, California
1955 Hertz House and bomb shelter. Woodland Hills,
1956 Main Building at the Laurel Race Course, Laurel,
Sunbeam Lighting Company offices (remodeling), Los
1958 Brentwood Country Club (remodeling), Brentwood,
1960 Arizona Country Club, Phoenix, Arizona
Walston and Company, Inc., office building, Beverly
1961 Fashion Square shopping mall, Scottsdale, Arizona
1963 American City Bank Building, Los Angeles,
Desert Inn Distinctive Apparel store (interior).
Las Vegas, Nevada
1964 E. F. Hutton and Company, Inc., office (interior).
Universal City, California
1964/73 Hall's department stores, Kansas City, Missouri
1965 Ohrbach's, Inc., department store (interior). Long
Island, New York
1966 Robinson's department store (interior), Newport
V7eir House, Atlanta, Georgia
1967 Stardust Hotel, dining room. Las Vegas, Nevada
Swanson's Bridal Salon, Kansas City, Missouri
1968 Ohrbach's, Inc., department store (interior),
Beverly Hills, California
1970 George House (interior), Beverly Hills, California
1972 Madigans Store, River Forest, Illinois
McCulloch House (interior), Palm Springs,
1973 Kreedman penthouse, Los Angeles, California
1978 American City Bank Building, Beverly Hills,
1983 Koster House, Camarillo, California
First prize for porcelain platter, Julius Hoffman Verlag
"Decorative Vorbilder" competition, Germany, c. 1927.
Second prize for Kachelofen, Meissen Royal China
Manufactory's competition, Dresden, Germany, c. 1927.
Distinguished achievement award, California Fashion
First prize for best architectural solution for the use
of leather. Leather Group Design Competition, Upholstery
Leather Group, 1956.
Apartment interior and furniture in the "Deutsche Kunst
Ausstellung , " Diisseldorf, Germany, 1928.
Innendekoration, Oktober 1930, issue devoted entirely to
Paul LSszl6. Zurich: Conzett and Huber, 1935 (final
Numerous articles in magazines in the United States and
Marlene L. Laskey, interviewer, UCLA Oral History
Program. B.A. , Political Science, UCLA; has researched,
organized, and led architectural tours of Los Angeles.
TIME AND SETTING OF INTERVIEW:
Place ; Laszl6's apartment in Santa Monica, California.
Dates ; The interview sessions took place on November 7,
21, December 19, 1984; January 2, 18, and February 8,
Time of day, length of sessions, and total number of hours
recorded : The first sessions took place in the morning
and the last few in the late afternoon. Each session
lasted about an hour and a half. A total of nine hours of
conversation was recorded.
Persons present during interview ; LSszl6 and Laskey.
CONDUCT OF INTERVIEW:
The interview begins with LSszl6's childhood in Hungary
and moves in chronological order through his early work in
Europe, his emigration to the United States, and his work
here. In general, Laszl6's buildings are discussed in
chronological order. The only segment of the interview
which is not organized chronologically is Tape VI, Side
Two, where Laszl6 discusses a number of more general
The interview process itself required considerable
patience from both LSszl6 and Laskey, since in the past
several years LSszl6 has developed a slight hearing
problem and also some speech impairments. Moreover, while
LSszl6's command of English is quite colloquial, he does
speak with a pronounced Hungarian accent.
Carey Southall, editorial assistant, edited the
interview. He checked a verbatim transcript against the
original recordings and edited for punctuation,
paragraphing, spelling, and verified proper nouns. VJords
and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed.
The final manuscript remains in the same order as the
The edited transcript was returned to LSszl6 in September
1985, along with a list of queries and of names requiring
identification. He made a number of changes and
additions, which are indicated in the manuscript. He
returned the approved transcript in October of the same
Richard CSndida Smith, principal editor, reviewed the
transcript. Teresa Barnett, editorial assistant, prepared
the front matter and index.
The original tape recordings of the interview are in the
university archives and are available under the
regulations governing the use of permanent noncurrent
records of the university. Records relating to the
interview are located in the office of the UCLA Oral
TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE ONE
NOVEMBER 7, 1984
LASKEY: Mr. Laszl6, we're going to begin the interview at
the turn of the century in Budapest, where you were born,
with the discussion of your family background.
LASZLO: First of all, I wasn't born in Budapest.
LASKEY: You weren't? Where were you born?
LASZLO: I was born in a town called Debrecen. And my
father was the bookkeeper for my grandparents' furniture
business. And then he married the daughter of the boss.
And my grandparents got up every morning half past four in
the morning because they had a factory of furniture.
LASKEY: Now, your mother's family owned the factory, and
they manufactured furniture, or they designed it, or both?
LASZLO: V^o designed it? No, [laughing] I don't know
anymore; I was too small. So after they got married [they
moved in with her parents] . My father, he loved to sleep
late, and [my] grandparents got up at half past four in the
morning because the factory started at six o'clock in the
morning: six [A.M.] to six [P.M.], it was. So apparently
to eliminate all these arguments they moved to a different
town called Szombathely, which is close to Vienna.
LASKEY: Now, what was your father's name?
LASZLO: Ignac, Ignac. And so when I was one year old we
moved to Szombathely. And my father opened up a furniture
store and after a few years, he created a furniture
factory. By the way, all the family — uncles, etcetera —
were in the furniture business, all over Hungary.
LASKEY: This is your father's family, [who] were in the
LASKEY: But your father had originally been a bookkeeper?
LASZLO: [laughing] A bookkeeper, yes! A handsome fellow;
I've [searches through papers] somewhere the photo. Then
after a few years my grandparents built a big house for
their daughter, my mother, in Szombathely, which was a
small town, so our building was the tallest.
LASKEY: This was your house?
LASZLO: It was a big apartment house which had, on the
main floor, stores.
LASKEY: And was it there that your father had his
furniture business, then? In the main floor of the
apartment building that you lived in?
LASZLO: Yes. And the plant, factory, was outside of the
town. But if you would ask me about my childhood, it was a
very happy childhood. We all loved each other, you know.
I had three sisters and two brothers.
LASKEY: You were a large family, then?
LASZLO: Yes, and we had a wonderful life. We were well-
to-do people, not rich, but well-to-do people, and so to me
it was wonderful. I was a child. And then, of course,
this was before the war started.
LASKEY: VVell, this would be before World War I —
LASZLO: [laughing] Yeah.
LASKEY: Right? When you were still, there was still a lot
of optimism in the world.
LASZLO: And what happened, this was the reason that I
moved around so much because, because the whole world, at
least my world, was upset. You know, the war touched us
more as you people here would even think about it. Which
means everything stopped. Nobody bought furniture. Nobody
was interested in anything else but to win the war.
LASKEY: Now this is the First World War that you're
talking about. You actually went through two wars then?
You were —
LASZLO: I was in the army in Hungary and I was here in
[the] army too! [laughs]
LASKEY: But before that, when you're still in your child-
hood, before the war comes — In your own house, since your
family was in the furniture business, were they involved in
the creative end of it, in the design, in the artistic end
LASZLO: Oh, yes; my mother redecorated [the family quar-
ters] every year. [laughter] Of course we had all the
furniture. But she was talented at doing things. And of
course as the children grow up, so naturally she created a
girls' room and a boys' room, and so it was very nice. And
then in '14, they send me to Vienna to study.
LASKEY: Well, but before that, when you were very young,
did you go to school? Where did you go to school?
LASZLO: In Szombathely.
LASKEY: You went to school in Szombathely? V7hat kind of a
school was it?
LASZLO: A Jesuit school [Premontrei] called a Gymnasium.
Which meant we had two high schools: a Gymnasium which
prepared the people for becoming lawyer [s] and doctors and
architect [s] , it was. And then another commercial school
which taught people for business. So I went to this Jesuit
school, a wonderful school; all priests. Wonderful school
LASKEY: Now you went there when you were about how old?
LASZLO: Ten years old.
LASKEY: About ten years old. How about, did you get any
artistic training there?
LASZLO: No, no. * [As a matter of fact, my teacher com-
plained to my mother that I couldn't even draw a straight
line! (The truth was I wasn't interested at the time.)]
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
LASKEY: Did you — what I'm really — I guess I'm really
asking is at what point, how young were you when you
developed your interest in art?
LASZLO: I believe my first interest was awakened in
LASKEY: Being around furniture designers and in the life
that you lead — ?
LASZLO: No —
LASKEY: Nothing had started there?
LASZLO: No, no. First of all, at that time in Hungary,
especially a small town, [only my parents] knew about
furniture design. You go back just like nobody knew about
the jets, going to the moon. So in Vienna, you know, [the]
beauty of the town and — [telephone rings, tape recorder
LASKEY: I have one other question before we go on to
Vienna. Because you did come from essentially a middle-
class background, did that give you access to museums or to
art? At a young age that you might have been exposed to
LASZLO: Oh, yes. First of all, I didn't have radio or TV,
which means we did so-called "cultural life," with music,
and talking to people, and social gatherings which were
more important as today. Because today, you know, TV's.
And we had a big furniture store, which had, I don't know.
sixty different rooms: dining room[s], and bedroom[s], and
[so forth]. But the walls were empty. So each year,
twice, [an] art dealer came to make an exhibit. He rented
the walls to put up all his paintings. Instead [of]
getting paid, my parents preferred to get two paintings,
every year it was. So we were full of paintings after a
few years. [laughter]
So we saw ourselves-- Of course, this was a part of
the education; an impetus. Later on, in Vienna, everything
was so beautiful and so different and so exciting. Do you
LASKEY: No, I don't, I'm sorry. I mean I've never been
there, I know about it from reading. Had you been to
Vienna before you actually left home to go to school
there? Had you traveled at all when you were young?
LASZLO: My father took me always along on his business
trips to Austria and Budapest. And we had at home a German
governess, so we learned German. And of course my parents
spoke German, too, you know, because we had--so close to
Vienna. And Austria-Hungary was one nation, until
 18. And so I remember [laughing] from the-- We went to
Vienna--and I was eight years old also--and Father took me
to [the] circus from America: Barnum, or what — ?
LASKEY: Oh, Barnum, Barnum and Bailey. Ringling Brothers,
Barnum and Bailey.
LASZLO: Barnum and Bailey. [laughs] And I remember today
they were three different shows [that] went on: Buffalo
Bill, many things. So actually I went already as a child
to Austria, Vienna. And in Vienna, I felt [at] home. And
I was there a year studying in school. And after a year,
in the meantime, the war broke out —
LASKEY: OK, now you went to study, your family sent you to
study in Vienna for a year; this was in 1914. And then you
were saying earlier about how beautiful Vienna was. Was it
touched-- Was the war to change that very much, the way it
LASZLO: You know, as a young person, nothing touches
you. I mean —
LASKEY: What was your year in Vienna like?
LASZLO: As a normal young man who goes out to school, I
make friends, I go out, and-- You know, a normal childhood,
almost. And so ray father was drafted in the army. And
maybe this was the reason that my parents wanted to go to
Budapest; I believe so, but I don't know. So, I went to
Budapest and [was] in school, and after a few months my
uncle [Hugo LSszl6] came — who didn't have children — and he
says, "Why don't you come to a place called Temesuar [now,
Timosoara]?" (Which was at that time in Hungary, but today
is Romania.) So, he said, "I have a large place and no
children; I want you to stay with us." So fifteen years
old, you don't have a voice to say to go, or not to go,
especially at that time in Hungary. So I went to school in
Temesuar. After a few months, he was drafted.
LASKEY: Now, was it just you who went with your uncle to
Romania, or did some of your sisters and brothers go?
LASZLO: No, only me.
LASKEY: Just you.
LASZLO: So he was drafted. He was sent, I don't know
where. So I was alone for the year.
LASKEY: In Romania?
LASZLO: At the time it was still Hungary. After the war,
they carved out Hungary and Romania, Czechoslovakia, et
cetera. But at that time it was Hungary, but close to
Romania. So then, so if I recall, one day it came out that
if you enlist in [the] army, you get graduated without any
So I enlisted. [laughs]
Did you really?
The whole class [laughing] enlisted!
VJell, how old were you? You must have only been
No, it was sixteen-and-a-half or so.
LASKEY: We didn't establish your exact birthdate.
February 6, 1900.
Right at the beginning of the century.
I will be 85 in [a] few months.
Amazing, that's wonderful. So this would be 1916
LASZLO: Yeah, I believe '16, or '17; I don't know
anymore. And so I was put in artillery [K.-u.-K. Field
Artillery 101]. And it was, of course, at that time,
everything primitive, not like here, you know. Barracks
and bathrooms, this was [laughing] everything outdoor! But
as a young man, you don't even think about it. You just
take it. And so finally, I was sent to the Italian front
[Vittorio Veneto] . And there was a rule that before you
leave Hungary, at the border, medical tests were taken.
LASKEY: Even when you were in the army?
LASZLO: Yes, which means a captain, army captain — a
doctor — had to check over each of us. So the captain
apparently was father of a [school] friend of mine. And he
said — I remember vaguely — he said, "I can't send you to the
front; you are too young." So he send me back to Budapest
[to be] in a army institute for nervous breakdowns.
LASKEY: V'Jas this his way of getting you out of, so that
you wouldn't have to go to the front?
LASKEY: How did you feel about that?
LASZLO: I don't know-- So that I was in prison, because
crazy people were — So after —
LASKEY: That must have been devastating, wasn't it, for a
young man to suddenly be in a situation like that?
LASZLO: They didn't care. [laughs] So after a few days
of listening to these crazy people — who were partly phony,
of course. But I escaped. I went to [the] army again and
said, "I prefer to go to the front!" [laughter] So that I
was maybe a month at the front when the war ended [November
LASKEY: Now, which front were you at? Did you go to
LASZLO: Italian front.
LASKEY: The Italian front.
LASZLO: Of course, fortunately I was in the artillery,
which is always twenty kilometer[s] back further!
[laughs] And so that I had a problem getting back home
again, because the soldiers and the people destroyed
everything. They all, people destroyed everything.
LASZLO: Trains--smashed the windows; everything. Fi-
nally — And I had made in Budapest a beautiful — how you
call it, not a shoe, but a —
LASZLO: Boot[s]; beautiful, beautiful. They took it away
from me, [the] Austrians. They hated Hungarians, they
hated the Germans, so each blamed the other nation [for the
defeat]. So finally I came home, and then came the Red,
communistic regime [March-July 1919]. I don't know whether
you heard about it; Bela Kun was the leader. And they
wanted to get me in the Red army. And, so I escaped again
and went to Vienna. Finally I applied to a school in
LASKEY: Now, in the meantime, was your family still in
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah.
LASKEY: VJere they able to continue their business after
the communist regime took over, or what repercussions were
LASZLO: Actually what happened — I don't want to bore you
with my thing. Actually what happened, even during the
war, it was difficult to get the food, or any' merchan-
dise. But when the communist [s] came — Like in our case,
each day [or two] a man came [to our showrooms] with a
piece of paper [stating] that he's entitled to take a
dining room [set or something else]. So in a few days,
there wasn't any furniture [left]. You couldn't buy a pair
of shoe[s], you couldn't get salt; nothing. Which means all
stores were empty. All stores were empty. I mean empty,
you know, because all [contents] were taken away by the
communists. And at the time Austria boycotted Hungary,
which means nothing came in. No merchandise, no nothing
came in. And that was the reason that after-- And of
course the government printed money or [would] write paper,
you know. Just print it, which--
LASKEY: — was worthless.
LASZLO: — and nobody wanted. And that was the reason that
after half a year, it just went kaput, the communistic
regime [that] came in. Really, the first Nazi movement
started in Hungary.
LASKEY: This would be about 1918.
LASZLO: 'Nineteen. In the meantime, I made an application
to the police in Stuttgart.
LASKEY: Did you have any problem getting out of Hungary to
go to Stuttgart? Was there a problem at the border?
LASZLO: I'll tell you, of course. The border, it wasn't,
like today maybe: efficient and so on. So I took a
carriage with a loaf of bread. And then the soldier — how
can I say this — [I said,] "Hi," [and then] I gave him the
loaf of bread. It wasn't organized then.
LASKEY: [laughs] OK.
LASZLO: It was, everything, primitive. We had, in
Szombathely, we had altogether two policemen: one for
daytime and [laughing] one for nighttime.
LASKEY: So it was still fairly easy to get out of Hungary
LASZLO: So it wasn't, you know — It was, at that time
, easy. And so I got reply from the police in
Stuttgart that, yes, I can come if I go to school in
Stuttgart. So I came to Stuttgart. The school didn't
start yet for a few months. So I took a job as a cabinet-
maker apprentice [at the Schoettle Company factory] .
LASKEY: Did you do that because you were interested, or
was it just sort of a throwback to something that you knew?
LASZLO: What I believe I wanted — [I] had to do something
until the semester started. And it was very nice, and
after a few months, I went to school [Staatliche Akademie
der Bilden den Kiinste] . It was interesting. But I was
restless, because everything was, for me, too slow, school
was. Professor [s] were too slow to teach, at least in my
opinion. And so, after two years, a friend of mine invited
me for Easter vacation to a place called Miinchen-
Gladbach. [goes through papers; indicates name of place]
And I was there a few days. Before I left, just in the
morning before I left, I was reading the newspaper from
Koln [Cologne] , where a famous — well, the most famous
architect — he wanted to hire a talented designer. So, I
was fresh; I didn't have anything with me [to show],
LASKEY: You hadn't done any designing at this point?
LASZLO: No, I meant I didn't have material to show this
LASKEY: But had you designed, had you been working on
LASZLO: Oh, sure, in school, yes.
So, it was a Saturday, we were working at that time
half-Saturdays [inaudible] . So, I went over [to Koln-
Bayenthal] and a secretary [Miss Hugenbruch] told me that
Mr. [Fritz August] Breuhaus (that was the name) has a house
in Bonn, so if I were interested, I should go over, which
was about forty minutes with express train. So I said,
"Good." So I went over, just as I was. He was a handsome
man; a handsome, tall, handsome man. An elegant, elegant
house, really, just perfect.
LASKEY: Now this was the secretary?
LASZLO: She told me to go to Bonn, if I wanted to see Mr.
Breuhaus. So I took this express street car, [and] from
Koln went to Bonn. This was Saturday noon. So we were
talking but, I don't know, I didn't have anything to show,
you know. But apparently he liked me, so [he said,] "All
right, if you can be here Monday morning, you are hired."
[He] says, "You are all right."
LASKEY: You must have convinced him somehow that you had
LASZLO: I don't know, I don't know. So I took the train
back to Stuttgart, packed up everything I had left and left
the school. Monday morning I started [laughing] working.
LASKEY: Now, I didn't understand. The school that you
went to in Stuttgart, or the school that you were going to,
was it an art school?
LASZLO: An art school, yes.
LASKEY: VJell, how had you decided on that? To go to an
art school? Why or how.
LASZLO: Well first of all, my parents figured that I
should get an education in Germany in this field, design
and architecture, and then come back to Hungary. Of
course, of course, I was not interested anymore to go back
to Hungary. I got interested in architecture and designing
interiors. So I came to Breuhaus, which had a big of-
fice. I mean, at that time, eighteen people was a big
office, and he had the best commissions in Europe, a lot.
So of course — Of course [laughing] I had to learn a lot
because I didn't know anything, you know. I worked
fourteen to sixteen hours a day, to make up what I didn't
know. But after a few months I was all right, and I did
LASKEY: Were they mainly interiors, or —
LASKEY: — were you working on houses, too?
LASZLO: Architecture and interior[s]: big building[s].
But not big like here — high rise — but, big building [s]:
banks and big homes. I show you later what he did. And I
was there a year. And then I got an offer from Essen
[Professor Koerner] — which is close to Koln — to go there,
[for] employment. And I wanted to go. Then the French
occupied this part of Germany.
LASKEY: The French occupied it? I didn't know that.
LASZLO: [laughing] I know; you people don't know.
Germany was supposed [to] pay hundred [s] of billions of
reparation [s] . And because they couldn't pay it — So
finally the French came in and occupied this part, which
was the richest part in Germany, where Krupp is and this
and all the big industry, and the mines, including Essen.
So I said no. Well, I will not — Because the French had
mostly black people.
LASKEY: Black people? In Germany?
LASZLO: Yes, you know. Because they had colonies in — So
they sent mostly soldiers which were black to humiliate the
Germans. So instead [of] Essen, I got a job in Berlin
[with] an architect called Leo Nachtlicht [of Berlin-
Wilmersdorf ] . [laughing] Such a silly name!
LASKEY: Just to go back a little bit, at some point when
you got out of school, I think while you were still in
Stuttgart, had you gone to Paris? Didn't I read that you
went to Paris and didn't like it very much?
LASZLO: Oh, no, this was later. I was in Berlin, but even
in Koln the inflation started, but in Berlin finally it
became real bad. Which means, when I went out for dinner,
I needed a suitcase for the money. VJhich meant actually,
it was one dollar was four billion mark[s]. Four billion!
TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE TWO
NOVEMBER 7, 1984
LASZLO: [taping picks up mid-sentence] — that in these
times, it wasn't normal? Beginning at '14 to '48, it
wasn't normal. So it is not possible to compare it with
here, that a person goes to school, a person goes to this—
Because everything — So many things happened everywhere,
every week, that it is difficult to compare it or even to
see a picture [of] how life was. Because of these many
political changes in Hungary, in Austria and in Germany.
And the money — Inflations in Hungary, in Austria and in
Germany and in France. You know, this was unbelievable at
times, which one had to be very smart to go even through —
in life. Which is difficult [to] explain it, you know,
because it is just like an atmosphere. So many things
which maybe, to you, seem abnormal, you know. Because you
lived here in a very organized way: you went to school,
and then high school, and this and this — [laughs] So [it]
is difficult. I believe that I lived an interesting
LASKEY: Sounds like a very difficult life though, after
LASZLO: At the time, you don't — Nothing touches you; it
touches you when you get older. But when you are young,
you have so many interests and guts, you know, that it
didn't touch me at all, I didn't feel, "Oh, God!" I was
always happy and nothing bothered me, really. But looking
back, which I seldom do, there was difficult times for the
people, [but] not for me as such.
LASKEY: Well, when you were in Berlin, this must have been
in the early 1920s —
LASKEY: And Germany was still in a very depressed state —
LASZLO: Oh yes, it was.
LASKEY: Did you find then that trying to deal with — To be
a designer, to be an artist, or to be an architect, at that
time, wasn't it particularly difficult? I would think that
would have been an area that--where there wasn't much need
at that time.
LASZLO: Oh, [there] was plenty to do.
LASKEY: There was?
LASZLO: My office, not my office, but his [Nachtlicht ' s ]
office, was busy. And of course, all these firms —
architecture firms--they weren't as big as here. [At] most
is six, eight people. Breuhaus was the busiest; had eigh-
teen people, but it was maximum, you know. All famous
architects had small offices. V7hy? I learned it, too,
that if you have too many people working there, then you
can't design anymore: all the phone calls, all the social
obligations, you know. So it happened to me too when I had
more people; finally I gave it up. I said, "No use to
get — becoming a business instead of designing." So that
was the reason that the famous architects in Europe, like
Corbusier, who was the greatest. He didn't have too many
people in his office: two or three. So he was able to
work really and design everything [himself] . Here, all of
the big names, they don't even know how many jobs they
have, don't know.
LASKEY: They're businessmen, more than architects, now.
LASZLO: You know, it just isn't possible, that under the
phone calls, the inquiries, and socially-- And to go out
and get jobs, because you have hundred or two hundred
people in the office, so you have to feed them.
So, coming back to it, I was in Berlin, busy, but
finally when the inflation got so bad, then I said, "It's
time to go to Paris." And so I left Germany and went to
Paris. And it was [hard]. Of course I couldn't speak
French, and it was cold, and rainy, and unfriendly, and so
different from what I learned in Germany: how to walk, how
to behave. It was different; so different that, of course,
I couldn't get a job; I couldn't speak French.
So then, one day I met a gentleman [Mr. Kun] from
Vienna who had--he told me--he had several buildings in
Vienna, and if I would come back to Vienna, he would keep
me busy. So that I was happy to leave France, you know:
wintertime, and the rain, the cold. So I went back to
Vienna and, of course, he never gave me a job.
LASKEY: He never gave you a job? What happened?
LASZLO: I don't know, he never [laughing] gave me a job.
In the meantime, I opened up my office, January 1 or 2, in
LASKEY: That's in 1924.
LASZLO: 'Twenty-four, yes. And started to work. Which
means all I did [was] I took some of my designs and went
around. So finally some company gave me a job. [laugh-
ter] As a free-lancer.
LASKEY: Did you advertise in the papers?
LASZLO: No, you can't. No, no, no.
LASKEY: You can't do that. How do you make yourself
LASZLO: I went to several furniture factories. And so
slowly I started to make money, and I became [known] . It
was easier; here, it's more difficult today because so many
people are [in the field]. But at my time, there weren't
too many famous people: about, I would say, six, eight
excellent people, excellent Austrian architects — excellent
LASKEY: Well, now at this point, were you more interested
in architecture or in interior design and furniture
design? Or did you not have a preference?
LASZLO: I tell you that instinctively it is easier to get
an assignment for furniture as [than] for a house. Which
means it involves less money as to give a young man a job
[to] design a house. This was my motivation when I came
over here. Instinctively I felt it would be easier to
concentrate on interiors as [than] to say I want to build a
house. So it worked out all right. I became well known.
And I got visitor [s] from Germany--strangers, who heard
about me in Germany — they gave me jobs. And then I went
[in] '27 to Germany to visit all my clients who came to
Vienna and gave me the jobs. * [Several furniture-factory
owners visited my studio in Vienna. Among them was a Mr.
Hans Scherle, owner of Riedinger Ballonfabrik in Augsburg,
Germany. The firm had a division for furniture manu-
facturing. I designed much furniture for this firm.] And
in Stuttgart was a firm, a big firm who made only club
chairs. A big firm, but only club chairs. Maybe you heard
about the firm here. Knoll?
LASZLO: Now he died years ago--Knoll--but his father was
in Stuttgart, in a similar business, but not club chairs,
but chairs, simple chairs, but [on a] big, big [scale].
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
These are [the] people who engaged me as a free-lancer;
[they] made only club chairs, leather —
LASKEY: And so you designed —
LASZLO: So that all the man — the name was Alfred Buhler —
He told me, "We could use you. If you [are] happening to
move to Stuttgart, I keep you busy for two years as a free-
lancer." And he mentioned the amount he is willing to pay
for me each month. So I said, "No, I cannot, I cannot do
it because I have my office, which I can't leave, in Vienna
[with] two, three good people. But if you find here an-
other firm who would give me two years guaranteed, then I
would consider [it]." So he called up a big firm called
Schildknecht, was the name. [pauses] A big firm. Still
LASKEY: Really, are they in Stuttgart or in — ?
LASZLO: In Stuttgart. So he gave these two people, two
firms — This Buhler — awfully nice fellow, an old gentle-
man — he wanted to show me his plant, which was outside of
Stuttgart, where he makes his leather. Because all his
furniture were, at that time, only in leather, so he had a
leather — How do you call it?
LASZLO: So we took the train. And of course at the time —
in Stuttgart, in Germany — they had first class, second
class, third class, and fourth class. Fourth class was the
cheapest. Mr. Buhler: rich man, [owner of] a big fac-
tory. Of course, we went in fourth class! A short trip,
[laughs] Anyhow, I packed together all my office, my
people, and went to Stuttgart.
LASKEY: How many people did you have in your office, by
LASZLO: At that time, in Vienna, three.
LASZLO: So we went to Stuttgart. In the meantime, I won
two competition [s] in Germany. * [One was for Julius
Hoffman Verlag for decorative Vorbilder with Maria Rott.
We won first prize.] So when I arrived in Stuttgart I took
a studio, a typical one; [an] atelier, you know. It was
not even Saturday, [but] all the boxes * [from my office in
Vienna had arrived and I was trying to unpack and make a
little order when the man who had arranged one of the
competitions (for casual furniture design) came to see me
with a job to do. A few other people came in, also with
work for me. My first big job was the remodeling and
furnishing of a home for Herman Schmidt.]
LASKEY: That's wonderful.
LASZLO: The first few days [brought work] .
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
I don't believe you know about [a] big exhibit in
Stuttgart called [the] Weissenhof. VVhich means, I believe
the state promoted this project to invite fifteen or
eighteen [of the] most important architects in the world.
And each had the freedom to do whatever they want to do.
America, Corbusier in France, and Hungarian, and German.
And I just came in time to do some help in several of these
building [s]. That was in '27. And at the time, worldwide
interest was in this Weissenhof project. Because from all
over the world the best architect [s] were involved. A big,
big, big field.
LASKEY: I think this might be a good time, then, to
discuss what was going on in design. Because in Germany,
certainly, with the Bauhaus and the beginning of the modern
movement and in Vienna with the Vienna secession, you must
have been there right at the beginning of the change and
the creation of the style; it must have been very excit-
ing. Did you come in contact with people like [Walter]
Gropius? Were you affected by them?
LASZLO: Oh, sure, but Bauhaus wasn't as popular a thing in
Germany. It wasn't, you know — It was of course — Here, it
became [more so], because "Bauhaus." Even in the, many
times, in the newspaper they called me a "Bauhaus archi-
tect," because it is a good slogan, but to me — They
[Bauhaus] had individual architect [s] who were excellent.
like Mies [van der Rohe] , like Gropius and — Who came [to
America] when the Nazis came, they all came over here.
LASKEY: But were they influential?
LASZLO: Bauhaus? No, * [not for me].
LASKEY: It wasn't-- You didn't feel the influence in your
LASZLO: No, no, no. No.
LASKEY: Really? Well, in the exhibition, the 1927
exhibition, what was the trend that — ?
LASZLO: All modern, all modern.
LASKEY: It was modern?
LASZLO: All modern, but so far [as] I remember no Bauhaus
LASKEY: V'Jhen did the modern-- What was your interest —
Well, looking at your designs, looking at the books, I can
see that you were interested in modern design. How did you
become interested in it as opposed to traditional?
LASZLO: First of all, to me at the time [there] was only
modern, only modern. VJe rejected everything which was
period. We were young and uneducated in many ways. We
rejected everything period [as] nothing. And of course
Germany was, and Austria, was [the birthplace of the]
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
modern movement. It was the cause of [why] we tended to go
in this direction. The '27 Weissenhof affair, it became a
great trend setter. And in '28, or '29 it was, was when
Mies became famous because he designed the German pavilion
in Barcelona. And he did a beautiful job. At that time as
he designed what today [is] said [to be] Barcelona chairs.
LASZLO: And the government paid everything. This exhibit
was very expensive. The building was very small. It
wasn't a big building, but beautifully done, beautifully
done. And all the furniture, which he designed. And
costly; I don't know how much they spent on research [on]
how to make these metal chairs — cost a fortune: $100,000,
or more; I don't know. Because we all tried to do a
similar thing, you know.
LASZLO: Oh, sure.
LASKEY: Was it because that working with steel was new?
LASZLO: Yes, yes.
LASKEY: Did you work in steel? Did you do any of your
designing in steel?
LASZLO: Sure, I did many, but I didn't have the money to
figure out how to put it together. But several of us were
working on this problem, but it takes a lot of money to
figure out that it works.
LASKEY: That's interesting, so the German government
essentially financed Mies for the development of the
LASZLO: Oh, yes. Sure, yeah.
LASKEY: That's very interesting.
LASZLO: And then in '28 there was an exhibit similar I did
in Diisseldorf where all of the famous architects in the
world [were] invited to create individual areas. I was
fortunate to [be] having support of the firm Schildknecht ,
who paid for my work. We won — I won — I believe, a prize.
[It] was a beautiful exhibit in Diisseldorf. Many famous
architects were involved.
LASKEY: And what did you do in the exhibit?
LASZLO: I won a — I don't know who has the photos, you
LASZLO: I choose [to create for the exhibit] [inaudible]
"an apartment for the lady." It was excellent, excel-
lent. I can't find the photos; at that time I wasn't too
interested in collecting materials. And beside, there was
a move going on — You are losing a lot of stuff, you know.
LASKEY: I know.
LASZLO: So, I was in Stuttgart and I got busy at once. At
LASKEY: You mentioned, when you came to Stuttgart, that
you hac^ just won two competitions. What were they?
LASZLO: One was — No, three, actually. One was Meissen
[Royal China Manufactory, Dresden, Germany]. They wanted —
It was a competition for decorative--Ofen [stove] — ? You
know, which heats a room? How you call it? Of course, you
LASKEY: A furnace?
LASZLO: No, no, no.
LASKEY: A heater, a wall — A heater?
LASZLO: A heater, but decorative, out of porcelain,
LASKEY: Oh, a stove? Like a —
LASZLO: No, in the living room. Anyhow--
LASKEY: Call it a stove. [laughing] I know what you
mean, and I can't — Not a fireplace —
LASZLO: No, individual.
LASKEY: A heating unit.
LASZLO: Heating unit [Kachelofen] . All Paris had it — and
Europe — you know, they had these beautiful ceramic — So
anyhow, I won second prize. And I designed some furniture;
I won the first prize. And then I won, I did with one of
my girls [Maria Rott] , I did a decorative — I don't even
know [what]--I can show it [a porcelain platter for
"Decorative Vorbilder"] to you later on.
LASZLO: So I became, very fast, busy— I don't know: well
known, in Germany. And if you would ask me about [Max and
Maria] Bleyle's house [Stuttgart, 1929-1934], which was~
LASKEY: Yes, it's right here.
LASZLO: Now, of course, you understand I was, of course,
* [in Vienna] at 1925.
LASKEY: Now, was that-- Did you do the entire house?
LASKEY: And what style was it in, what was it like?
LASZLO: I [laughing] don't even remember.
LASZLO: A combination of modern and—you know. [pauses]
He was hanged. * [The photo of Szombathely reminded me of a
house I did while still in Vienna in 1925 for a Mr. Kopfen-
steiner, who was a big contractor in Szombathely. He was
married to the daughter of a Mr. Lingauer who was important
in the Hungarian Nazi party later on. When the Russians
occupied Hungary after World War II, they hanged all the
Nazi people, including Lingauer. At the time, though, this
family seemed like awfully nice people.]
LASKEY: He was hanged?
LASZLO: Yeah. He and his father-in-law are in the
Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
Hungarian Nazi Party. And after the Russian [s] came in,
they hanged all the [Nazi] people. He was an awfully nice
person. And then I did in Hungary, at the same time, the
city hall in Szombathely [1925-1926]. I don't [laughing]
LASKEY: Well, I'm looking at a picture that you've given
me of the public square, in Hungary, and it's a charming
LASZLO: Yes, it was a small town.
LASKEY: It really is. Now when you did a city hall — This
isn't — It's a very traditional — what, nineteenth-cen-
tury? — square. What did you — Was the city hall done in
LASZLO: It was a remodeling [of the meeting rooms] .
Similar, but better, this one. You know, here again, all
streets were already concrete; no sand, you know. All
streetcars were going. And so it was very civilized there.
LASKEY: I can see that in that photograph.
LASZLO: The town was close to two thousand years old
[founded 48 A.D. ] .
LASKEY: Two thousand years old? The city is two thousand
LASZLO: Yes, almost. It [was] called by the Romans
"Sabaria." I believe two thousand; it could be fifteen
LASKEY: Give or take a few — a couple hundred years.
LASZLO: Yes, and so this-- I did many jobs in Hungary at
the time, '25: Konditorei [confectioner's shop], a
barbershop, and this and this, when I was in Vienna,
because it was close to me, close to Vienna.
LASKEY: And there still wasn't a problem of getting back
and forth from Austria to Hungary?
LASZLO: You needed a passport at that time, but it
wasn't — Bleyle, they were, I believe, still the largest
knitwear factory. Here, Bullock's Wilshire has the
merchandise, you know. Of course--
LASKEY: Oh, really?
LASZLO: They died, my friends, wonderful people. And how
I got this big job, a very big job, [was] that a man who
owned a fixture company called Weber. They did some of my
homes: the paneling and many things. He came up to me one
day and said, "I have a lady friend, she wants to find out
whether [you] would be interested to design a sofa for
her." He can't tell me the name until I decide whether I
will agree to design [laughing] a sofa for her. So I say,
"Oh, sure, I do a sofa for her." So he left and after a
week he called me up. He says, "I call for you and take
you to a place where the lady lives." So we went up--it
was [a] hilltop--beautif ul property with a tennis court and
everything. And the gracious lady [Mrs. Maria Bleyle] — So
it was afternoon — Big house, big house with this butler
and two chambermaids.
LASKEY: Oh, my.
LASZLO: But very nice. It was natural. So she gave us
both — this man was her brother; Mr. [Richard] Weber was her
brother--she gave us, she served waffles. Excellent waf-
fles. So we ate both, between us, at least two dozen
waffles. [laughs] To make it short: out of this sofa, it
became a many-million dollar job. Not only for them, but
for her brother, and his brother. And I was busy all the
time for the [Bleyle] family and his [V'Jeber's] family.
Wonderful people, wonderful people, wonderful people.
LASKEY: Now, did you rebuild the house?
LASKEY: Or remodel it?
LASKEY: Because I've seen pictures of the entrance hall
and another room that you did. And it looked very modern,
but again, modern with traditional touches to it.
LASZLO: They had just a year before finished up an
additional house. But when I came along, somehow she
wanted a different house. They were very rich people, but
not all the — very simple, but very elegant people. So they
played tennis and I played tennis, so we became friends.
until she died. She wrote me every week a letter, and I
wrote her every week a letter. I visit [ed] her [almost]
every year on her birthday until she died in '77 [at the
age of 89]. But wonderful people, wonderful people. So of
course I did many jobs in Stuttgart, many jobs, but big
jobs and [little jobs] .
LASKEY: Did you design buildings? VJhen you talk about big
jobs, you actually were functioning as an architect as well
as a designer in Stuttgart?
LASZLO: Oh, yes, yes. But someone, you know, a person
comes up to you and says, "I want such a job," you don't
question them whether it is architecture or interior
LASKEY: Was it usual for a firm to do both architecture
and interior design? Because I think today, they are
usually separated, aren't they? Isn't that more usual?
LASZLO: It is, as a matter — It is today that more and
more a big firm is interested to do both. As a matter of
fact, [Welton] Becket, [Charles] Luckman, and all these,
are interested in interiors, not in furniture, but in
interiors. But at that time in Europe — I can show you
later on, when we have luncheon, some books which will
show — many architects did the same as I did. Of course, I
went further because I designed the furniture, too, and the
lamps, and the fabrics, and everything. I mentioned, you
know, Fleischer. They had a big factory, a paper factory
in Goppingen, which is close by Stuttgart. So I did for
them a few homes, and did a lot of design for paper
merchandise, like toilet paper. I created * [I think] the
first printed toilet [paper].
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the trancript.
TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE ONE
NOVEMBER 21, 1984
LASKEY: Mr. Laszl6, in our previous discussions, we
started to talk about your architecture and your design,
which we described as modern. And I'm trying — What I'd
like you to discuss now are the sources of your modernism,
whether the fact that you lived in Vienna, following the
Vienna Secession, whether the works of Josef Hoffmann or
Otto Wagner or Adolf Loos influenced you. I would just
like you to address yourself to that.
LASZLO: Of course there is an influence which isn't
visible influence. I could not tell you that this period,
or this architect, or this professors in Vienna influenced
me. There is, of course, a school, it was a school [Wiener
Werkstatte; the "Secessionists," founded 1897] in Vienna,
which was under the direction of Josef Hoffmann. And of
course his pupils were of course influenced by Hoffmann.
There were names like [Hugo] Gorgl, [Otto] Wlach, [Josef]
Franck, et cetera, who were his pupils. And automatically
they became, not a clone, but [under] a certain amount of
influence by him. I wasn't, you know. I wasn't.
I came to Vienna in a later period. And somehow,
maybe the fact that I lived in Germany, studied in Germany,
and lived in Paris, too; this all mixture influenced me.
It wasn't Viennese style. I believe it was my own style
which even prevailed after fifty years. It wasn't what you
call "Viennese school."
LASKEY: I asked that because those particular men that I
mentioned--Hof fmann, Wagner, and Loos — did practice in
Vienna, and their modernism is somewhat softer than the
harsh lines of the Bauhaus. And I see in your modernism
more of an elegance than, again, in the Bauhaus. And
that's why I ask you the question in trying to wonder what
the sources of your modernism are.
LASZLO: Of course, what all these people — You mentioned
Loos and VJagner and [Josef] Olbrich, [and] there's this
Bauhaus. Loos and VJagner lived in a peace which was a
peace in the world, especially a peace in Austria-
Hungary. And [the] Bauhaus developed after a lost war,
which means poverty, which wasn't in Vienna; it was in
LASKEY: That's very interesting.
LASZLO: Out of the Bauhaus and out of poverty developed a
style which says that "less is more" and somehow attracted
the school, attracted the people, who were unhappy with the
prevailing style. So regardless of religion, you know,
they all went--like Paul Klee, [Wassily] Kandinsky,
[Laszl6] Moholy-Nagy, of course [Ludwig] Mies [van der
Rohe] — all of these people and more — I forget all the
names--they were attracted by this new idea: Less is
more. I wasn't connected at all, which means that I was
always very individual. I didn't look left or right,
[laughs] I was aware of Bauhaus because against Bauhaus,
in Germany, developed another circle, you know, which was
against the Bauhaus, under the name, at least a part, went
under the name Werkbund. Ue had several symposiums, where
one group of architect [s] were against Bauhaus. Bauhaus
didn't merit the same importance there as in America.
V7hy? Because it became a slogan. American [s] loves
slogans, you know, and Bauhaus is a good slogan. As a
matter of fact, many times where somebody is, was, writing
about me, he said, "Bauhaus; he belonged to Bauhaus."
[laughing] I didn't belong to Bauhaus!
LASKEY: VJell, I do think there is a tendency to lump all
modern architecture from the twenties and thirties under
the heading of Bauhaus, if it's at all modern.
LASZLO: Yes, yes. But the fact is that every style
develops, whether it was baroque — [telephone rings, tape
recorder turned off] Somehow, of course, at the same time,
the French developed a style which partly you call today
"art deco," which started actually in, I believe, in
Austria under [the] name of Jugendstil. I'll give it [the
spelling] to you later. You know, I have books here from
German and Austrian period [s] [and] the French period.
They produced interesting thing [s]. Of course, always
[there] were a few who were talented and created beautiful
thing [s]. This is [inaudible] to me. And [during] the
many time[s] when I was in Vienna-- If any influence was on
me, it was Vienna, the beautiful city: the baroque build-
ing[s], and the many beautiful modern buildings. But I was
not conscious about it. Looking back — since you asked me,
I am thinking about it — and, well, [it's] possible. But it
wasn't something as visible as I say, "Oh gosh. All these
buildings are beautiful," or, "This piece of furniture is
beautiful, I ought to make a similar or — " No, no. I
wasn't [influenced] at all. As a matter of fact, this is
in my nature. I don't want to be influenced by anybody.
And even if I respect work, which I do all the time, res-
pect any style. But I wasn't influenced. Which you can
see in my work, that even after fifty years, it still looks
basically the same as if I would do it today.
LASKEY: Well, speaking of that, and taking what you've
been saying, I would like you to discuss, in depth, now a
house that we also mentioned in the first interview, which
was the Bleyle House. First of all, you might describe the
setting of the house, the [location] of the house itself,
or the site.
LASZLO: Of course, the house was in Germany, not in
LASKEY: Stuttgart, right?
LASZLO: Stuttgart. And should I tell you how I got the
job or —
LASKEY: We talked about that last time: you met her
through Mrs. Bleyle's brother, Mr. Weber.
LASZLO: Gosh, you remember! [laughter] They had a
beautiful location: eleven acres, almost all, everything
flat. The most prominent location in Stuttgart. Stuttgart
is like a bowl. The [central] city is below them and all
the hills are all around. And of course hillside and
hilltop were the most expensive, prominent locations. And
they [Bleyles] built a house — Later on, they met me and
they realized how this house was old-fashioned, dead.
LASKEY: Do you remember what the style of the original
house was? Was it just a classical style?
LASZLO: Yes, it was. But it wasn't a clear [style]. But
it was a mixture, you know. And somehow they felt that it
isn't the house that they want. So they met me and for-
tunately, slowly, I got the whole house remodeled and
furnished. And it was, to me, a great satisfaction that I
gave the people a lot of pleasure. They loved the house,
they loved everything. It is, after all, the — An archi-
tect's best place is [when] the client is happy. And we
became, beyond the professional aspect, great friends. The
house — I don't have the photos of the house —
LASKEY: VJell, the first thing I noticed in the entrance
hall is the checkerboard carpeting. How did you determine
LASZLO: This was of course handwoven. Beautifully
LASKEY: Now, did you — in having your carpets made — did you
go out and contact the weavers, the rug — VJhat would they
be — the carpet makers?
LASZLO: Oh, yes. I designed it, and it is custom-made by
a firm still there [in] Nymphenburg.
LASKEY: Ordinarily, in an entrance hall like this, which
is very formal, I see that the doorway is marble, they have
the oval ceiling, and they have magnificent wood paneling
throughout the whole hallway. Why carpeting rather than
LASZLO: First of all, the carpet is of course warm, and
softer, less noisy. Marble or oak floor, it is beautiful,
but it makes a noise [makes pounding sound] . I notice in
my son's new house [that] the builder put on, in the entry,
marble, because this was salesmanship. But every time —
[repeats sound and laughs]
LASKEY: Well, I noticed throughout the house that you have
wall-to-wall carpeting. That must have been fairly unique
at the time, wasn't it?
LASZLO: Don't forget these are custom-made rugs and
carpet. Everything that I designed [was] custom-made.
This part of the house, you would call here, like "family
room." Of course, they didn't have children, so it wasn't
the matter to be practical about many things, because they
didn't have children. But they lived mostly here [in the
family room] .
LASKEY: In what? What is it? This is right off the main
entrance hall; is it the room? And the fireplace. Very
interesting fireplace with the formed brick at the end.
Did you design that?
LASZLO: Oh, yes.
LASKEY: And the stairway, the stair railing.
LASZLO: That was a beautifully made stair rail. You know,
why I don't have photos of the architecture also [is]
because when I prepared this book, I figured that it is
much easier to get, in America, interiors, as [than] to
build a house. So which means I concentrated in selecting
photos which — I selected to concentrate on interiors
instead of architecture. Which worked out pretty good.
LASKEY: When you came to America?
LASZLO: Yes. Now, this book was —
LASKEY: I'm interested, before we go on from here, the
particular chair in, I think we're still in the family
room, it's two things. It's light wood, which I think was
unusual for the thirties. And it seems to be formed wood,
and I assume that that was your design.
LASZLO: It wasn't formed. I designed it. As a matter of
fact, my ex-wife, who lives here in Bel Air [has one of
these chairs] . I designed her house, too.
LASKEY: No, I didn't know that. In Los Angeles, or in
LASZLO: No, here. And she has the chair.
LASZLO: I hope so! [laughs]
LASKEY: I hope so. I hope so, too. It's a wonderful
LASZLO: Of course, it [the Bleyle House] was a big house
which had a billiard room, a dining room, and a breakfast
room, and — So it means it wasn't important to be practical
about many things because they had rooms for all activi-
LASKEY: Well, the games room, which is what we're looking
at now, is particularly interesting. I found it inter-
esting because you have a combination of things, and the
beamed ceilings, and again this wall-to-wall carpeting,
which I just think must — It wasn't usual to have wall-to-
wall carpeting at that time, was it? In the thirties?
LASZLO: I have to think about it. [pauses] Yeah. Oh,
yes, sometimes. I mean — I don't know anymore. [laughs]
LASKEY: There's oriental rugs —
LASZLO: No, these are — Of course, I'm able to tell again
a story because otherwise it does not make sense. There
was in Munich — I believe they are still there, but not to
this extent. It was a big building, like here was Barker
Brothers [in downtown Los Angeles], a big building. But
the whole firm was [full of] antique [s]; but real
antiques--the most beautiful merchandise — called Bern-
heimer. Beautiful. And everything what you saw, the
furniture and so, it was a big experience, including — They
had the most amazing collection of rugs which, of course
you don't see here the color, which is most exquisite, most
exquisite — which you don't get it anymore. And so, I felt
to make the room more gemiitlich, and especially where
people are working at most to play billiards, you know,
that these pieces would soften the effect and at the same
time — [telephone rings] And so this was the reason — They
were art pieces, like a painting, you know.
LASKEY: I see. And then you combined them with, these —
The curtains, the draperies, I assume you designed.
And they're silk, is that right?
I don't know anymore, really.
I think at some point it said that they were silk.
Yeah, yeah, possibly, because it made — had been
printed in Switzerland; so it was of silk.
LASKEY: We haven't really talked about your interest — how
you developed your interest — in design. You obviously —
this was fairly early in your career when you did this, but
it's a beautiful floral design. And you had already, I
think, published a little booklet for the Fleischers of
your design — which we will talk about. But when did you
start designing fabric? How did you get into the designing
LASZLO: I believe it comes automatically. You weren't
prepared to do such an interview until somebody had asked
you, "Do you want to be an interviewer?" You know, so the
same with me, when the people were asking me to do certain
designs which, of course, it was wonderful, you know. But
it wasn't a plan to do all these thing [s], but it came
LASKEY: Really? But the idea, it would seem to me, would
be very difficult to design it, and then be able to visual-
ize how it was going to look on the fabric. And, then, get
the fabric woven or printed to your specifications —
LASZLO: It wasn't difficult. [laughs]
LASKEY: [laughing] It wasn't difficult?
LASZLO: No, it was a lot of fun; never difficult.
LASKEY: Did you have the sources in, well, in this case,
in Stuttgart — Were there craftsman, were there artists who
could readily translate this for you? Or did you say you
had to go to Switzerland to have these —
LASZLO: No, it just happened that there was in Zurich a
certain firm that — I believe that the firm still exists,
called [Karl] Eschke. And a wonderful man, who was of
[the] greatest taste and understanding — He died many years
ago. But the firm, I believe, still exists. Just the
finest product, you know, just the finest. And, of course,
[it was] automatic that I did the jobs in Zurich. And he
visited me at Stuttgart — Eschke — awfully nice person. So,
when I had such a job, and he was a specialist, this one
[Eschke], so he made it. But when you ask how difficult,
especially at the time, it was much easier as [than]
today. But today is, [it] became everything so money-
minded that people are not really interested in their work;
they are only interested in the money they are able to
make. Not only in America, but all over the world. But
fortunately, at my time, it was still a great satisfaction
to create beautiful things without thinking of the money,
you know. To make, more or less, the work was the most
important thing. And all these people who worked with me
were equally congenial to my feelings. We had — The
painter did beautiful jobs. Beautiful. I mean, the walls
were all lacquer. Lacquer, you know?
LASZLO: VJhich means I would — Eighteen, eighteen coats
of — [pauses, leafs through papers] Where was it? Here:
this room, where — Yellow walls and ceiling, but lacquer,
you know. We were furnishing —
LASKEY: We're looking at a tea room.
LASZLO: A garden room. You know —
LASKEY: [simultaneously; unintelligible] — that's made
with all the — It says this is —
LASZLO: Yes, yes.
LASKEY: The curtains are magnificent in those, too. What
color were they? Do you remember?
LASZLO: All yellow and green. And on this side I built in
a big aquarium, but along with all this [laughing] beauti-
ful fish, exotic fish. I had-- And even the — They both
had — I designed the bird cage, which was beautifully
made. Unfortunately, I can't see it here.
And of course the carpet, again. Now here, I believe
I used a marble floor and this Aubusson rug. All are made
in — Near Munich is a place called Nymphenburg, which was
the seat of the Bavarian king. So there is a Schloss
[castle] , a palais [palace] for the king — still there, you
know. And he wanted a china factory — beautiful china,
beautiful china, beautiful china — and carpets. Just
everything highly artistic. So he collected this group of
people to create almost a small industry —
LASZLO: A small industry, you know. And so this was — I
mean — An Aubusson is more of a flat-weave carpet, or rug,
and the rest of it was Savonnery called, which was more
LASKEY: Now, the — In the dressing room, this unit that
you built, that's most extraordinary. Could you describe
this? Well, it's very moderne-looking . It has —
LASKEY: [It] is a very streamlined, very elegant —
LASZLO: Yes, it was [a] very elegant piece. But it was
supposed to close. These are —
LASKEY: So that it would have looked like a closet when it
LASZLO: Yeah. Then opened up: here lies the phone, and
make-up, which opened up. Make-up, [laughs] I don't even —
LASKEY: There's two cabinets on each side, with drawers,
rounded drawers. This looks like it's lacquered. Is it
lacquered, or is it plastic?
LASZLO: Oh, no; lacquer. At that time, plastic wasn't —
LASKEY: Well you know, I'm— What is the exact date on
this house? I want to — I have to [inaudible].
LASZLO: Nineteen hundred twenty-eight or twenty-nine.
LASKEY: [Nineteen] twenty-eight I have, so this is very
LASZLO: The plastic wasn't used until '35, '36, you know.
LASKEY: So again, did this have to be done with the
eighteen coats of painting? The lacquering — was it also
LASZLO: Oh, yes. It was the most amazing thing.
LASKEY: And the curves of the windows and the cabinets are
LASZLO: Glass, glass.
LASKEY: Formed glass, formed wood. One doesn't see much
workmanship like that today, that self-expression.
LASZLO: No, they wouldn't be interested. I mean it is
possible to do it. But people wouldn't be interested to go
through such a process, because — like, glass could break
several times until you find out how to make it. But who
would be interested to do this, you know?
LASKEY: Now, I think that you should talk about what
ultimately happened to the house, why we can no longer see
any of this.
LASZLO: Well, we went back — with my wife Maxine — in '52.
But of course we were in [inaudible] with other people,
[telephone rings] What they did, they — [sketching]
Suppose here was the whole area, you know. Eleven acres is
[laughing] a big area. So, they [had] sold the house,
which was in ruins —
LASKEY: That's what I wanted you to talk about, the fact
that the house had been destroyed.
LASZLO: Yes, had been destroyed. Please, once more, this
part — [continues sketch] Here, they built a new house.
So in '52 they lived already in the new house. They sold
[a part of] the property, but they didn't do anything — the
new owner didn't do anything yet. So we went over, with
Maxine, and saw the ruins and saw the pieces. Everything
burned out or destroyed and — Anyhow, this was the end of
the house and — the war.
He died — Mr. Bleyle--! believe, died in '65 or '66 and
Mrs. Bleyle died in '77. I went over every year on her
birthday [May 21]. We met up in Baden-Baden. I mean, it's
a beautiful resort place. And so I went over for a few
days and flew back again.
LASKEY: Every year?
LASZLO: Every year, yes.
LASKEY: How wonderful.
LASZLO: Until she died. She was already at eighty-nine.
And the last time we were together at Baden-Baden, she
wasn't always clear. And then she went off to sleep--
[inaudible; pauses] So this was the end of the Bleyle
LASKEY: That must have been very difficult on you to have
seen all that in ruin, wasn't it?
LASZLO: I believe that the fact that these people who were
so happy and pleasant, with all the richdom, they were so
simple, you know, so — how should I say it — it was very easy
to live with them. In spite of that they have two chamber-
maids, just how you see in the movies: very silent, but
clean; everything just so. Two cooks, who cooked just
fabulously, you know. And a butler — But still you didn't
see any sign of being ostentatious; it was so natural, you
know. So, at the end of — It was wonderful for me, and
they were wonderful — helping me.
LASKEY: Well, we've mentioned the word "elegant" a lot — it
has come up in the conversation — which has always been the
term that's been applied to your work. Is that something
that you feel came from your own experience with your
family, growing up in furniture?
LASZLO: Yeah, I believe so. I believe so. We lived in a
very cultured life at home. Until I left, we had music
every week, so people came over to make chamber music and —
LASKEY: In your home?
LASZLO: Yes, in our home. Which means it was very
cultured, civilized, way of living. Unfortunately, it
ended with the war and [the] communistic regime. And then
came the Hungarian Nazis. So it was a very difficult
time — still is — which means it started [in] 1914, and it is
still difficult times, you know. Especially today, you
hear so many things, which years ago you didn't hear: that
European people are starving. But today, you have the
radio, TV, and jet plane. Everything.
But at that time, I had a very happy childhood, and my
parents were just wonderful. So I believe all this country
[Hungary] would [be] part of what I did. And, of course,
when you live in Vienna and in Germany, and see it all,
these many things, these — It is just like a food mixer:
you add everything. Of course, I didn't — And then when
you design something, it's a result of this many, many
wonderful impressions: social, and otherwise.
LASKEY: Did your family stay in Hungary, that is, your
LASZLO: They stayed; they were killed by the Nazis.
LASKEY: Oh, how terrible. I didn't know that.
LASZLO: Nine of my family was tortured and killed.
LASKEY: Oh, Mr. LSszlfi, that's —
LASZLO: So — Anyhow, I wanted to show you, because I don't
know whether you have seen this, [going through papers] my
house, in a good photograph.
LASKEY: Oh, yes. [pause] Well, we're going to get to
this a little bit later, and so we'll hold on to that.
Before, there's just a — I'm looking at, I'm still
looking at this book, because I want to finish up your
experiences in Europe before we get you over here. And
quite opposite from what you did in the Bleyle House,
there's — It's only identified as a flat in Zurich [Mr. and
Mrs. Robert VJeir apartment], which is considerably modern
in it's, in all its elements, than was the Bleyle House.
That is, with much more of the curved, stainless steel, the
rounded edges —
LASZLO: Yes, yeah.
LASKEY: — the definitely modern look. There's still a
warmth and a softness to it that I don't see in other
LASZLO: Well, the difference is that this was a big
apartment [for young people] on the — You know, a big
apartment. But [an] apartment, not a house which they
owned and —
TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE TWO
NOVEMBER 21, 1984
LASKEY: [It] was designed [as] if it might have been
designed for younger people — the flat in Zurich. It has a
younger look about it in the modernness of it.
LASZLO: Oh, yes. These people, who came over to America,
too, in '37 or so — He died [a few years ago], but she is
still living in Charlotte, [North Carolina]. Wonderful
people. Wonderful people. But it was an apartment. And,
of course, her parents were immensely rich — I mean
immensely rich — and her mother [Selma V^olff] was like
[William Randolph] Hearst. She bought up all paintings:
modern, and all the masters, you know. And it was in big
cases, never opened.
LASKEY: Now what was the name of the people?
LASZLO: This was Weir. And her father owned one of the
largest textile firm[s], and they had offices in South
America, here in Boston, and in Africa — all over. [tele-
phone rings; interview continues] But, here too, you know,
the people were the loveliest of people, in spite of all
the money. Maxine [Fife LSszlS] , when she met them, and
they left on the train, Maxine cried [and said,] "How come
that we have to live apart?" You know, such wonderful
LASKEY: Now, how did you meet them?
LASZLO: They lived in Stuttgart. The major firm
headquarters were near Stuttgart, and they lived in
He was supposed to become a concert piano player until
he met her and the father of her said, "No, if he wants to
marry you, he has to work for us." So he changed his pro-
fession and became an excellent textile man. He learned in
London and in New York, and then came back to Stuttgart
[and got] married.
And then the firm had to leave Germany. The four
partners divided the world, and my friend got America.
They still own the firm. And I did some work for him in
Boston. Then he moved to Atlanta — so I did [laughing]
again the Atlanta shop — and finally they moved to
LASKEY: North Carolina?
LASZLO: Because the factory was in Charlotte.
LASKEY: Now before we leave all this, I must have you tell
me about this room: the music room. It's the most extra-
LASZLO: Now, these are different people [the Jeitteles].
Again, young people who — He was — Again, it's the story,
[laughs] He owned — he and his father, [the] family owned —
near Stuttgart, a glove factory. Mostly exported to
America. So they asked me to design gloves.
LASKEY: Oh, you designed the gloves? Really?
LASZLO: A whole thing, you know.
LASKEY: Did you really? A whole line of gloves?
LASZLO: And many times I see here some of gloves which is
the same as I designed [laughing] fifty years ago!
LASKEY: Is that so?
LASZLO: As a matter of fact, when the first zeppelin came
to New York—first trip— he asked to design a glove which
would commemorate the first trip.
LASKEY: Was that the Hindenburg?
LASZLO: No, it was a zeppelin. Which means the same
[type] aircraft. Whether you meant [the] Hindenburg, which
went down —
LASKEY: Yeah, yeah.
LASZLO: They had several names for the same aircraft.
They came several times before [the] Hindenburg dropped,
LASZLO: Oh, sure. It was before your time. Many trips
came to New York, and to South America. They brought a lot
of merchandise and people. And on the first trip to New
York, I designed for these people a glove with a zeppe-
LASKEY: That's wonderful. Do you still have any? They
must be collectors items.
LASZLO: No, I mean — At that time, who was thinking that
in fifty years that I will meet you? [laughter] No — so
many things that I made, I've forgotten [until] now,
because you ask me; it's good.
LASKEY: VVell, it's interesting because — How did they
happen to come to you to design gloves? Was it from seeing
your fabric designs or your architecture?
LASZLO: No, I believe — I believe that at the time,
especially in Stuttgart, but even here, there weren't too
many designers. Today, of course, there are millions, you
know: decorators, designers. But, at that time, there
weren't many designers, so the name became the faster
known. So I don't know. People were coming to me to
design something. And so, young people — and I was young
too--so I designed for them the house. Later on, in '33,
they [the Jeitteles] moved to England — to Surbiton, which
is close to VJimbledon. So I had to decorate the house in
England. Which means they sold the house and took a lot of
LASKEY: Now, which family was this?
LASZLO: They called it — They changed their name. Now
they are Jeffries.
LASKEY: But now this — the music room — the one that I want
you to talk about: this was not in London, right? This
was in Stuttgart.
LASZLO: No, this was in Stuttgart, yes. You know —
LASKEY: Yeah, they're next to each other here. But how
did this room come about?
LASZLO: He was crazy about [Richard] Wagner. Everything
was Wagner, you know. He went every year even as a young
man to Bayreuth and — to hear Wagner. He played excellent
piano and had many friends who came over to play music.
And so he wanted a music room with good acoustic[s]. So I
don't know how I came onto this idea to make these gold
leaf, which is about so big, you know.
LASKEY: What, about four inch square?
LASZLO: Yeah, four inch square. The whole — [pauses]
LASKEY: The walls and ceilings are covered in gold leaf.
And did this — There is — The corners, the bend — Is that
for acoustics, or was that just part of the design into the
LASZLO: No — Frankly, I don't know anymore, you know.
LASKEY: There's also cabinetry built into one side of the
room for a display of records and music that's extraordin-
LASZLO: Yes, all his pas de deux. He collected pas de
deux. He had Mozart and Schubert original pas de deux, you
LASKEY: Really? So then the gold leaf, then, was parti-
ally an acoustical consideration?
LASZLO: Yeah, it worked excellent, you know.
LASKEY: It must have been an absolutely stunning room to —
LASZLO: [laughter] Yes.
LASKEY: — walk into. What is the cabinetry; what kind of
wood was that?
LASZLO: We called it — Of course, all veneers have an
artificial name. V-Jhich means here, [one would] call it
different. But we called it palisander [rosewood] .
LASKEY: It looks in the photograph like it's a medium dark
LASZLO: "Amarant" [brand veneer]. Yes, of course it is a
black and white [photo] .
LASKEY: Yes, that's why I'm trying — We have, then, gold-
leaf walls and ceilings, a medium dark wood, and what color
was the carpeting?
LASZLO: I don't know.
LASKEY: Don't remember?
LASZLO: I can't remember.
LASKEY: I'm sorry we don't have this room in color —
LASZLO: The piano is a Steinway. He loved everything
American, you know.
LASKEY: That's interesting. Whereas Americans want
everything to be European.
LASZLO: He spend a year or two for his firm, who sold
gloves, in New York. So he became — when he came home,
[when] he came back again to Stuttgart — American. [laughs]
LASKEY: Well, that's the house.
LASZLO: That's a different house.
LASKEY: But that looks very American. That looks very
much like what we think of as streamline moderne, and also
what I think of as Californian, except it has a tile
roof. How did you come upon that design? Because that's
LASZLO: [laughing] I don't know.
LASKEY: You don't remember? Was this in Stuttgart?
LASZLO: Yes — I'll show you — but all burned out [in World
V7ar II], you know. And it was built [1931-1932] for two
brothers [Ludwig Marx and Morris Marx; indicating]: one,
and two. So when he had here this curve, he had here —
Oh, I see —
— this curve, you know.
So the curves match, the form matches.
So everything was — had to be repeated, you see.
It was a three-story house, you know.
LASKEY: The use of the tile is interesting. What kind of
tile is it?
LASZLO: I don't remember.
LASKEY: It's not the kind of tile we have in Southern
California, is it? Or was that used — You don't remember?
LASZLO: [laughs] I don't —
LASKEY: I'm just surprised to see it in Stuttgart, at that
LASZLO: [pauses; pages turning] This was American too.
VJe had to build the cabinet with--which had built-in water
sponge with [it] so the cigars, tobacco, has just the
correct humidity. It [is] called humidor, you know, which
is a, like--
LASKEY: Now, this is in the same house with the music
room? This is the dining room?
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah.
LASKEY: I noticed in the built-- Again, the touches of the
modern come through — that the cabinet holding the glass-
ware, the long narrow, built-in — It looks like a work of
art; it looks a painting on the wall. [pages turning]
LASZLO: This was interesting, because she had a problem
seeing it. So it went back and forth, this mirror. VJhen
she needed clothes, well, it--
LASKEY: Oh, a make-up mirror in the lady's dressing room.
LASKEY: What a good idea--when you're trying to put on
make-up without your glasses.
LASZLO: This is a different house [Walter Kahn House] ,
again. It's a different house with different people,
LASKEY: This dining room is with the checkered floor sort
of going into a perspective, and the plastic draperies
are--has that, again, the streamlined, sort of streamline
LASZLO: The floor, I don't know anymore what it was.
LASKEY: But what were the draperies?
LASZLO: They came out [with] a new idea of plastic, which
was new and I liked it, and they liked it, so we put it on,
LASKEY: So this must have been in the early thirties then
that you'd done this. About '33, '34?
LASZLO: It was '32. They left [in] '33. They were — She
was a friend of — VJhat was the name of the Dominican
LASKEY: Somoza? No, not Somo — That wasn't —
LASZLO: Not Utrillo —
LASKEY: We'll have to check that. [Rafael Trujillo
LASZLO: Anyhow, she went to school with this dictator's
daughter in Switzerland. What was the name? [laughing]
It will come to me. So when Hitler came — they were
Jewish--they invited them to come to Santo Domingo. So
they moved to Santo Domingo with--they had a child — no, two
children. And this dictator — He [Kahn] was, [in] Europe,
in [the] tobacco business. So in Santo Domingo he went in
the same business, tobacco, of anything — After a few years
they came over to New York. And we became again friends,
with Maxine, and he died — no, she died, and [then] he
died. And-- But, you know, after so many years, people
die. VJhen you are young, nobody is dying. [laughs]
LASKEY: "We are all immortal."
LASZLO: Awfully nice people. This was another house, that
[turning pages] was the Fleischer House. He was a bache-
LASKEY: Now, the Fleischers we talked about, a little bit,
them last time. They were — You did a lot of design work
for them, right? Not only for their houses, but you de-
signed fabric, you designed furniture.
LASZLO: No, paper.
LASKEY: Paper, paper, yes.
LASZLO: They had [an] immensely large paper factory near
Stuttgart called Goppingen. And they were the parents and
two boys [Herman and Walter]. [The] boys, they were in my
age, you know. Very educated in England. And they had a
great export [business] to America and all over the world,
in paper goods and everything. Today, of course [it] is
different; today, so many people are doing it. But at that
time they were the largest. They asked me to design paper
napkins. So every year I designed a new line. Then they
say, "What can we do with toilet paper?" [laughter] So I
say: "Print it."
LASKEY: This was in the late twenties? Early thirties?
LASZLO: Yes. And they colored it and they print [ed] it.
I designed, for both boys, a home in Goppingen, which was
about a half a mile from Stuttgart. Both died in
England. They left Germany and they went to England.
[pauses] I am the only one [laughing] who survived!
LASKEY: At that time were you married? In Germany?
LASZLO: No, I married here.
LASKEY: You married here. But you were skiing, no
doubt. You are an avid skier.
LASZLO: Oh, yes, I went every year skiing. In Europe too,
and here, too. Until I got to [be] sixty years old. I
gave it up because at that time our son [Peter Paul LSszlC]
couldn't miss school anymore. He was born [in] '50, and
[being] sixty, you know — *[It was time for me to quit
skiing anyway.] Before, * [when we took Peter skiing,] he
didn't miss anything at school, but [when] he became
[older] — He went to — Pali [Pacific Palisades] High, is
LASZLO: Yeah, here.
LASKEY: University High, perhaps? Or Santa Monica High?
Where were you living?
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
LASZLO: Pali High, [it] was on Sunset *[in Pacific
Palisades]. Anyway, he went to school there —
LASKEY: Oh, Palisades High.
LASZLO: So he couldn't get away two weeks for skiing, so I
gave it up, too.
LASKEY: Oh, that's a shame, that's too bad.
LASZLO: Yes, but, you know, I loved him so much that, you
know, it [he] was part of the fun-- He became, later he
went to UCLA, and he became Ail-American in golf.
LASKEY: Really? Were you a golf player? Or was that
something that he picked up by himself?
LASZLO: I belong [ed] to Brentwood [Country Club], and so I
took him over and we played together. And the club got a
new pro, who was excellent. So, he picked it up, and he
became a club champion for four years. At UCLA, a champion
for three, four years, you know. *[I gave up tennis when I
joined the Brentwood Country Club early in the fifties.
The same excellent pro who taught my son to play golf so
well never succeeded in making me anything much better than
a weekend duffer, but my membership in the club brought
many rewards anyway. I completely remodeled and refur-
nished in association with architect Sidney Eisenstaht, the
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
clubhouse. It was a big, old Spanish-style building which
used to be called the California Club, and was badly in
need of modernizing. The job turned out well, but I
learned many things while working on it; the most signif-
icant being not to accept any more commissions when you
have a committee or "board of directors" to please instead
of one man. And the wives of members were another prob-
lem. So many thought of themselves as talented decorators
and would always complain if their color preference was
blue instead of red for the lamps or accent pillows, for
example, which I had selected. I was certainly happy when
that job was finished and looked good. The best part came
later when I was given many jobs to do — homes, mainly,
though not exclusively--f or several of the club members,
and we always became good friends. Many of these fine
people have passed away over the years, of course, though
we still see a few now and then. But the friendships I
made enriched my life even to this day. Some of the jobs
from this period included work for Newfield, Braunstein,
Elzer, Isaacs, Abbott, Kafka, Donner, and Stever.] So,
what he lost in skiing, he gained — [laughing]
LASKEY: He made up in golf. But all that is to come; it's
still the early thirties. You're in Stuttgart and very
successful. Why would you decide to come to the United
LASZLO: First of all, I am half Jewish. Secondly, I was
so busy doing jobs and — The building department wouldn't
give me a permit to use steel beams.
LASKEY: They wouldn't?
LASZLO: Because they needed the steel for armament.
LASKEY: Oh. This was in the early thirties?
LASZLO: This was actually '35.
LASKEY: And, technically, there was no war going on at
that time, right?
LASZLO: No, but it was, it was already — Like, you
couldn't talk about [the] Autobahn, which is a freeway (a
German says Autobahn). It was a secret, you know: "You
don't talk about Autobahn because it was designed to
[handle the] rapid movement of troops." So you didn't — So
there was already signs that something is coming. Then
this idea of steel, you know. Many other things I can't
So I made up my mind to leave Germany, and at that
time there was a competition in Europe, all over Europe,
for a professorship in Chile. And people who were inter-
ested had to send in photos, and etcetera. I got the job.
LASKEY: In Chile?
LASZLO: Yes, in a school called [the] College of Santa
Maria [Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria] , or so.
It is outside of Valparaiso. So I sign the contract with
the consul of Chile, or whoever it was. And at the same
time, some friends of mine came back from a trip to Chile
and South America. So we had dinner together; [they] say,
"Paul, don't go over there." They said, "They are a
hundred years behind. Please don't go there." So I had a
hard time to break my contract.
LASKEY: They didn't want — They wanted to hold you to
LASZLO: Yeah. But finally, they say OK. So then, I went
to the American consulate in Stuttgart. The consulate was
operating two weeks in Stuttgart and two weeks in Vienna.
The same people went from Stuttgart to Vienna, so, you
know-- I was fortunate it was in Stuttgart. So, to make it
short, finally I got the visa. It was-- This was diffi-
LASKEY: The visa? Getting the visa was difficult?
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah. Today, the Mexicans are coming in, a
million. But at that time they were strict, which means
that you had to show them that you have [a] means [of
support] in America. So you are not [going to] become a
burden on the government. I had money — in America or in a
land which didn't have money restriction [s] . Which means
Germany had a money restriction; you could not take out
money from Germany.
LASKEY: I was going to ask you about that.
LASZLO: But in Switzerland it was free. And in London
[it] was free, and in America [it] was free. Anyhow, I had
money in Switzerland, and in New York, which I slowly sent
it over, when I was able to do it. But I didn't dare to
show them, because they were full of spies — Nazi spies — in,
you know, the consulate.
LASKEY: The consulate too?
LASKEY: It must have been a very difficult time for
LASZLO: Oh, it was! It was. It was a difficult time.
But finally-- And of course you had to go [to] a medical
examination, and many things. But fortunately, a consular,
who lived out in a house that I designed in Stuttgart,
arranged with [the] inspector to let me in, because I would
be — I would contribute to the American cultural life. So
that [is] the way that I got in. And fortunately — I don't
know how, I still don't know how — they got for me an
American quota number. Which means each nation had a quota
starting in '24. Up to '24, when you had twenty dollars,
you came in. But in '24, they established an immigration
law, giving each nation a proportion of their American
population. Which means British was the quota of, I
believe, 56,000; Germany was 26,000; Hungary was only 700.
LASKEY: That's right, you were still a citizen of Hungary,
LASZLO: Hungary, yeah. So I don't know how — because it
[the Hungarian quota] was taken for ten years ahead--I got
a quota number. So here [laughing] I am!
LASKEY: Somebody liked you somewhere.
LASZLO: [laughter] Yeah. So I came over here; it was
wonderful. From the first day on, it was a love affair.
LASKEY: What was it like to leave Germany, and Hungary?
To leave Europe? You must have been mixed in your feelings
somewhat, weren't you?
LASZLO: When I [left] the boat from England to America, in
'36, I said to myself, "I don't care to come back ever."
LASKEY: Really? Was it because the political situation
had become so terrible?
LASZLO: No, but I believe in spite of the fact that I have
a good time and good business and the money, I wasn't
emotionally married to, neither to Hungary nor Austria nor
Germany, you know. I worked there and had a good time, and
I made friends, you know, but I wasn't emotionally in-
volved. Here I was emotionally involved. How can you
explain it, I don't know.
So, of course, after many years, in '52, we went back
because my wife, she insisted, you know. She said, "Now,
the children are still small, now is the time to go." So
we went for three months in '52. And it was too long. I
cried every evening, "Oh, god!" Anyhow, we had a wonderful
time. We went all in luxury, with American passport. You
know: "I['m] American."
LASKEY: So 1952 was the first time that you went back
after leaving in 1936?
LASZLO: Yes. So, of course, I didn't feel anything for
Germany, or for, you know— But we enjoyed it, especially
she enjoyed it. I remember we came into London— we flew in
from New York— [she said,] "I love that, I love that."
[laughs] And we flew to Paris, and we took a taxi from the
airport to the hotel. [Maxine said,] "I can't believe it;
I'm in Paris! I can't — " So to her it was especially
important; to me, I knew Paris, I knew London, I knew
Berlin, I knew Switzerland.
LASKEY: But after all those years, what did it feel like?
LASZLO: [pauses] VThere? In Germany?
LASKEY: Yeah, probably, Germany, more because that's where
most of your —
LASZLO: I believe they are still Nazis.
LASZLO: They are still, you know. Because of the reason
that history is still with them. You know, I remember when
the whole world was afraid of Germany. The whole world was
scared to death of Germany. They were big, and business
was booming, and— So, they remember it, that it was six or
eight years, or six years, a wonderful time if you were
Germans and you didn't mind the daily [harangue] of Hitler
or [Joseph] Goebbels, [Hermann] Goring everyday.
I like to look at, here, football. My wife resent [s]
it. But when I came over, I went to San Francisco on a
trip with a car of mine and came back Saturday morning. I
turn on the radio. And we heard football. People were
happy, and shouting thing[s], you know; every station was
football. It gave me a great feeling that I don't have to
listen to Goebbels, and to Hitler, and to these people, but
[to] football, you know. People are at peace and enjoying
themselves. So this made a great impression on me, which I
LASKEY: I think that's a wonderful place to stop.
TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE ONE
DECEMBER 19, 1984
LASKEY: Mr. Laszl6, in our last tape when we had finished
talking we had just gotten you to the United States. So I
think this time we will pick up with that part of it. When
you got off the boat in the United States in 1936, what
happened to you?
LASZLO: First of all, I was on the boat and was still
under the scare of what [was] happening to me: Whether it
was real or not; I know not. On the boat the last day,
when we landed in New York, we had to go to the big dining
room where all the inspectors [were].
LASKEY: This was on the boat?
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah, on the boat, you know. It was about
six, eight, ten inspectors who checked it over, for your
paper[s], including mine. So I was a little bit appre-
hensive, you know, to see so many officials. And the first
man who was taking my passport was apparently a doctor, you
know, who checks over whether they're healthy. So he sees
my Hungarian passport and he says, "That son of mine — "
Apparently, he was Hungarian. [laughs]
LASKEY: Oh, really? Well, that must have made you feel
LASZLO: So — yes, you said it — at once, I felt a little
better. And it went very smooth, and I debarked on my "L,"
you know. Each person had to go to his initials: "L." I
had fifteen brand-new, polished, black luggages. [tape
recorder malfunctions briefly; continues mid-sentence]
God! How will I go through to open up all these luggages?
But before I left I bought in Switzerland a hat, a
Borsalino hat, which is, I believe, was the best in the
LASKEY: The Borsalino hat?
LASZLO: The Borsalino, yeah. Very light. And green. Of
course, I did not — I liked green, so — I am waiting there,
under "L," you know. I'm wondering how will I explain it;
I couldn't speak a word of English.
LASKEY: That's right.
LASZLO: How will I explain it? This is fifteen [laughing]
luggages! So, apparently, an inspector came again — a
custom [s official] — and he look [ed] at me and he embraces
me. I don't know what he said, but he was an Irishman and
he saw my green hat! [laughter]
LASKEY: Oh, that's wonderful.
LASZLO: And so my entry was very pleasant. I didn't have
to open up anything. I took a taxi and went to Hampshire
House. Do you know New York?
LASKEY: Not very well, not very well.
LASZLO: Hampshire House is facing the Central Park.
LASKEY: How nice.
LASZLO: At that time, I remember, [a] beautiful room:
five dollar [s] .
LASKEY: Oh, my.
LASZLO: Which was twenty [ Deutsch] marks . I think, God!
I'm spending already [laughing] the money! But I stayed in
New York about ten days. And then I met a friend of mine,
and we got a car and drove out to here. We went first to
Grand Rapids [Michigan] , because the furniture — I was
interested in, you know, and at that time. Grand Rapids was
[the] center of the furniture industry. Not any more, but
at the time it was there. And it was-- We went to a famous
factory, the name was Baker. So we went in the showroom, a
big showroom, and the man comes out and said, "Mr.
Laszl6." So apparently — I didn't remember him — apparently
he visited me in Stuttgart, in my studio. Many Americans
came over to look around and I would design-- Anyhow —
And then we went to Chicago [and] Buffalo to look at
the Ford factory. Slowly we came to Denver, and Las Vegas,
and Los Angeles. And it was a revelation: beautiful
sunshine; Beverly Hills was all green and beautiful and
peaceful. It was wonderful, you know, I'll tell you. I
fell in love in New York with America, [but] especially,
here it was — And at the time, of course, it was easy. I
took an apartment in Beverly Hills, where today Neiman-
LASKEY: Oh, how nice.
LASZLO: And I paid seventy-five dollars for a two bedroom
apartment. I bouqht a car because at the corner it was a
car dealer. Opposite of Neiman-Marcus , it was a car
dealer. So I bought a car. And went to luncheon to [the]
LASKEY: The one on Wilshire? Or the one in Beverly Hills
or the original one?
LASZLO: Beverly Hills. And I was impressed. At that time
they had only girls serving. Pretty girls, apparently, who
could make out in the movies. They had this beige-brown,
like crinoline, dress, you know? I remember that I paid a
dollar for the full luncheon. And [in the] afternoon I
went over--I don't know anymore how--and joined a tennis
club in — On  Motor Avenue was a club. West Side.
LASKEY: I think it's still there.
LASZLO: Still there, but under a different name. But at
the time, it was the club, because all the famous people,
movie stars, they all belonged there. You know? Everybody
who had a name belonged there. I loved to play tennis, and
I was pretty good. So I joined the club and — I thought
maybe I told you — after a few days I got a call. At the
time you [could] get a phone in half an hour, you know?
LASKEY: I can't imagine it, but I guess there were those
LASZLO: I don't know how, but it was three days after, I
got a call. The man [Walter Loewendahl, Jr.] spoke
German. And he said to me, "My father [Walther Loewendahl,
Sr.] wants to have you design a shoe salon downtown. If
you are willing to do the job for three hundred dollars,
then the job is yours."
LASKEY: Now three hundred dollars had to have been a lot
of money. Wasn't it?
LASZLO: Three hundred dollars translated in a luncheon at
the Derby, which is like two dollars —
LASKEY: A dollarl
LASZLO: Anyhow, I don't know how, but I did the job and
everything was fine. Regardless that I couldn't speak a
word of English. I don't know how I did it. Of course,
his son helped me; he spoke German and English. So this
was the start. After a few days, I was already working.
LASKEY: How did he know you were here?
LASZLO: Maybe I told you the story in New York that I went
down in Hampshire House to look at the menu, a breakfast
menu. And of course I didn't know what it is. So a couple
at [the] next table, they notice that I don't know what to
order, how to talk. So they came over — they spoke a little
bit of German — and they helped me to select the breakfast
and invited me for a day in New York.
LASKEY: How nice.
LASZLO: Strange [laughing] people. Strange people.
Stranger now that strange people — It was wonderful. So
they took me to Long Island — you know, Forest Hills —
because they notice that I have [an] interest in tennis,
and had luncheon and dinner. And they brought me back to
the hotel, and that kind of thing. And I gave her a kiss,
you know, but I forgot the names. I forgot the names.
But these people [in Los Angeles], these Loewendahls,
apparently were a friend of [laughing] them. And they told
Mr. Loewendahl about my name and that I am in California;
Los Angeles. So he remembered the name from Germany [so]
that, as a result, he called me up and I got the job. And
then — I don't know anymore--! had many people coming,
phoning me. One was Slavick's.
LASKEY: Oh, the jewelry store?
LASZLO: Yeah. And they were, of course, strangers to me,
but they were kind enough to say, "Join us Sunday at" —
whatever date. Now they lived here somewhere--you know,
Santa Monica; a big house. And he had a workshop where he
loved to make furniture.
Mr. Slavick? This is Mr. Slavick?
He was a furniture maker too?
He died in the meantime. They were older people.
but wonderful, you know. And then, I don't know, a lady
approached me — a decorator. And she told me that she got a
job which is too big for her, and she heard of me, al-
ready! I don't know how.
LASKEY: Now, you still hadn't — At this point you still
hadn't opened your own store, your own office?
LASZLO: No, no. But, I believe that [I] was already
working on my home office in — I rented the top floor at
[the] Fox Wilshire Building [8440 Wilshire Boulevard,
Beverly Hills]. The movies, you know?
LASKEY: Near La Cienega?
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah.
LASKEY: Oh, really?
LASZLO: It belonged to Mr. [Albert H.] Chotiner. His son
is in politic [s]. He supported Nixon, you know.
LASKEY: Murray [M.] Chotiner is the son, right? Murray?
LASZLO: He had two sons, but only one whom I knew. So I
rented the whole floor, and he couldn't believe it.
And he said, "Yes, but it [will] cost you a hundred
dollar [s] a month; are you able to pay me six — " He spoke
a little bit of German. He came from Czechoslavakia, I
believe; the old man Chotiner. So he told me, "A hundred
dollar [s] a month and six month [s] payment at once, in
front of you."
So I said, "All right." [laughing] Six hundred
dollar [s]! I told him that I want to remodel the whole
[Chotiner responded] : "Remodel? Refugee — Remodel
the floor? He's crazy!" [laughter]
Anyhow, I remodeled. I tell you, this was my best
office in Los Angeles.
LASZLO: Yeah, beautiful. All the view from that; Los
Angeles, you know. And I had a big private office: big,
big, big private office. Anyhow, so then, this lady — her
name was Jessie something — she told me she got a job which
is too big for her— for a couple, [the] Weingarten [s] .
LASKEY: For who?
LASZLO: Larry [Lawrence A.] Weingarten, who was at that
time married to Sylvia Thalberg. She was the sister of the
famous producer Thalberg.
LASKEY: Irving Thalberg?
LASZLO: Yeah. So of course to me, to be [inaudible]
without anything, you know. You don't know Europe —
Producers in America, you know — *[The name Irving Thalberg
didn't mean very much to me at the time because I had only
been in America a short while and most Europeans, including
myself, didn't know anything about American producers. The
only famous movie names I recognized were Charlie Chaplin
and Clark Gable.]
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
LASZLO: Trapped in [the] United States. But that's all
you know. So, I met the people. It was a remodeling job
in his [Weingarten's] Beverly Hills home [1936-1937]. I
did the job, and no problem; [laughing] no problem.
LASKEY: How did you get around the language problem?
LASZLO: I don't know, I just don't know. In the meantime,
this Jessie who-ever-i t-was married a man, an older man [A.
Rosenfield], and they wanted to have a house in Palm
Springs. So she asked me to design the house, [laughs]
which I did. Did that in Palm Springs. [pauses]
Then I met, through [the] tennis club, many people.
There, a promoter in the club, was a gentleman, a real
gentleman, Elmer Griffin, who was the — is the uncle of Merv
Griffin and awfully nice. So, in this club, I met a German
couple, [Mr. and Mrs. Walter] Jurman. He was at MGM . He
composed this famous song: [sings] "San Francisco, open
your [golden gate]--"
LASKEY: Really? And he's from Los Angeles?
LASZLO: But he was a German.
LASKEY: He's a German.
LASZLO: So we became friends. And after a few weeks he
told me he would like to build a house in Brentwood. And
he bought already [a] lot on Bristol Avenue in Brentwood.
Awfully nice street, you know. So he told me to go ahead.
to make the plans, which I did. And we had a contractor.
The day we wanted to start he called me up, "Paul, stop
everything, I get a divorce." So this job was down.
In the meantime--! don't know the correct sequence of
these jobs anymore because they [are] about all the same
time — and I went to Bullock's, maybe I told you, downtown
and talked to the district manager who is in charge of the
decorating and remodeling of [the] departments. So he told
me, somehow, that he doesn't have anything for me but
[that] I should see a Mr. [Raymond C] Dexter at Bullock's
So I went to Mr. Dexter with my book of work. And he
gave me a job. At first, one department and then, slowly,
almost the whole Bullock's Wilshire.
LASKEY: Bullock's Wilshire. How did you happen to go to
Bullock's? Did you, just because they were a good
department store, or did someone tell you there was
something that needed to be done?
LASZLO: I can't recall; maybe somebody told me, or out of
the paper I saw-- I don't know anymore. [tape recorder
LASKEY: How long was your association with Bullock's?
LASZLO: Many years, many years. But I did — Of course,
[the] Wilshire store went for years because I did two
departments [a] year. There [were] several departments.
you know, so it went on for years. In the meantime, I did
some work in Bullock's Pasadena, that I did.
LASZLO: And Bullock's Wilshire, and Bullock's Palm
Springs. So in the meantime I bought a lot on Lindacrest
Drive in Beverly Hills and started to build my house [Paul
Laszl6 House, 1602 Lindacrest Drive, 1936-1937]. And so I
worked and I know not anymore how many work [jobs] I did.
But soon the house was finished, and it was a good house,
interesting house — at the time. * [My wife, Maxine, who is
a lot younger than I am, remembers this house well, perched
on a hillside overlooking Coldwater Canyon. As a young
girl driving by on Coldwater Canyon Road with her parents,
she has told me a number of times, how impressed her family
was to see it--at night particularly, with all the glass
and the superabundance of electric lighting. She says my
house stood out like a landmark and that they used to
wonder what sort of rich person lived there who could
afford all the electricity bills.] You know, today it
won't be anything, because today —
LASKEY: Can you describe the house?
LASZLO: — they are building so many interesting homes.
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
[Laszl6 looks for photographs of his Beverly Hills home]
LASKEY: While we're looking for that — The work that you
did, prior to building your own house, for these people
that we've been talking about, were you working as an
architect? Did you actually build houses?
LASZLO: Oh, yes, yes.
LASKEY: And then you were also working as a designer?
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah. [indicates photograph] This was part
of my home.
LASKEY: So now this looked — You were up in the hills —
LASZLO: [simultaneously; unintelligible] — the downtown
[Beverly Hills and westward] , yeah.
LASKEY: — looking into, looking toward the city? How
would you describe this house?
LASZLO: I don't know — modern. [laughs]
LASKEY: It's a long overhang. This is a wonderful balcony
with an overhang, and it's all a total glass wall looking
out into the valleys. It's very modern, but it's not —
It's very soft. [turns page] This is very interesting:
it looks like there's two steps up to — What is that, a
LASZLO: It was a combination of a living room and a
library. It was a big, big room, and adjacent to the
dining room. And then we went down, and it was a full-size
floor, which later on became my office.
LASZLO: And it was a wonderful time we had. And, of
course, the house attracted many people, so I got several
jobs, I got from the house. And this was before the war.
I did two homes in Bel Air, two or three homes. One big
house in Tarzana for a producer, Henry [Heinz] Blanke was
the name. He was a producer at Warner's for many years.
And so many other jobs.
LASKEY: Now these houses that you designed, did you create
the design? Or did they generally come to you with some-
thing in mind, and you created what they wanted? Or did
you — Did they come to you because they liked what they had
seen and they wanted you to design something in your
LASZLO: Oh, yes. You know, at the beginning, I had
clients--several European people who came over here — who
liked my European style, modified according [to] here, the
climate, which permitted this all-glass. But they liked
what they have seen, so I got-- It was not easy to do a
job. At the time, of course, I didn't have clients with a
blank check, but people who were--f igured out that it
should have cost four dollars a square foot. So it was, in
this way, was more difficult as later. But at that time I
learned a lot. And then — So people came over from Europe
and a couple--! knew the lady from Europe — and they wanted
to find a — not a job, but something to do — a business. And
they went all over, but he couldn't — So I suggested to
him, "Why don't we have a partnership and create an open
I noticed that people are scared of a fee. You don't
mind if you see the rest cost $5,000, but if you mention
the fee you know that whatever it is, you know, they say,
"Plus the fee?" So somehow I felt it is a lot easier not
to mention fee, but to say, "This costs so much." And it
is a correct fee. So, we went into partnership with the
man and myself, and my assistant got a partner, Mr. Eden.
So each had a third, you know.
LASKEY: OK. So Fritz Eden was your partner, we have to
talk about him later. And who was the third man?
The name was [Hans] de Strakosch.
LASKEY: [laughs, pauses to note name]
LASZLO: His family had the sugar monopoly in Austria. So
we find a half-finished building on [362 North] Rodeo
Drive, which belonged to Mr. [George Albert] Hormel. The
meat packer? Hormel. And through the real estate agent,
he was willing to give me ;515,000 to finish up the
building. And if I went over [that] I were to pay for
it. So I took it and opened up in '41. Before the war, or
before Pearl Harbor. I designed everything: the building,
the furniture, the fabrics, the land. It was a big job.
but a wonderful job; every item was designed. And we
opened up in Ml, I believe; the beginning of the war. And
it was fine, everything was fine. But then came Pearl
Harbor. So Mr. Hormel, who was grateful to see [the]
beautiful job I did in his building, he came up to me — he
was an older gentleman — and said, "Because of the war, you
don't have to pay me rent."
LASKEY: Really? My!
LASZLO: Yeah. [laughing] But of course, I did. Awfully
nice, you know. Awfully nice.
LASKEY: Certainly was.
LASZLO: So then came Pearl Harbor, and I felt very patri-
otic about it and enlisted in the army. I was already
forty-one year[s] old. I wanted to get in the navy, but
they wouldn't take me with the glasses. (In the meantime,
they changed everything.) But, so, the army — And
they send me to Wyoming, Cheyenne. Near Cheyenne;
Laramie. And I enjoyed it, you know. I enjoyed the basic
LASKEY: Really? In Cheyenne, VJyoming? [laughter]
LASZLO: Yes. But then I came to commando training, which
was interesting too. But then came out [a] ruling that
older people are more a burden [than] help. Unfortunately,
in my barrack [s] was everybody sick: measles, and so on.
I wasn't sick for a day! [laughs] But "older people were
a burden," you know. And so they said — the army said — that
if a person isn't needed in this age, over a certain age,
they can resign [or be] discharged. But they wanted to
send me to Alabama to become a grave statistician, which
means for [the] whole period of the war. So I said, "No, I
don't want to go." And, fortunately, I did some work for
the general and I did some work for the officers club,
which I designed.
LASKEY: Oh, you were actually able to do some designing?
LASZLO: [laughing] If you find out whoever it was —
LASKEY: Even in the army you can't stop!
LASZLO: So to make it short, I got discharged. I came
home. And it was a condition that, if I get discharged, I
have to go into a defense industry. So I went to Douglas
[Aircraft Company], and the man looked at this and said,
"You couldn't [laughs] make this one." Finally somebody
told me that the motion picture industry is qualified for
"defense industry." So I went to Universal [Studios] and
they took me — as a draftsman, in the art department. And,
I tell you, I was the worst member of this department,
[laughter] It is a different industry, you know; a
LASKEY: Oh, absolutely.
LASZLO: So I was there three months. [I wondered] how to
get out of it, because [it] started at seven o'clock in the
morning there. At three o'clock I quit, and went back to
LASKEY: Oh my goodness.
LASZLO: So how to get out of this commitment. Now, it is
silly, really, to mention it, but they were, they had, each
year, a tennis tournament at Universal or — [Any]more, I
don't know anymore [where it was]. I was a pretty good
tennis player. And several people in the art department
said, "Now if you play, be sure to lose to the boss — or
whoever it was — because then, if you win, you are fired."
So of course this was wonderful for me. [laughing] So, I
beat the — [laughs] I was-- [hits table]
LASKEY: He really did fire you because you beat him at
LASZLO: Yeah. Of course, they didn't need me because in
the movie industry, they are, ninety percent, just waiting
until the last moment to make overtime and "golden time."
So they did not miss me at all, you know. So I went back
full time to my business. In the meantime my partner was
drafted. But before they were drafted, I wanted to
separate Mr. Strakosch from my business, because he just
wasn't flexible. So I bought him out. He went in the army
and Eden went in the navy; both for the duration. So I was
alone. But in my business.
TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE TWO
DECEMBER 19, 1984
LASKEY: Mr. LSszlS, this seems like a good time to go back
and pick up a few questions about what we've been talking
about. At the very beginning, when you came — V'Jell, first
of all, why did you come to Los Angeles?
LASZLO: Oh! Even as a young man, of course I heard about
California. There was even a song about here, Hollywood.
And I was reading a book [in] Hungary, [a] Hungarian book,
about an immigrant who comes over here and had a lot of
problem[s] in New York and finally he landed in Los
Angeles. And he loved to go fishing, here. And he met a
girl and had an affair with her, but he got homesick for
Hungary and he bought a ticket on a boat from here to go
home. And he was on the boat and the girl was saying,
"Goodbye." And at this moment he felt that, "Oh, god,
suppose she gets a baby, my baby." So he jumped off the
boat and became a newspaper writer. And they gave him a
job in Honolulu as a fish expert, or somewhere. All this
because — I loved to go fishing, too, in Hungary. So all
this [inaudible] I come over. I want[ed] to [laughing,
snapping fingers] come over. Which I did, and it was
fortunate really, and —
LASKEY: Did you know Beverly Hills before you got here?
LASZLO: No, no.
LASKEY: Did you have people who could guide you to Beverly
Hills with your background and your interest and your
LASKEY: It seems like such a logical place for you to
come. But it was just chance?
LASZLO: I got a — maybe I told you — a professorship in
Chile, which later on I canceled because all of my friends
told me, "Don't go there, it is too primitive for you." So
I canceled this contract there, and — But here, of course
when you are a tennis player--or a golfer today, but at
that time, tennis player — you belong in a club. In a few
days you know so many people. As I told you — later on I
[will] show you the membership list of the club which Elmer
Griffin send it two years ago.
LASKEY: You've been in touch with him all this time?
LASZLO: No, no. He was a flamboyant and awfully nice
person, but he went into so many businesses, you know,
and-- But somehow, I don't know why he mail me this for old
times' sake, the membership list. And, well, [if] you
belonged in the club — especially if you play a game, you
know, tennis — you make friends.
So, I remember the first week that I was in the club,
we went out to a preview to Pasadena. And a gentleman--the
name was Walter Huston — he was in this group [of] about
five, six people — a very nice person who tried to talk to
me, you know. He said — I understood [him] — he was in
Budapest and he liked it, or something like that. Of
course, I couldn't speak [English]. But he was so nice,
really. I told his son, John Huston, later, how nice his
father tried to be to me. So anyhow, what did —
LASKEY: Well, we're talking about why you — how you ended
up in Beverly Hills —
LASZLO: I told you, this was the reason.
LASKEY: And then, I'm also wondering about, we talked a
little bit, but I'd like to talk a little bit more about
the feeling in California, in Los Angeles, in Beverly
Hills, in the thirties as far as the — for your field — the
area of creativity. I think at the time, the modern
movement was just beginning to take hold in the United
States, but very specifically in Los Angeles.
LASZLO: Yes. I believe that a few people, including me,
had a great impact to create this typical California style,
which became, later on, became famous in Europe, too.
Because we had the chance here because of the climate to
create something which was new, [and which] later on became
an example. Because, in the meantime, they invented air
conditioning, which made it possible to use the same style
in [a] snow climate too because [of] air conditioning and
heating [the] home. Well, at the time, there weren't too
many architects or decorators here, you know. Today there
are millions of them, but at the time it wasn't — it wasn't,
you know, a job. So it — A person had to be special to be
busy. And apparently these few people, including me, had
something special. Because I was always busy. I never had
an empty period. So was, I believe, [Richard] Neutra
[busy] too. I don't know because I did not follow up his
LASZLO: I mean, I didn't know what he was doing. I knew
about him, you know. As a matter of fact, when — During
the building of my house [in] Beverly Hills I took an
apartment in Westwood, Landfair Avenue, very nice apartment
which was just being built. And the owner permitted me to
make changes; [it was] overlooking UCLA, and everything.
And at the same time Neutra was building an apartment
house, just almost across the alley. They couldn't rent
LASKEY: Well, it must have looked very scary to people. I
think that the Neutra — In the thirties the Landfair
apartment buildings must have been extremely modern for the
LASZLO: Yes. But, I mean, I didn't know how busy he is;
what he does —
LASKEY: You didn't know him personally, then?
LASZLO: I met him once, or twice; I don't know. He lived
in Silver Lake and I lived in Beverly Hills and somehow we
didn't get together. I am not a person who contact [s]
other people in the field.
LASKEY: But it's interesting because Neutra was building,
and Rudolph Schindler was building, modern houses at the
time out here, too, and your houses — But they're all quite
different. How do you explain the difference in yours?
LASZLO: I believe his style was his personal religion.
VThich means he believed in this just — just like the pope,
you know. [laughing] He wrote the letter and that he
I wasn't the person, you see-- I was more flexible and
I enjoyed — I enjoyed being flexible, to create many
things, you know. Different kind[s] of things. Because
each work is important. Each work deserved respect. And
to be as fixed in ideas, it did not appeal to me . I did
many things, but basically I followed my own style. But
different kind[s] of things; I did all kind[s] of things.
LASKEY: Well, your modernism seems to be tempered somewhat
with traditionalism, too; it's a softer kind of modernism.
LASZLO: Yes, you know. It has, I believe, a certain
charm, which is missing [in] some other modern people.
LASKEY: But yet, you seem to use — be experimenting with
materials; you used more modern materials than was
traditional — than were being used in the more traditional
housing that was being built here.
LASZLO: Yes. I always believed in a certain eclectic
design, which means it shouldn't be everything just strict
LASKEY: I also, looking at a book, at some black-and-white
[photos] — But from the color pictures I've seen I also
think that you used a lot of color, which the strict
modernists weren't using at the time.
LASZLO: Yes. Yes, this was one of the reason [s] I got
some jobs, because I was more colorful than the others, you
know. Especially here, people like color.
Then, I jump again, to [the] early [sixties]: Mr.
[Joyce Clyde] Hall, from Hallmark, that he approached me.
I told you the story, didn't I? They were, for three
months, trying to find a designer in New York, Chicago, in
Paris, and London, who would design a new store for them in
Kansas City, [Missouri] . And they could not find what Mr.
And Mr. Hall had a house in Malibu. Well, he came
out — Hall — from time to time. And at this period, when
they were desperately, apparently, looking for a designer
who can design a store for them. They were here, he was
here, and his president of the stores [John D. "Jack"
Kaiser] were here, at the same time. And his assistant
lady [Jeanette Lee], a very nice person, was here. So Mr.
Hall told Jack, "You go, you go to Bullock's and find out
who is the best designer in town; you Jeanette Lee, you go
to"~I don't know where~"and we'll meet up at luncheon in
the [Brown] Derby in Beverly Hills." So they had met us at
luncheon. And Jack Kaiser was telling him, "Mr. Hall, I
went Bullock's and they said the best designer is Paul
Laszie." So Jeanette Lee said, "You know, I went to some-
where else and asked them, 'Who is the best designer?'
[And they said] 'Paul LSszl6.'" [laughs] And Mr. Hall
said, "I just got a phone call from my son (who was in the
business), and he suggested to look up Paul LSszl6.
[laughter] So they came up to my office [that] after-
noon. They came up and — And he was listening, and finally
he said, "I don't believe you are for us; [your work is]
too colorful, too color — I want all white." So then they
left. But after two days, he calls me up — Mr. Hall, who is
a king, you know —
LASKEY: Yes, Hallmark.
LASZLO: Exceptionally smart, you know. Intelligent man.
He calls me up and said, "Mr. LSszl6, I don't believe you
are for us; too colorful. But, anyhow, why don't you come
out, and your girlfriend, to my house on Saturday, for
dinner. Be here [at] four o'clock." So we [my wife and I]
went out and, to make it short, I took along some of my
store work, the photos and everything. [Hall said:] "Too
much color for me, I want a white store." So we had
dinner, steak; he ate only steaks. And after dinner he
says, "Why don't you come to Kansas City to see me,
there." So I said, "All right, I would come on Wed-
nesday." He said, "No; Monday." So, to make it, in short,
I got the job. [laughs]
LASKEY: How did he reconcile the fact that you were too
colorful with getting the job?
LASZLO: Now-- Of course, he was too smart not to know that
if a person, if he said that "I want a white store," I can
make it white. And it was a wonderful experience even
[though] he chewed me out for hours! Boy, oh boy. He
got — Dressing down! [laughs] But it became the most
beautiful store. And they were happy with it, and his
artistic advisor, Mr. Henry Dreyfuss — I don't know whether
the name means anything to you.
LASZLO: He killed himself in the meantime. He and his
wife [committed suicide together] . He wrote me a letter to
say that how beautiful the store was. It was a beautiful
store. Not only beautiful, but on the first day on, it
made a profit. On the first day on, you know, it was a
success, it was. I don't know whether you know Kansas
City. They have a beautiful district like, here, Beverly
Hills. And he got the best location, which was saved in
this district for an important firm, like Hall's. So it
was an experience. So, talking about color! [laughs]
LASKEY: Well, to go back to that, or to continue with it,
the — As I'm thinking about it, you know, you were de-
signing furniture and you were designing your own fabrics,
which you had to have made and all these things that you
had to have made. So you had to have had around you a
group of artists or artisans, or you had to have been in
touch with the people who could do these things. Was it
difficult in Beverly Hills, again, in the thirties, early
forties, to find the people who could do this for you?
LASZLO: No. First of all, I designed everything myself.
I had good people like an architect who was with me until
he retired, an architect. And I had a few good people with
me, but no artists, which mean I designed everything.
Everything, you know. This was the reason that I didn't
want to grow, because if you grow, then of course you can't
design. I had once about eight people here, and after a
few months I said no, no, no. You know, because —
LASKEY: Too many?
LASZLO: You know, when you have eight people, then of
course it means more jobs, then the phone rings and
visitors and the phone and social engagements and this
meeting; you can't design. No architect here who had a big
office knows even what-- Well, I don't want to say.
Anyhow, if you have too many people employed, that means a
big business, where you don't have the time to design
anything. So I said, "No, that['s] enough for me; I don't
want to." And it was all right, at least all right for
me. And that's the reason I was able to design everything
LASKEY: V^fhat about getting your designs transferred into —
To find the weavers and the mills, or the artisans to make
LASZLO: Weavers? I would — Fabric — We had to use several
weavers at that time. Some of it was — Was before your
time. Mrs. [Dorothy] Liebes in San Francisco was excel-
lent. And here, here was a weaver that I don't know the
name anymore. And they did many jobs. In the printed
fabrics I got a firm in Zurich and a firm near Stuttgart.
LASKEY: So you were still having your fabrics done in
LASZLO: Some of them. Some of them. Because here people
are not interested in small yardage. Because here a firm
wants, I don't know, thousands of yards, you know. But in
Europe they were, at that time, still able to make a few
hundred yards of what you needed. The same with the book
[Paul Laszlo. Zurich: Conzett and Huber, various
editions, 1935-64] which was printed in Switzerland. I
tried to make it here, but the people said, "A thousand
copies? We are not interested." But in Switzerland — of
course, he [Alfred E. Herzer] was a friend of mine who
owned a big firm — they did a beautiful job. But it was
possible to make a smaller order filled. Our furniture, we
had a firm here, almost all Germans, who worked for me for,
I would say, forty-nine years. The man, the last man, he
just retired. He's eighty-two [laughing] years old! And
of course when it came to fixture work, like paneling, we
had here an excellent firm, a big firm, called Standard
Cabinet Work[s], who does all the stores and banks, [and]
in Las Vegas, the casinos. They did this kind of thing
too. They are still in business; very big. So it wasn't a
problem of, up to now — Of course, I don't know anymore
because I quit. And so it wasn't a problem at all to get
the right people.
LASKEY: V'That was the climate like as far as your clients
were concerned? We think of California, now we always talk
about its casual lifestyle. And you came over with rather
sophisticated European ideas. How did the clients accept
that? And your use of handwoven, hand-designed materials
LASZLO: They liked it, but you know I didn't have so many
clients, which means the people who liked the way I do
business, or [the way] I design, they came to me. You
know, equally because — You mention [Paul T.] Frankl,
people who liked his style, they went to him.
LASKEY: Now, I think of your style, especially your
furniture style, as being big, in that it was more com-
fortable. It feels streamlined, and in the thirties it was
somewhat moderne and then in the forties, I hesitate to use
the word overstuffed because I think that connotes a style
that was not yours, but as being —
LASZLO: More elegant.
LASKEY: — quite "comfortable." Not the word I want. You
know, in that even if it was a straight formed-wood frame,
that the seating area would be large and comfortable.
LASZLO: Yes. We all did about the same, only in style was
[it] different. And I came over in '36 and, like I men-
tioned, Frankl, he came over in the twenties, so he was
more influenced by America as [than] I was.
LASKEY: Did you know Paul Frankl?
LASZLO: Oh, yes, yes. He died years ago. He quit his
business on [347 N.] Rodeo Drive and moved somewhere, I
don't know, Newport or Laguna Beach or — And then he
died. We weren't on friendly terms, you know, because he
felt that I invaded his territory.
LASZLO: Which is natural, you know. But we were several
times on the same street. Of course, you don't know about
it; it was an excellent firm called Cheesewright [Mason &
Co.] So they quit and moved to Pasadena. So several
people started all on the same street.
LASKEY: This was on Rodeo? You were all on Rodeo?
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah. But they couldn't make it, and —
Because it takes a lot of work, enthusiasm, and love.
But there's a story. When I came back from the war,
[laughs] from my army, I got busy, and worked every hours,
from six o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock that
evening. Then in '45, the end of '45, I got a call from a
real estate man. Oh, in the meantime, I sold my house
before I went in the army.
LASKEY: This is the house on Lindacrest?
LASZLO: Lindacrest, yes. And so I came back, no house.
And so just after the peace was made, the real estate agent
called me up and said, "I want you to meet a client of
mine. He want[s] to build a house in Brentwood, and has
suggested you. So do you mind to meet us at two o'clock in
Brentwood, on the lot, to give us your ideas." So I came
out and [met] a nice couple from Chicago, or from Omaha, I
don't really know. I knew — Of course, the whole area at
that time was empty on Carmelina Avenue. And it was a nice
flat lot, so I said, "That's wonderful." So the man said,
"OK, I [will] come in, in the morning, to sign the con-
tract." I said, "Fine." Anyway, I showed up.
* [But the man and his wife did not show up. I never
knew what happened until I ran into the real estate agent
So I used to eat the luncheon at Romanoff. Romanoff
on, north of Wilshire.
LASKEY: It was on Crenshaw, wasn't it? Was it on
Crenshaw? Crenshaw and Wilshire?
LASZLO: No, it wasn't, no. Romanoff. It shows, you know,
that it was before your time. Romanoff was on the same
street as my studio on Rodeo Drive. And after many years,
he [Michael Romanoff, ne Harry Gerguson] built a place
 on south of Wilshire, just behind the Beverly
Wilshire Hotel. So Romanoff was very popular, especially
during the war; all restaurants and bars were crowded, you
know. So I used to eat there, the luncheon at Romanoff.
It was excellent food.
And one day this real estate man was there and I ask
him, "What happened to the people?" He says, "They got a
divorce the same evening." And he says —
LASKEY: [laughs] They didn't know that in the morning?
LASZLO: He says to me, out of a joke, "Do you want to buy
the lot?" So I had a lady with me, so I wanted to be very
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
important. [I] say, "Yes, buy the lot." So I bought
[laughing] the lot, [and] built my house [Paul Laszl6
House, 516 Carmelina Avenue, Brentwood, 1946-1947,
remodeled 1953-1954] !
LASKEY: Now this is the house that's been featured in a
number of magazines and stories.
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah. It is in here.
LASKEY: But that came later on. You know, you haven't
LASZLO: [Nineteen] forty-six.
LASKEY: — and we probably should, is your relationship
with Fritz Eden.
LASZLO: With who?
LASKEY: V^ith Fritz Eden.
LASZLO: Fritz Eden. Now, Fritz was working for a firm in
Stuttgart who did my work, executed my work, you know. He
was a salesman, and as a sale — He was a young boy at that
time when I met him. But he learned to [do] this old-
fashioned bookkeeping and so — And he married a Jewish girl
[Dorothy] in Stuttgart. So when Hitler came, they left and
went to New York, both, he and she. We kept in touch, and
I got so busy, you know. So I wrote to them, "Do you want
to come out and help me? With the business end of it?"
[He replied,] "Sure." So he came out. He's [laughs] still
LASKEY: How long were you, how long was he — He was your
business manager basically. He was with you for a long
LASZLO: Until we quit. I still talk to him every day.
LASKEY: That's amazing, that's wonderful. Well, I see I
had asked you about the Crenshaw movie theater [3020
Crenshaw Avenue, Los Angeles, 1944] in one of our
Oh, please don't —
— and you got very — [laughing] It wasn't —
— one of your favorite jobs.
This was the worst.
V'That was the story on that? What was the story on
LASZLO: The story is that they were two Germans who wanted
to build this movie house. They came to me, unfortunate-
ly. Because they should have gone to a person who did
already movie [theaters] but — So I designed a building and
it came in [at] — instead [of], I don't know, [$]50,000 —
[$]60,000. Oh, it was, this was — Today, it wouldn't make
any difference, because $100,000 more, no differnce. But
at that time they were crying and shouting and every-
thing. So which means we have to cut and cut and cut and
cut and cut, until nothing was left; a terrible building.
LASKEY: Well, it was unique in that it was almost a — The
parking entrance: you drove off the street under a canopy,
LASZLO: Yes, I believe so, yes, I--
LASKEY: So that if it was raining, or whatever, you could
let people off —
LASZLO: I believe so, I believe so.
LASKEY: — and then drive into —
LASZLO: I don't even want to remember!
LASKEY: — the parking lot. [laughing] Well, it's still
being used as a theater today, so it couldn't have been
that bad. It's the Kokusai Theater. It's one of the few
theaters to show Japanese films in Los Angeles.
LASKEY: And it's still operating. And it's still
LASZLO: How do you know?
LASKEY: I went there a couple of weeks ago.
LASZLO: Oh, god! [laughing] Oh, god!
LASKEY: [laughing] So it's still intact.
LASZLO: I'm embarrassed.
LASKEY: But I'm looking at a picture of it here, and this
is the entrance.
LASZLO: Well, the picture looks good. [laughter]
LASKEY: VJith the neon up on the — Rut the neon is gone.
And the sign is gone, but the theater is still there, and
part of it is still there. You still drive into it.
Well, how about the Eddy Harth building [9687 V^ilshire
Boulevard, Beverly Hills, 1946-1947], that must have been
LASZLO: Eddy Harth was a good job. They came to me, they
were two partners: Mr. Roth, whose family owned, I
believe, Julius Roth, maker of man's clothes.
LASKEY: Julian Roth? I'm not —
LASZLO: I don't know the first name now. [Louis Roth]
Eddy Miller was a salesman. They were partners. They came
to me to design the store — the front and everything, which
I did. Now, today [it] is a Lanz store, Lanz.
Lanz in Beverly Hills?
Does it still have-- You might describe this
Now, all gone.
It's the most unique window.
Yes. * [Evidently someone else thought so, too.
because a year or so later a remodeling job was done on
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
store further east on Wilshire Boulevard, somewhere between
Doheny Drive and La Cienega Boulevard, just east of Beverly
Hills. This Candy Lane candy store had an exact duplicate
display window. I never did find out who did the job
there, who copied me.]
LASKEY: How would you describe it?
LASZLO: It worked out very good. It made, after two years
we took over the next store, so it was twice the space as
it was here. But it worked out good until the partners
couldn't get along anymore. And then Eddy Miller left and
then went by himself. And Roth died. And apparently they
rented, or Lanz bought it; remodeled it, you know. It is
almost opposite of Neiman-Marcus.
LASKEY: On Wilshire.
LASZLO: On Wilshire.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE ONE
JANUARY 2, 198 5
LASKEY: Mr. Laszl6, when we left off last time we were
talking about the Eddy Harth store that you'd done in
Beverly Hills, and I think probably one of the more inter-
esting things about it was the fact that you used gold in
the glass. Is that so?
LASZLO: I believe the interesting thing was more the
modern feeling which was introduced at the time. Which
means if at that time you looked over Wilshire Boulevard,
you didn't see too many modern stores. You know, it was
mainly old-fashion [ed] . And I believe it was the first
appearance on Wilshire Boulevard to pick a modern store-
front and plan. And fortunately the client [s] were very
fine people and went along to this new ideas.
LASKEY: What was new about it, specifically?
LASZLO: First of all, the front; secondly, the plan in
which you don't see here: how to display the merchandise.
LASKEY: Everything was visible, isn't that right?
LASZLO: Yes, yes.
LASKEY: When you looked into the storefront, you looked
down and could see the various displays, materials
LASZLO: Yeah. And the proof that it worked excellent, in
a year or so, they had to increase the store to double of
size. Which means this was the first store, in a year or
so — He owned the property, you know, so we are talking it
over. I made a bigger store, which lasted until the owner
died. And finally it was sold, as I told you, to Lanz
LASKEY: Right. How did you come upon the design for this
store? How did you evolve the design, do you remember?
LASZLO: [laughing] That's a difficult question, you
know. You get the problem; you work on it; you figure out
what good would be for the store, artistically and eco-
nomically. And I believe the fact that we used, I used,
big windows to see through, to look at into it, made it
inviting to people to come in. And it was [a] very popular
store, which had excellent merchandise. I mean, I don't
want the credit for myself. [laughs] Excellent merchan-
LASKEY: So the large windows were not used then at the
time? This was something that [was] never used.
LASZLO: No, not —
LASKEY: And then looking into the window, there's a — it
looks like it's brass — room divider that adds a lot of
interest to the shop as you're looking through that divid-
er. And it also seems to be a device that you will be
using in your houses later on. Sort of a dividing, an open
LASZLO: You must take it as a fact that, at the time, in
'47, you didn't have as much freedom to get big glass or
you know. Because after the war, it was difficult to get
anything. So maybe this was the idea: that I divided to
get a better feeling, and less glass, you know. Because,
if I remember, it was difficult to get this plane glass.
LASKEY: Really? This was in 1947? Then—
LASZLO: This door was —
LASKEY: — what about the materials that you've used
here? It looks liked you've used, well, you've used the
glass with the gold —
LASZLO: This was marble.
LASKEY: — the brass and marble. You used very elegant
LASZLO: Yeah, because they wanted an elegant store, you
know. And it was a fine store.
LASKEY: You use indirect lighting, too, or covered
lighting. Was that —
LASKEY: — new for you? Was that new, [a] relatively new
kind of store lighting? Or had that been used?
LASZLO: I don't think so [it was not new]; no, no, you
know. But it was important to have the merchandise get the
proper lighting. And a combination of incandescent and
fluorescent light gave us this fine feeling.
LASKEY: Did you have trouble getting any of the other
LASZLO: No, I don't think so.
LASKEY: Speaking of the war, did you have, when you were
designing during the war, did you have trouble getting
LASKEY: What happened to your business during World War
LASZLO: Yes. First of all, when I came back from the
army, the fabrics — [tape recorder turned off] So it was
difficult to get many things, you know. And I don't want
to bother with some of [the] details, you know.
LASKEY: VJell, you were mentioning fabrics were parti-
cularly difficult to get?
LASZLO: We had a fabric I remember I bought, I don't know
how many bolts of white fabrics, and took it over to
Western Dye [House, Inc. , Los Angeles] or somewhere, I
don't know where anymore, to dye to a color which I
wanted. And of course slowly it came back again when they
realized that the Japanese won't be here, and the peace was
close, you know. Slowly it came back, but still it lasted
until 1950 or so until you got the material [more easi-
ly] . Because I remember that it was difficult to get, for
my house, doors. So finally I got the doors from U.S.
Plywood and put [them] during construction in my garage,
which was still let open because [it] wasn't finished. And
next morning it was all gone.
LASKEY: The doors were gone?
LASZLO: All the doors. So [laughing] anyhow it shows it
was difficult to get the doors. So finally I got the
doors, new doors. But only [until] '50 or '51 it was
difficult to get; like today, well, you get everything, you
LASKEY: During the war, were you building houses? Were
you designing and building houses?
LASZLO: No. I finished up homes during the first year of
the war, which [had been] started before December 7,
. Like my favorite house, it was Joan Harrison's
house [Holmby Hills, 1941]. This came out excellent. She
was a lovely lady. She was assistant to [Alfred] Hitch-
LASKEY: Oh, really?
LASZLO: Later became a producer. And she bought an
impossible lot in Beverly Hills, at Comstock [Avenue] and
Comstock and — ?
Wilshire, you know.
At the time there was an apartment building where
she lived. She wanted her own house, so she bought [an]
impossible lot adjacent to the apartment house. The
apartment house doesn't exist anymore because they built
big high-rise condos, but the house is still there.
LASKEY: Is that north or south of Wilshire?
LASZLO: It is north of Wilshire.
LASKEY: On Corns tock.
LASZLO: Actually, I'll show you it, it is this way:
[begins to sketch] Here was Wilshire. And here was this
apartment, I don't know the name [of] it anymore, you
know. This was Comstock. But it was a little side street,
but I don't know the name anymore [Birchwood Drive]. And
the house was here, but the entry was here. [continues
drawing] This was the house, which means this was a
hillside. In profile, it was here partly flat here. It
went down this way, and down this way. So when you drive
here, you cannot even see the house.
LASKEY: From Comstock?
LASZLO: From Comstock, no.
LASKEY: Now is the back — So it was built on a hillside?
You had to basically design the house to fit down a
hillside? Was that [inaudible] —
LASZLO: I did not take down the hillside [laughs] because
it was-- [continues sketching] But I designed the house
with, here, retaining wall here and here. And then the
house was — there are somewhere the photos — and here, you
know, which [is] high up, high up from here, but level from
this street here. I must have somewhere the photos because
[it's] difficult — Won't be here [in the book].
LASKEY: So what was —
LASZLO: Oh, yes, it would be here. What was — ?
LASKEY: — the basic style of the house then. It was
oriented away from Comstock, toward the little street that
ran parallel to it.
LASZLO: Yeah. It was —
LASKEY: And it was on a hilly lot.
LASZLO: — a modern home designed for an intellect, a
lady. [pauses, as he turns pages] She was [a] bachelor at
that time. Haven't seen her for many years. She married
and — I remember Clark Gable wanted to marry her, then he
changed his mind, and she was very upset. [stops turning
pages] Here it is. Here you came —
LASKEY: I see, so that — OK.
LASZLO: You came in here. Here were the bedrooms, and
here I created a garden. Here was a kitchen and a dining
room, a living room.
LASKEY: So it's a U-shape: it's built around an outdoor
patio in the center. I see, again, that you have this sort
LASZLO: Yeah, grillwork, yes.
LASKEY: Is it redwood? This in here, is this redwood?
When you design, when you came to California and you
started designing houses, did our climate influence the
design of your houses? Were they considerably different
from your European houses?
LASZLO: I believe it was a combination of my European
background and of course the influence of California. But
so many of my clients, including Joan Harrison — She was an
English lady, she came over with Hitchcock. And so it is
difficult to make a line [between] what is European, what
is American. But it is more Americanist.
LASKEY: Well, in looking at this and at your other houses,
I see, again, as you say, it's modern, in the sense of not
being a traditional period. But it's not modern in the
sense of a Miesian box, or a square box.
LASKEY: I see there's wood, there's the flagstone, there's
color and brick —
LASZLO: A warm feeling.
LASKEY: — and its very soft and very warm looking.
LASZLO: Now, which was always my style, you know.
Basically I didn't persuade my client to accept my own
style, you know. But I designed everything to be tailored
to the client. She was very happy here. She had all the
people, all movie people who came, including Hitchcock.
And I was many times there because she liked me and she
appreciated getting a home which had a special feeling
because it wasn't closed in. In spite of the narrow
property, it had a vista from every room.
LASKEY: V^ell, the idea of using the patio in the center,
or the sort of atrium effect, is so warm. But, again, in
many of your houses — some of the others we'll talk about —
it's difficult in some cases to figure what's inside and
what's outside, which is very nice. I mean right here in
the living room, looking out to the patio. The two of
LASZLO: Yes, I mean, so many people, including writers,
are using this expression "to bring the outdoor [s]
LASKEY: But they sort of run together in many of your
LASKEY: And I know in your own house, that is, in your
Brentwood house — the views, the pictures from the patio — it
really is sometimes difficult to tell.
LASZLO: Part of the home inside, yes. And here, too, you
know. Which means you are able to look here and here and
here and here, wherever you were. And she was very happy
with it. Many of her friends took the trouble to come up
to me. Like David Selznick came to me and said, "Saw your
house which you designed for Joan. I believe it is
beautiful." I mean not in his sense, because he lived in
an old-fashioned house. But he felt that for her, it was a
perfect home: modern, you know. He made — He married a
LASKEY: Oh, Irene Mayer, wasn't it, that he married?
LASZLO: She was, she is, a lovely lady. A very intelli-
gent person. So, anyhow, it was a pleasing result, you
LASKEY: Well, in the Henry [Heinz] Blanke House ["Peasant
Acres," Tarzana] which you did, I think that was before
LASZLO: It was '39.
LASKEY: Yeah, that's more traditional than many of the
houses that you did.
LASZLO: Yeah. It was a difficult job because both were
Germans. Blanke was a German, and his wife at that time,
Ursula, was a German. And the two didn't see eye to eye,
which is always difficult.
LASKEY: Oh, the husband and wife didn't? What do you do
in a case like that, as a designer? Do you just go ahead
and design what you think should be there? [laughs] Do
LASZLO: No, you have to have patience, patience, patience,
you know, to get a good job and to please both. It came
out pretty good, you know, but it has a ranch-type feel-
ing. And it was excellent. And you know too, he was in
the movies, Warner Brothers. He produced many wonderful
pictures: [The] Good Earth, [Life of Emile] Zola. I don't
know whether you have seen the pictures.
LASKEY: Oh, I have.
LASZLO: So he was a wonderful fellow. Later on he became
a drunkard, you know, but highly educated. It was a big
job, and the funny thing is that I used an American
trick. They had a house, an old farm house — old, old, old
house — which they wanted to save, somehow. So he had all
the designers in the studio, Warners — he worked for
Warners — and they tried everything, you know, to fix it;
they couldn't. [laughing] So finally he came to me. So
what I did, I cut the house in two.
LASKEY: You cut it in two?
LASZLO: Two, yes. And moved it: one here, one here,
Literally? You moved the house?
Yeah, yeah. Isn't it a picture of it?
No, there's no picture here, unfortunately.
No? But I —
I have one at home, but I don't have one here.
But I have somewhere [laughing] a picture of how
they were. And so they were--
LASKEY: No, there is, there is. I just — Here we go, I
didn't think there was, but is this it? [indicates photo]
LASZLO: Yes, yes, '39, yes. This was all new here, this
LASKEY: That's the patio. Where was this house? It looks
like it was out in the valley.
LASKEY: Tarzana. Yeah, it looks like it.
LASZLO: Actually, they didn't save a penny, but they felt
that, well, they saved part of the [old] house. But every-
thing was finally new. But they liked the idea, too.
LASKEY: [laughs] So you told them you were going to save
LASZLO: So he, too, had all the movie people there. Every
Sunday there was a brunch for his producer [and] director
friends and I was often there.
LASKEY: Well, again, it seems to be a U-shape, much like
the Joan Harrison House, in that the patio — The house is
built around the patio. But it has a completely different
look, because of the tile roof--
LASZLO: Yes, well, this was the garage here.
LASKEY: — and the overhanging rafters. And the more, what
would you say, ranch-type —
LASKEY: — or rustic-looking. But again the big windows
and with the cross-bars.
LASZLO: Of course the pictures were taken before it was
completely furnished, you know. Which means, like here,
here you don't see furniture.
LASKEY: Did you do the furniture too? Did you do the
interior on this house?
LASZLO: Partly, yes. But they had some furniture from
Germany, and so it was a combination of old and new.
But the next was Sidney Buchman. He was a wonderful
fellow; he died in the meantime. He was a producer and
writer at Columbia [Studios] . And he wrote and produced
many pictures, like the [Al] Jolson pictures.
LASKEY: Oh, yes. I remember those.
LASZLO: Unfortunately, after I designed his house, they
got a divorce. And he had a beautiful lot on Sunset
Boulevard. Big property.
LASKEY: Sunset in Beverly Hills, or up in — ?
LASZLO: Yes, you know. I believe adjacent, almost
adjacent, to this house which this Iranian —
LASKEY: Oh, [laughing] yes, the, right in Beverly Hills,
right near the Beverly Hills Hotel, within a matter of
LASZLO: It was an excellent design, which I loved. But
they divorced the day when we started, or wanted to start,
to build. Then he went to New York. Finally he went to
the Riviera in France, and he died there. But, wonderful
fellow, wonderful fellow.
LASKEY: Well, you know, we haven't discussed your house,
your Brentwood house, which is sort of, was like one of the
first that you did and that other people saw.
LASZLO: Not the first because I built the house, my first
house in '36 and the Brentwood house in '47. So in the
meantime I designed many homes. But of course my house — I
told you [the] story how I bought the property, the lot,
didn't I? Yes, I did.
LASZLO: And at that time [while building the Carmelina
house] I was a bachelor. So nobody —
LASKEY: Now this is the Lindacrest house?
LASZLO: No, no, no. In both houses I was a bachelor
[until late in 1949] . So nobody —
LASKEY: In both h — ? Oh, oh, OK.
LASZLO: So it was easy for me to do whatever I want, but
in the limit of the money I wanted to spend. It was my
favorite building, really. And it worked out excellent; we
[Maxine and I] had a lot of fun and pleasure for thirty-one
LASKEY: How did you approach a design for your own home
LASZLO: My home? I had it in me for years, you know: how
I wanted to live. Which mean[s] it didn't come as soon
[as] I bought the lot. It was already in my mind how to
live in California. And when I bought the lot — which was a
fluke, or whatever it was — it was just the way I wanted to
have a house. People would say, "You are crazy to put the
house way inside instead [of] at the front."
LASKEY: Why did you do that?
LASZLO: Because I wanted to have privacy.
LASKEY: How did you see California living for yourself?
LASZLO: V^Jell, you have to use very, use up words and —
LASKEY: That's OK.
LASZLO: It has a different feeling in California. Of
course, if you were born here, you don't notice it, because
you take it as normal. But basically it is different from
any other states. And it struck me the first day I ar-
rived; you got a pleasant shock. It's beautiful here: the
climate, the trees, the green, you know. So, apparently,
it was in me already. Fortunately I was able to buy the
lot. And it was fun to build it because nobody told me how
to do it, how to spend the money, what to do with the
lot. [laughing] It was — That's important, you know.
LASKEY: Oh, it's very important. It's wonderful that you
could do it. And it's interesting that, I don't have a
good picture of it here —
LASZLO: I have it here.
LASKEY: — but I recall the, again that, as you say, almost
the cliche term of "inside and outside," that is so
pronounced in your house, particularly looking from the
patio into the living room. [sound of pages turning] It's
very difficult to know — You just have the Y-beams , those
beams that are holding up the, what looks like the large
cantilevered cover, that then goes into the living room.
Is this how — is this your personal vision of living in
LASZLO: Yes, yes.
LASKEY: A lot of glass. Yeah, that's the picture [of the
Brentwood house, 1954 version]. Again, the glass and
stone; water. It's [a] beautiful stone wall. Looking at
the picture, when looking at the picture from the pool, and
the wall, it is difficult to know if you're inside or
LASZLO: This was part of the reason I wanted the house to
be way in, so I am able to use glass everywhere. And we
had the sun.
LASKEY: Now, you have a very wide overhang, this side
here. Was that for sun? For protection against the sun?
LASZLO: Oh, yes.
LASKEY: I mean, just massive walls of glass here, and they
do have draperies on; you had draperies on the glass.
LASZLO: Yes, we had some draperies, but actually it was
first, when I designed the house, it was only eight feet
overhang, and [I] built in some screens which came down to
protect against the sun. But after a year or so, I said,
no; is too much work. [laughter] So we added sixteen feet
more, so we had twenty-four feet overhang.
LASKEY: How large was the house? It looks very large.
LASZLO: Large: when I sold it, it was about five thousand
LASKEY: Now, the use of stone on the front, is that just
because — ? It looks almost like it fits into, just blends
into the landscaping.
LASZLO: First of all, it represent[s] the privacy idea.
LASKEY: Now this, the stone is in the front as you come up
to the house. All the rest of the house faces toward the
back, right? The pool and the —
LASZLO: Now, the new owner put here a plaster wall now.
LASKEY: Over the stone?
LASKEY: Oh, dear.
LASZLO: [laughing] It looks to me like, to me, an instant
slum house, and he paid two million dollar [s] at least.
LASKEY: And he covered over the stone?
LASZLO: He wanted to change it; he didn't want to have a
LSszl6 house because he is a designer — he thinks he's a
designer, too. So he changed everything in a way that it
shouldn't resemble a LSszl6 house.
LASKEY: Then why did he buy a LSszl6 house?
LASZLO: Because he liked that one. [laughter]
LASKEY: That's wonderful. How do you as a designer feel
about someone going in and doing that to something that you
like? Changing the wall —
LASZLO: Fortunately, I don't have any feeling about it.
LASKEY: You don't?
LASZLO: No, you know. Which means that I don't mind to
change, if he changes [it]. It won't bother me at all.
That's his problem, [laughing] you know?
But, interesting is the Beverly Hills Hotel, if you
want to talk about it. Now, it was owned by a family,
[Margaret and Stanley] Anderson. And they had a big
mortgage which was carried by Bank of America in San
Francisco. And apparently the hotel, before the war, was
LASKEY: The Beverly Hills Hotel?
LASZLO: The Beverly Hills Hotel, you know. Of course, in
the meantime, it changed. But at the time it was half
empty. [The hotel was sold by the Andersons in 1928; the
new owners closed it in 1929. It was reopened in 1933.
— Ed.] And apparently they couldn't paid the interest, so
the bank sent out its vice-president, Hernando Courtright.
LASKEY: Really? He was a vice-president of the Bank of
LASZLO: In San Francisco, yes.
LASZLO: So he set out to try to manage it, or get the
money out somewhere. He's a very smart and hard-working
LASKEY: But at that time, he'd had no experience in the
hotel business? When he came, he was with the Bank of
LASZLO: [pauses] No — no. So he came out and he tried
to — He's a big talker, you know, but interesting man, you
know. Great salesman, great salesman.
LASKEY: Must be.
LASZLO: So, I believe it was '38 or '39 when he approached
several people, whom he met socially, to come and live in
the hotel. He approached Freeman [F.] Gosden. He was
"Amos and Andy." Very nice fellow, awfully nice fellow.
But very stingy on money.
LASKEY: [laughing] Was he really?
LASZLO: He made millions, millions. Anyhow, so Freeman
told Courtright, yes, he would move in. At that time, he
too was a bachelor; he divorce [d] his wife.
LASKEY: Was Courtright at this time acting as manager for
the Beverly Hills Hotel?
LASZLO: Yes, he was in charge of the hotel. You know, for
the bank. So Freeman told him yes, he would take a suite
if he [Courtright] would pay for the remodeling and deco-
ration and furniture and he [Gosden] can choose his own
designer. So Courtright said that's OK. So Freeman was
choosing me. And so it started out with Courtright. And
he saw what I did for Gosden; he gave me more jobs and more
jobs and more jobs and [laughing] more jobs. And we became
friends, until '48 or so [when] I finished out the Rodeo
Room in the hotel.
LASKEY: Now is that [the] Beverly Hills [Hotel], or the
Beverly Wilshire [Hotel]?
LASZLO: Beverly Hills [Hotel] .
LASKEY: That's the one in Beverly Hills, OK.
LASZLO: Then, he became too smart, you know. He "knew
everything." How to choose the colors, how to do this, how
to do this — So [laughing] finally I told to Hernando, you
LASKEY: [laughs] That's too bad.
LASZLO: And at the time, he engaged Loper.
LASKEY: Oh, Don Loper?
LASZLO: That one; he died years ago. But he did —
Apparently they made a deal that Loper designs for
Courtright[ 's] wife [Marcelle Eva de la Llaca Cuillery de
Vos Courtright] , who was an entertainer.
LASKEY: Oh, I was going to say, I had really thought of
Loper more as a fashion designer than as an interior
LASZLO: No, he was a fashion designer. And somehow Loper
did a design and made Courtright [ ' s] wife['s] outfits. And
Courtright give him a job to do rooms at the hotel. So,
anyhow, we are still great friends with Courtright.
LASKEY: [laughter] You're still friends.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE TWO
JANUARY 2, 198 5
LASZLO: Anyhow, finished. Finally, he [Courtright] and
his partners bought the hotel and finally he bought out all
his partners and then sold the hotel and then moved, for
years after, to become in charge of Beverly Wilshire
LASKEY: Did you design, did you do any of the bungalows
for the Beverly Hills Hotel?
LASZLO: I did a few, and I remember he told me when Walter
Winchell came out at that time he insisted [that] he gets
Bungalow 12, which I designed.
LASKEY: I've noticed, since we've been looking at your
pictures while we've been talking, that many of the
photographs were taken by Julius Schulman. How did you
know Julius Schulman?
LASZLO: I don't know anymore. But he did the first job
for me, '37 or so. And he did many work for me, and he
does an excellent job, provided that it fits his ideas how
to design a house, you know. You know.
LASKEY: Oh no, I didn't —
LASZLO: Oh, sure.
LASKEY: — know he had any ideas how to design a house. I
just thought that he was a photographer.
LASZLO: [laughing] "I invent it all." He does an
excellent job when a room doesn't have furniture.
LASKEY: Oh really?
LASZLO: But — don't tell him — but when a room has
furniture, he's helpless.
LASKEY: That's very interesting. I guess I really think
of his pictures or his photographs as being exteriors,
mostly. But that must be why.
LASZLO: And, speaking about interiors. Well, some
people are excellent taking interior shots. Some people,
like Schulman, they don't want furniture, you know. So he
did many jobs for me. And then I engaged Cleveland and
LASKEY: Maynard Parker and Robert Cleveland.
LASZLO: Very nice, all are very nice.
LASKEY: They are all excellent, too. They're certainly
all top in their field.
LASZLO: All very nice, you know.
LASKEY: But Julius Schulman in particular has gone on to
become sort of the dean of architectural photographers, and
I wondered if he was at the time you knew him or if he
LASZLO: He just started.
LASKEY: — was another photographer?
LASZLO: He just started. You know, after all, it was
almost fifty years ago. He just started with me, and with
[Richard] Neutra. And he became — He gives lectures today
for architects, you know. [laughs]
LASKEY: I know.
LASZLO: This was, I believe, the last job for Courtright.
LASKEY: Now, that's the Rodeo Room.
LASZLO: Still there, I don't know in what shape. But he
loved it, you know.
LASKEY: Well, it's wonderful looking. Again, the wood and
glass, and very much that California — The glass looking
out into the gardens, and the wood-paneled walls. Did you
ever do any work at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, or you were
just friends at that point?
LASZLO: No, no. This is a house. I don't know whether
you recall Axel Zacho?
LASKEY: I know the house that you did [Gilcrest Drive,
Beverly Hills, 1950]; I don't know who he was though.
LASZLO: He had a store on Wilshire Boulevard, for Royal
Copenhagen, and some Swedish glass. What was the name?
Was Swedish; glass. He had the exclusive —
LASKEY: Yeah, there's Orrefors.
LASZLO: He was a character, you know. V\Je bought from him
many things, you know. If I ordered half a dozen bowls, he
sent me a dozen bowls. Fortunately, because we didn't
accept [inaudible]. And then he killed himself. But
before he killed himself, I designed a house for him.
LASKEY: Now, again, I don't have a picture of it here.
But as I recall, it was one of the more modern exteriors.
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah.
LASKEY: It was a wood exterior and it sort of had the
spiderleg bands that came out —
LASZLO: We don't have —
LASKEY: — from it in the front, in the patio, it was a
LASZLO: — too many pictures because, I don't know — We
have one picture of the streetfront. And he liked the
house, she liked the house, but the two didn't see eye to
eye, and so finally he killed himself.
LASKEY: That's very sad. Now most of these people who
came to you, did they find you after seeing someone else's
house that they liked? And then they sought you out.
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah.
LASKEY: How much freedom did you have in most of these
houses? In choosing materials and in choosing design, did
you — Was there much salesmanship involved?
LASZLO: No. I wasn't a salesman.
LASKEY: I just meant design wise, as far as —
LASZLO: No, I know what you meant, but — Which means I
tried to anticipate, by looking at the people and talking
to them, how they feel about many things. I didn't have
too much problem. Once in a while, you know, but very
seldom. Very seldom. So, it wasn't a problem. The money,
especially at the beginning where I was dealing with
smaller people who didn't have the money to spend, there
was a problem. I mean, we had to work very hard to bring
it down to a price. Which means, at that time, it was a
standard of four dollar a square foot. Now if the
contractor came in with a square foot of four-oh-five —
which means four dollar and five cent — we had to take out
[inaudible] four dollar. Now later on, when I got a client
who had more money, it disappears, [laughs] which means I
didn't do jobs where the money wasn't available.
LASKEY: Were you selective in the clients that you took?
LASZLO: Yes, I did that. Fortunately, [laughs] I was able
to say, "No, I don't want to do the job."
LASKEY: So you did have some control over your design?
LASZLO: Oh yes.
LASKEY: In the degree of what you chose to do and not to
LASZLO: Oh, sure. Of course, to a certain degree, you
know. I mean, you can't be inflexible, because after
[all], you're dealing with human beings. No — but I am able
to tell you, and tell myself, that I pleased the people,
and we became, all the time, friends; never enemies. All
people for whom I designed a house —
I did work for a couple, Henry Koster, who was a movie
director * [and his wife Peggy Moran, who was a movie
starlet] . He started at Universal with the Deanna Durbin
pictures. I did five houses for him * [two houses on
Outpost Drive in Hollywood, one on Whittier Drive in
Beverly Hills, two in Pacific Palisades]; the last one was
in Leisure Village in Camarillo.
LASKEY: That must have been fairly recently then, wasn't
LASZLO: Yes, two years ago. And he wouldn't want anything
without me. We are still great friends. So basically it
was a pleasant work. And the fact that people were happy
and pleased, and had enjoyment that I feel — A lady, I did
the house, she is telling me, you know, that, "I get up
every day, every morning I get up and see the house and
what you did [and] I feel happy." So this is of course
pleasing for me, too, because this is a part of the purpose
to do work; not for money.
LASKEY: But it would be nice, it must have been nice to be
able to design something that you liked, and then had the
client who could both appreciate it and afford it, not have
to cut back.
* Mr. LSszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
LASZLO: Well, you know, of course if a person is like me,
sixty years in this field, I designed so many things that I
could keep you busy for a year, you know, to tell you so
many things that — which pleases me — I don't need an outside
compliment. I enjoy it, but I don't need it. I know when
I did a good job and, unfortunately, I [laughing] know when
I did a bad job.
LASKEY: Well, in sixty years of doing all the many things
that you did, you must have also had your share of eccen-
trics that you've had to deal with.
LASZLO: Eccentrics, oh, yes. [laughing] One of it was
here, Beverly Hills. It was a couple: Sam and Sadie
Genis. Did I tell you the story? No. She hired me first
to do a job in her apartment on Rodeo and Charleville
[Boulevard]. Which I did the job, and noticed that she's a
difficult person, which means what you mentioned, eccen-
Later on, I don't know, a year later on, she wanted to
buy a diamond from a firm which doesn't exist anymore, but
it was on VJilshire Boulevard and Beverly Drive, called
Reingold. A big jewelry store. So she went into the store
and Mr. Reingold told her, "I have here [on consignment] a
diamond which you can have it; have it for $26,000."
LASKEY: This was when?
LASZLO: It was, I don't know, twenty-five years ago. So
she left. After a week she reappeared at Reingold and
says, "I bought the stone directly." So Mr. Reinqold got
enraged and hired two men to go up to her apartment, hit
her in the head and get the diamond. So the two men
[laughing] went up to her place, they hit her head, * [tied
her up with her maid and locked the two of them up in a
closet. Then they looked all over, but] they couldn't find
the diamond. So they went back to Reingold and said, "We
couldn't find the ring," or whatever it was. So Reingold
told them, "All right, if you didn't, I don't pay you the
fifty bucks which I promise [d] you." So they went to the
police. He [Mr. Reingold] lost his whole business * [and
was sent to prison] .
LASKEY: Well, I can imagine; that's shocking.
LASZLO: So anyhow, these people moved to Beverly Hills
Hotel in the penthouse. And they hired Paul Williams —
LASKEY: Oh, the architect.
LASZLO: — to redesign the whole big suite and everything,
which he did. But she was a difficult person. And she
wasn't permitted anymore to go into Mocambo or Saks —
LASZLO: So she had a fight with Courtright, and finally
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
Courtright sued her — and him [Mr. Genis] — and they went to
court. To make it short, Courtright lost because he used a
tape recorder. So he lost. But in [the] meantime, they
wanted to move out, so before they moved out, she bought
some yellow paint and painted all the walls, the ceiling,
just, just —
LASKEY: Defaced them.
LASZLO: Defaced them. *[Mrs. Genis also strung up a
clothesline along her outdoor balcony (which prominently
faced on Sunset Boulevard on one of the upper floors of the
hotel) and hung up her underwear, corset, panties and
stockings to dry in the breeze. Mr. Courtright had an
absolute fit about that.] In [the] meantime, her husband
called me back, and says, "Paul, I want you to look at a
house which my wife wanted to buy, and tell me whether you
like it or not." And I told him, "Sam, I don't want to
deal with you."
LASZLO: He said, "Paul, please do me a favor. I don't
want anything but you just go there, come back and tell me
that the house is all right." So finally I broke down and
went out. The house was on Sunset Boulevard just west of
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
Whittier [Drive] . An ugly house; a slum, old slum house.
So I came back and said, "Sam, I don't believe that your
wife will be happy with this house." [He replied,]
"Please, please, don't say it! I don't want to build a
house with her because she drives me crazy." So after a
few days he calls me up, and said, "Paul, do you want to
remodel the house." I said, "No, I don't want to do a job
for you people." [He said,] "Please, please, please. You
can charge me anything you want to, you know this." So
finally, again, [inaudible] [I] said, "All right, but under
the conditions that not you or your wife is going to show
up on the job. And you pay me every Friday my fee." So it
was an old broken-down house, which didn't — jerry-built.
We started to build. It was a cost-plus job. Jackson
Brothers did the job. Jackson Brothers were actually in
the commercial field.
LASKEY: They're contractors?
LASZLO: Yeah, big contractors. He was a bishop in the
Mormon church, but [a] contractor. Very nice people,
because they did some work for Mr. Genis, shopping
centers. So he choose Jackson. They didn't want to do the
job either! But they were — So anyhow. Every morning,
every morning Mrs. Genis was there.
LASKEY: Despite your contract.
LASZLO: Despite the contract, every morning she was
there. And she treated the laborer [s] — She told them,
"You S.O.B., my husband has millions! You are such — "
LASKEY: Terrible! I'm surprised you could keep the
LASZLO: My partner came several times crying in that
office. With me, she didn't dare to do anything. She
treated the people just that way — and foolish. It cost a
fortune to do the job, you know. And so after two months
or three months of work, Sam came to me and said, "Paul,
every Friday [I have a] problem with my wife, because she
is signing the check. Do you mind, I give you my word as a
gentleman — [laughing] You have to wait until the job is
finished, and I give my word that you get the fee." So
what can I say but "all right." So the work — It was a big
job, a hillside job, which went down from Sunset to the
alley and street below. Most amazing.
LASKEY: Well, it's a beautiful house.
LASZLO: Retaining walls, thirty-feet-high retaining wall
to make it livable. And after a few months he died. He
was in an auto accident with his girlfriend who was a
sister of this — the girl who was the mistress of this Las
Vegas man, I don't even know.
LASKEY: Of who?
LASZLO: A gambler. Las Vegas.
LASKEY: Bugsy [Benjamin] Siegel?
LASZLO: Bugsy Siegel, yeah.
LASKEY: Yeah, OK.
LASZLO: He died, but she [the girlfriend] was alive, you
know. And apparently, I didn't know, he bought a house for
her. And when he died it came out that he bought a house
for her. I didn't know about it until the landscape
architect who did this job came to me and told me, "You
know, you believe Mrs. Genis was difficult? [Siegel 's
girlfriend] is ten times [laughing] as difficult." *[In
any case, Mrs. Genis was pressured to pay what Mr. Genis
had owed on behalf of Siegel 's girlfriend for the house,
the landscaping and the pool. Mrs. Genis didn't complain
too much about the house, but having to pay for the
swimming pool, too, put her in orbit.] So the job was
finished excellent; [the] job, it looked good.
LASKEY: It looks great in the photograph.
LASZLO: But both died. In an auto accident, she died.
LASKEY: This is Mrs. Genis, or [the girlfriend]?
LASZLO: No. No.
LASKEY: Mrs. Genis.
LASZLO: Genis. She didn't have a cent finally, you know.
LASKEY: What happened to the house?
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
LASZLO: They sold it very cheap [at auction] . Maxine was
there, at the auction. Finally a man from San Francisco
bought it, and he added a room to it. And he called me up
and said, "Do you want to look it over to look at the
house, what you did, because we did the — we rejuvenated it
just the way it was originally done." I don't know what I
did. It looked good, you know, and — So this was — I lost
the money because, I tell you, this was a difficult job
[laughter; inaudible]. *[I lost money on the Genis house
because Mr. Genis was killed before the rest of my fee had
been paid, and Mrs. Genis refused to honor the debt. I
didn't want to have anything more to do with her, let alone
file suit against her. So I charged it up to experience
and wrote it off as a bad debt.]
Then, I [would] like to talk about Goldwater's. Did
LASKEY: No, I thought we would get to that a little later,
because that's a department store. Just to talk about the
houses, your architecture, your residence architecture
LASZLO: V>rhat about the William Perlberg House [Beverly
Hills, 1950-51]? Have we —
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
LASKEY: No, we haven't talked about that, that or the [Mr.
and Mrs. Charles P.] McGaha House [Wichita Falls, Texas],
LASZLO: He was a producer —
LASKEY: William Perlberq.
LASZLO: — at Fox. As a matter of fact, he made a picture
which was my favorite. Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street.
LASKEY: Oh yes.
LASZLO: And he hired me to do the job. And he said,
"Paul, you go ahead and do what, everything you want. I
won't show up on the job." Which he didn't. Only once, he
showed up only once. [laughter] Only once; when he showed
up, a salesman from, I don't know. Arrowhead Spring Water,
tried to sell him something. So he says, "Paul, never
again." Only once! l^en we were finished with the house,
and furniture, everything, added —
LASKEY: And he was never there, he just never came —
LASZLO: And she [Mrs. William "Billie" Perlberg] was never
LASKEY: That's amazing.
LASZLO: So [the day everything was moved in and set in
place] I gave a party for Mr. [and] Mrs. Perlberg *[in
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
their new house] . They gave me list of the people, about a
hundred people, all movie people: Jack Benny, and George
Burns, and whoever it was, Hedda Hopper. I gave the party,
and Chasen's catered it. And I put in everything — his
clothes, his shoes — before he saw the house. At the party
he saw the house the first time. They came seven o'clock
and everything was in: clothing, shoes, china. Everything
was finished. It was a big party. The music was — dancing,
everything. And it was all right. So finally he sold the
house because they moved to Palm Springs. And then Mr.
[Julian M. and] Mrs. [Leona Hertz] Saks bought the house.
LASKEY: This is of Saks Fifth Avenue?
LASZLO: He was grandson of the man who created Saks Fifth
Avenue. She was the daughter of Mr. Hertz: "You drive
Hertz." And she [Mrs. Saks] called me and I designed seven
more maids' roora[s] at her home. She was difficult to talk
[to] the first few weeks. So I told to Mrs. Saks, "I don't
want to work for you." So she brought in the wife of
Mervyn LeRoy, Kitty Spiegel was her name. Kitty Spiegel
was a daughter of Spiegel mail order house. She was
married to Mervyn LeRoy. And so she [Mrs. LeRoy] came in
with my successor, and [Mrs.] Saks, said, "Please, please
do the job, I will be — " [laughs] And she kept her
word. So I finished up the job.
LASKEY: Now, this was the William Perlberg House, you're
making an addition to it, is that right? This was in the
valley, was it? Or was it in Beverly Hills?
LASZLO: This was, I believe, was 620 Mountain Drive in
Beverly Hills. It is, I believe, [off] Hillcrest [Road] ,
it is a street which has a circle. Mountain Drive in
LASKEY: It was a very warm and comfortable-looking house.
LASZLO: Yeah, very nice. She [Mrs. Saks] had cancer, nose
cancer. She had twenty-eight operation [s] . So I build an
overhang over the pool so she should not get sun. And [I]
build many things. She was immensely rich. And when I was
finished, she always says, "I have to give a party for you
because you did such a beautiful job. But I have still a
problem with the [upkeep of the] house." She had two
LASKEY: Two cooks?
LASZLO: She had a chambermaid, two butlers; and she said
to me [laughing], "I have still a problem with the [help]."
LASKEY: Well, how large was the house? I didn't recall
from the pictures that it was that large.
LASZLO: Four thousand square foot, but seven maids were
[inaudible]. And every afternoon at two o'clock the butler
had to put up a sample setting for the dinner, two peo-
ple. One china, one silver, one glass, and everything,
[laughing] you know. And finally she gave a big party for
me. And again Chasen's catered it, and there was music and
all. All her friends, which were important people, were
LASKEY : Oh, this was marvelous.
LASZLO: After that — or before, I don't know — I qot a call
from a lady [Mrs. John D. (Frances) Hertz]. She said, "I
am Mrs. Saks's mother and I have some work in my house to
do. Do you want to come over and talk to us?" So I told
to Mrs. Hertz — half a joke, half serious — "I had already
LASKEY: [laughing] You didn't need Mrs. Hertz!
LASZLO: [laughing] I didn't need you! And she said, "No,
we are different, please do it." So we made a date for
Wednesday at two o'clock. It was in Woodland Hills, Shoup
Avenue; he had one hundred and eighty acres there. So that
I was two o'clock there. To make it short, they wanted me
to do a big job, you know. I designed it and they approved
it; they liked it [Hertz House, V^oodland Hills, 1952-53].
LASKEY: Was this a remodeling of the house?
LASZLO: Yes. But mostly remodeling turns out [laughing]
that you destroy everything. And they left without giving
us a qo-ahead ; they left. So we did not know what to do.
So I told Fritz-- My partner calls him up in New York. He
was a partner also at Lehman Brothers, this investment
banking firm, Mr. Hertz was a partner in New York. So
Fritz called him up and told him, "Mr. Hertz, you left
before telling us to qo ahead with the job." Mr. Hertz, he
spoke very slow, he said, "Yes, it is a large amount of
money you want." So Fritz is telling him, "Yes, Mr. Hertz,
but you should have, really, the best." So he said, "Yes,
you are right, please go ahead." So I did the job, and it
was very nice and we became quasi-f riends , which means he
trusted me, and he asked me, "I want everything." And then
he wanted me to build a bomb shelter [Hertz bomb shelter,
Uoodland Hills, 1954-55].
LASKEY: A bomb shelter?
LASZLO: Yeah. You saw the picture. So I designed a bomb
LASKEY: We're talking about the early fifties then, right?
LASZLO: It was, I believe, '52 or '53. And it was a
complicated job, very complicated job, very complicated
job. It is just like the same to build a submarine the
first time, because nobody knew how to build a bomb
shelter. But I mean the way — I meant, the way it was
designed: very big, fourteen people, elevator; because he
couldn't go down the staircase, he was too old, she was too
old, so an elevator would be needed. Building the bomb
shelter — And everything was as you can imagine. As a
matter of fact, when it was finished, Mr. [Lewis L.]
Strauss, who was at that time the chairman of the Atomic
Energy Commission, he came out because they were friends.
And he told Mr. Hertz that [it was] the first shelter
[laughing] which makes sense, you know. So he engaged
Edward Teller. Now Teller is an atomic scientist, you
know, who was called "the father of the hydrogen bomb."
LASKEY: Something that he didn't like too much.
LASZLO: So he [was] engaged to check over before he
[Hertz] pays me my fee, that everything is all right, see
this is really, really, a bomb shelter. It was [inaudible]
interest [ing] but every person who worked on this job lost
money: I lost money, the contractor lost money, whoever
was involved, because it was unknown, you know. Every
little item, we had to go to the city hall to get a special
permit. It was [a] complicated job, with a generator and
ventilation; many thing [s], many thing [s]. And today I
don't know how I was able to do that.
LASKEY: Well, that's what I was going to ask you about —
LASZLO: I don't know [how].
LASKEY: — to talk about. It sounds so totally different
from anything else that you did, and I'm just really curi-
ous about material selection, and depth, and lighting,
LASZLO: This was the reason he came to me, because he felt
that I am going to find out about everything. So I had to
find out. Every little item was a new thing. We ordered
sixteen feet Armco [steel pipe] ceiling, they're quarter
inch of thick and eight foot in —
TAPE NUMBER: V, SIDE ONE
JANUARY 18, 198 5
LASKEY: Mr. LSszl6, the last time we were talking, we
started talking about the bomb shelter that you designed.
And since that was such a unique thing, I thought we should
start over again and start talking about that from the
LASZLO: Yes. Somebody, or a magazine, approached me to
design a future home or city or village or development,
which I did ["Atomville , " 1950]. I believe, I don't know
exactly, but I believe, it appeared in Popular Mechanic [s].
LASKEY: Popular Mechanics?
LASZLO: I believe so, I don't know; it was so many years
ago. And since I did the remodeling [and] furnishing [of
the house on Shoup Avenue] for Mr. [John Daniel] Hertz,
somehow it came up, the idea — [microphone adjusted]
Somehow it came up, the idea that he wanted to build a bomb
shelter. So I asked him, "Mr. Hertz, in your age" — he was
seventy — "how come that you want to build a bomb shelter to
save your life?" So he told me — he had a deep voice — he
told me, "Mr. LSszl6, when you are in my age, every day is
very important." [laughter] So he gave me the job to
design it, which I did. And it was a complicated thing
because it wasn't any precedent, you know, [to] show you
something, to explain it better, a little bit. [looks
through papers] I don't have here the —
LASKEY: Oh my goodness.
LASZLO: Basically it was very —
LASKEY: These were the mock-ups — ?
LASZLO: This was [the] original idea, you know, out of
which I developed the bomb shelter. But it was a compli-
cated project, which today it would cost at least a million
dollar [s], at least. But at the time, I didn't know, and
the contractor didn't know, and the subcontractor didn't
know [what it] was all about. So we all lost money on this
LASKEY: V'Jhere did you start to research the information?
LASZLO: Mr. Hertz had a connection to the air force, and
there was a foundation in Albuquerque [New Mexico] called
[the] Lovelace Foundation, where apparently they were
playing around [with] how to protect or how to save people
in case it comes, an atomic attack. They had two men who
worked on it, partly: Major [Robert] Crawford, who died in
the meantime, and Mr. [James] Clark, who I believe invented
the silicon idea.
LASKEY: Oh, really?
LASZLO: Yeah, because one evening both were in our house
for dinner and he showed me a little thing. He said,
"Paul, it cost me seven cents; I invented it. And sell it,
for sale, seven hundred dollar[s]." And so someone came
back, you know, I believe, he had to do with this
invention. So, anyhow —
LASKEY: This is the early fifties that we're talking
about, right? About 1953?
LASZLO: 'Fifty-three, I would say. And, so Mr. Hertz,
with his connection to the air force, and to Mr. [Lewis L.]
Strauss, who was chairman of the Atomic Energy Commis-
sion. These two men were assigned to me to help me, and
explained how it works. And Mr. Crawford was at that time
already in Pasadena, in the air force office; I don't know
how. So we met and apparently he had experience in atomic
testing. And so he explained it to me, was [talking] all
about it, you know: how the danger is mostly not only the
bomb, but the pressure. Which means, of course, if the
bomb hits your house, [it's] gone. But if the bomb hits
Los Angeles [and] you are in Woodland Hills, where he was,
then of course the pressure is — Tremendous amount of
LASKEY: That's from the winds, the fallout from the winds?
LASZLO: Yeah, air pressure. So he helps me with this
idea. And then you buy it and later find out what's all
about it in approaching people and engineers. And finally,
I put it together. We used tremendous arm[or], called
[galvanized] steel pipe. The diameter, I don't know,
twenty feet long, or more, twenty-four feet long, you
know. And digging the ditches fourteen feet below the roof
level. It was a very complicated job. And looking back,
as I told you before, I don't know how I was able to do the
job, you know. But I did, and it worked with all the
problems. All the problems with so many things, you
know: elevator, staircase, and generator, and battery;
many things were new. I don't believe, except in Washing-
ton for the president, any individual would do such a job,
you know, because it cost too much.
LASKEY: Well, did you do the engineering on it? Did you
figure out the widths of the metals and the — ?
LASZLO: Oh no, I had an engineer, oh, yeah, who calculated
the stress of this — All ventilation and how to clean the
air, and communication with the outside world; many things,
LASKEY: Well, that's an interesting question. What would
they do for ventilation, because obviously you couldn't use
the air, because the air would be polluted from —
LASZLO: No, it is the same [as] air conditioning, you
know. It is filtered, and filtered, refiltered.
LASKEY: Just refilter the air, that's all. You don't need
a fresh supply.
LASZLO: Yeah, refilter. Yes, you know. We had two geiger
counter [s] built in; many thing [s]. Frankly, I cannot even
remember it anymore, but we had the details — I don't even
LASKEY: Well, there was — I was reading something about
the stairway, the entrances. Either you had to disguise
the entrances, or there was a [inaudible] entrance —
LASZLO: No, it was — He owned, when I started, he owned
118 acres on Shoup Avenue, which is in Woodland Hills. And
so it was about, I would say, twenty yards away from the
house where it started, the concrete structure, you know.
About so high the concrete came up, I believe say so —
LASKEY: About four feet?
LASZLO: The pressure, wind go over it, big circle.
[laughs] And of course he or she [Mrs. Hertz, n§e Frances
Kesner] couldn't walk down the spiral staircase.
LASKEY: There was a spiral staircase that led from the
ground down into to the building, yeah.
LASZLO: In steel, you know. Went down.
LASKEY: Why was it spiral? Was there a reason? Was there
an engineering reason for that, or was it a space reason?
LASZLO: Now, of course, we wanted to reduce the shelter to
a minimum size, you know, which means a spiral staircase;
underneath it, only three feet [of floor space] . But a
staircase would be, you know, [larger]. And then we have
here the staircase, and here was an elevator.
LASKEY: Now, the elevator came from the ground level?
LASKEY: So there was an elevator and the staircase, both.
for getting down into the shelter.
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah.
LASKEY: That's amazing.
LASZLO: And it was designed for fourteen people, which
means his help and his — And food storage, many things; and
beds and bathrooms.
LASKEY: Well, how big was it? How big was the interior of
LASZLO: It was, the height inside, was like here, you
know, with a different —
LASKEY: Eight feet.
LASZLO: — different, but it was a cylinder, which means in
the center it was as high as a cylinder. Here were the
beds, you know, built in. Like a big — [inaudible; laugh-
ing] Like a submarine, really.
LASKEY: Were there fourteen beds down there? I mean,
fourteen cots, or — I mean, was it — You said it held
fourteen, so could it actually sleep fourteen people?
LASZLO: Yeah. Yes, yes.
LASKEY: And what did they do about food storage? Did they
have dried food put in? What would they have done about
food and water, for example, had there been an atomic
LASZLO: Well, the idea was to supply for three weeks all
food, which was in the atomic shelter, you know. Food,
like in a pantry.
LASKEY: Like canned foods, and things like that. Bottled
LASZLO: Everything. And water, and —
LASKEY: Well, didn't you arouse a lot of attention when
you were building this?
LASZLO: Oh, he didn't —
LASZLO: Oh, he would not even permit me to take photos.
Oh, it was how secret. I explain it to you that at the end
of the project he asked me to make a secret exit, and
engage laborer [s] from out of town so nobody should know
about it. Now, since you mentioned, the escape hatch was,
again, a cylinder. And we provided something to pull the
people out, because he could not, she couldn't crawl out.
It was pretty steep; not [inaudible] but pretty steep
cylinder, you know.
LASZLO: V'Jhich means a person had to crawl. So we made an
arrangement where we were able to initiate a motor which
pulls out a seat, pulls up a seat, you know. Because he
could not have a — He wasn't an active sportsman, you
know. So, I can't recall all the elements which went into
it because it was many years ago, you know. So this was
Mr. Hertz's bomb shelter.
LASKEY: It's amazing. Did the government have to OK any
of this, or was it just a private — ?
LASZLO: The city building department. This was always a
problem, because every item was no precedent.
LASKEY: Did you have difficulty with the building
department, then, getting permits that you needed?
LASZLO: Yes. It took time, because they didn't know
either: how to heat, how to filter, how to generate. We
had connected with city lights and power. And then we had
a generator, and the generator had to be [a] hundred
yard[s] away from the shelter. I don't know why; I'll tell
you more about that. So [the] city insisted a hundred
yard[s] away from the shelter. And then, if both the city
power and the generator fails, then we have a battery
automatically to switch over.
LASKEY: Oh, I see. So you had three systems, that were
three generating systems that he could have used.
LASZLO: Yeah. I believe it is still there. At that time,
I cannot — He gave the whole property to a school. What
school, I don't know.
LASKEY: It would be interesting to find out if it's ever
used. [It was bought from the Hertz family in 1957 and was
converted into the Pinecrest Ranch School, 5975 Shoup
Avenue. --Ed.] [tape recorder turned off] You haven't
been back to find out if it's still there or if it's used,
or what the school might use it for?
LASZLO: No, no. We had some differences with old man
LASKEY: Oh? [interruption; tape recorder turned off]
LASZLO: His secretary, Mr. Victor Herman was the name,
awfully nice person, he got jealous that Mr. Hertz asked me
for [advice about] all his problems; I don't know why, you
So, we did — We moved, I believe, his stables. Then
he put up, he gave up his horses and he sold [a] hundred
acres to a builder and retained eighteen acres, including
the house and bomb shelter. We moved a big stable, oh, I
don't know, half a mile away, in his property. And with
paved, like a street, from the house to the stables;
And this Victor Herman got jealous of me, even
[though] I didn't have anything to do with it. So he said
to Mr. Hertz that while we were building the bomb shelter,
I did remodeling in my [own] house, and that [was] the
reason it was delayed [in] completion this month —
LASKEY: Why would he do that?
LASZLO: — which caused him a disturbance. So when my
partner presented his bill, he wanted to have, for this
discomfort, a reduced bill. Unfortunately, my partner is
the same. "OK, Mr. Hertz," he said, "no, we can't afford
it." He [Hertz] called up his lawyers in Chicago to come
out and sue me for his discomfort that [laughing] the bomb
shelter wasn't —
LASKEY: That's absurd.
LASZLO: And he engaged too, here, a local lawyer, Ed
Lasker — a famous name from Chicago, but he practiced
here. Lasker, Ed Lasker. And he told us, "You know, it is
foolish but the old man is really insisting. He told us
that he goes to the Supreme Court, you know." You know,
the difference was —
LASKEY: [laughs] The Supreme Court?
LASZLO: He wanted a thousand dollar discount on —
LASKEY: How much did he spend on lawyers' fees trying to
get this thousand dollars discount?
LASZLO: That is something else. He came out from Chicago,
a lawyer. And a lawyer here. So finally we settled. I
mean, I lost.
LASKEY: Oh, that's too bad.
LASZLO: You know, it was — [laughs] And the interesting
thing is that he moved out from this house and he bought a
condominium on Wilshire Boulevard, a penthouse. And he
built his own oval swimming pools in the penthouse.
LASKEY: Down on V^Jilshire?
LASZLO: Yeah, Wilshire Boulevard. He had all the money.
you know, I mean. And he engaged somebody, an architect,
and all the time he is telling the architect, "Mr. Laszlfi
would do this — " [laughter] Anyhow, I don't have any
grudge. I never had; I mean, this guy — [laughs]
He died in the meantime, she died, and his daughter
died, and so — But I am, only, alive. [laughs]
LASKEY: And the bomb shelter is probably still there
LASZLO: The bomb shelter, I am sure, is still there. Try
to find out which school got it.
LASKEY: Where is it? What's the street?
LASZLO: Shoup Avenue.
LASKEY: Shoup Avenue in Woodland Hills.
LASZLO: In Woodland Hills. Now, I believe it was the
second block, or the third, from Ventura Boulevard.
LASKEY: Well, you said that the commission for the bomb
shelter grew out of a program that you had done for Popular
Mechanics. And you had those boards that you showed me
that were your Atomville project, which is fascinating.
It's sort of the city of tomorrow. How did you come — ?
First of all, can you describe it. What happened here —
LASZLO: Of course, I believe that many of the architects
are thinking of a project, "the ideal city," and so which
means in my mind, I had it already fifty years ago, you
LASZLO: Yes. You know: how to design a city, you know,
which would be ideal. Later on, I believe twenty years
ago, somebody built a city, an ideal city. I believe that
Nelson Rockefeller financed it.
LASKEY: Oh, Rockefeller Center, or —
LASZLO: If you ask [David] Gebhard, he would remember the
name. Anyhow, many architects were —
LASKEY: Well, the ideal city, through history —
LASZLO: Yeah, how to do that —
LASKEY: Somebody is always attempting to build or design
the ideal city.
LASZLO: Then, of course, and came the atomic bomb, which
created new problems. And then came the amount of cars
which are clogging the — You know.
LASKEY: Oh, yeah.
LASZLO: So, you are thinking how would it be possible,
because more and more people are flying today private
planes. I don't know how many millions they have, private
planes. So that was the idea. Why don't we build the
houses underground, and then use the roof as a landing —
VJhich means this would be a —
LASKEY: Sort of a curved —
LASZLO: — the roof, you know. And here, again, this
concrete protection against the pressure of wind. Here
would be the landing, you know; a continuous —
LASKEY: And then all of the house — This would be
LASKEY: And this is the ground level here. And then this
LASZLO: Yes, this is —
LASKEY: Concrete sort of curved surface that rises —
LASZLO: So many things. Of course, it wasn't engineered,
but it was an idea. And it was interesting to work on
it. Even we made a model of it. We worked on it for
months, the model. [laughs] But it was interesting.
LASKEY: Where's the model? Do you still have it?
LASZLO: I don't know, no.
LASKEY: That's too bad. You did that, then, really,
because of an interest, your own, basically your own
personal interest in — ?
LASZLO: Somebody, either [a] writer or a magazine ap-
proached me. So this gave me the impetus to start again,
because it was interesting. But it was —
LASKEY: Nothing was ever picked up from it. It still
looks like a good idea. I mean, to eliminate cars would
LASZLO: I don't know.
LASKEY: — a definite benefit to humanity.
LASZLO: Because I believe each of us contribute something/
you know. Even a little detail would help. If so many
people are working, I'm sure, on the same idea, because the
problem is here. Now, if you try to go on Wilshire
Boulevard [laughing] in Westwood, then you realize —
So anyhow, he died, she died. And his daughter died
too. I designed the house in, let me think; [it] was '53.
LASZLO: I believe it was '53.
LASKEY: V7ell, I noticed in some of the plans and designs
that you did for other projects, that the helicopter
figured prominently in it. In fact, I think you had one
project that you designed for a helicopter: a means of
getting people to the airport ["PL-47" helicopter terminal
project, 1945] .
LASZLO: Oh, yes. It was — I had an idea to, which is
being done, I mean, today. Each big building downtown has
a pad, you know, for helicopters. Each building has; here
and in New York and in San Francisco. And so I figured
that finally — I took, in San Francisco, several times, a
helicopter from town to airport.
LASKEY: Oh, really?
LASZLO: Oh, sure. And we were in Italy, in Capri. And I
didn't wanted to go again through the misery of a boat from
Naples to Capri and Capri back to Naples. So we took a
helicopter and in a few minutes we were at that airport in
LASKEY: But I think also in the fifties there was a
feeling that the helicopter would be much more of a
personal machine than it's become, don't you think? I
mean, that it was just sort of assumed that we would have
helicopters in much the same way that we have cars.
LASZLO: Well, they have today big helicopters. We have
fifty, hundred people [passengers] , you know. The army has
big machines. So this is the problem. I believe that,
finally, when it comes to a point when it is impossible to
LASKEY: Well, it's almost reaching that point in some
places in Los Angeles.
LASZLO: You know.
LASKEY: It gets a little bit worse all the time, so I'd be
really curious to know how we do solve it, and if that
could possibly be an answer.
LASZLO: No. The politic — They are fooling around, for
how many years, to build a subway. And they just won't do
it, you know. Most amazing that in, like in Germany,
Munich built a subway system for the Olympic games. And
Stuttgart, as well as others, built a subway system. Why
couldn't we [laughing] get here a subway system? It's all
excuses, you know.
LASKEY: Well, Los Angeles, for whatever reason, is
resistant to a transit system, and, you know, something
will happen because traffic will stop at some point.
LASKEY: And when the traffic stops, then what do we do?
LASZLO: Yes. So I believe when it comes to a point where
you can't move, [laughing] then we are going to have —
LASKEY: [laughing] Then we are going to have a [inaudi-
ble], or a subway, or whatever.
LASKEY: But while we're on that subject, we've talked
somewhat about your furniture design, the architecture.
What about your position as an industrial designer? How
does that fit into your scheme?
LASZLO: Of course, I designed several items, even in
Europe. And here it didn't develop in my life to become an
important designer for industry.
LASKEY: Well, how would you define "industrial de-
signer"? Because, I think that's a fairly new term.
LASZLO: Yes. Actually, what it is: you design a chair,
you design a chair. Then you have to figure how to build
it. So this is the job for an industrial designer. Or you
design an automobile, which I did — at least half of it I
designed: [the superchargers, carrosserie and color
LASKEY: Really? An automobile?
LASZLO: Yes, a Mercedes [Benz] . And then you have to
figure out — Then you have a beautiful picture, you know,
of what a person visualizes how it should be. Then you to
solve it, how to build it. So this is the definition of an
industrial designer, who is able to engineer it, has a
design which he designed. Of course, a big — Henry Drey-
fuss, who died in the meantime; he killed himself. He and
his wife together killed theraself. And Raymond Loewy, who
is now not working, and [Walter Dorwin] Teague, and all
these, had big offices because they had big clients. They
went in different direction [s] too. They designed stores
and furniture and automobiles and trucks and everything.
But they had two hundred people —
LASKEY: Two hundred people? That's large; a large firm.
LASZLO: — in that office. Which means they had engineers
and this engineer and this. Which means the person, like
Loewy, you know — Well, don't quote me —
LASKEY: No, I'm just writing down Raymond Loewy ' s name for
LASZLO: He could not design anymore because he was so busy
getting jobs. The phone calls — If you have two hundred
people, or more, you have a payroll, which means you need
jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. I didn't want to be big, you
know. I decided I want to [go] in a different direction
You ask me, too, how come that I design stores more,
[and] gave up designing homes. The simple reason was I
wanted to do my own work, which means I didn't want to hire
a designer who designs, and I put my name on it, you
know. I wanted to design everything. And if you do, then
of course you don't have the time to go out and solicit
work, you know, which a big business has to. And so I was
happy what I did with the small office.
LASKEY: Now, was your office always on Rodeo Drive?
LASKEY: I mean, after you got settled on Rodeo; I know you
had one before you were on Rodeo. But once you moved into
that office, was that your main — Did you stay there until
you retired? Or did you move — ? [people talking in back-
LASZLO: [Referring to voices] I don't dare to get up, to
close the door. [door closes]
LASKEY: That's OK.
LASZLO: I was first in [the] Fox VJilshire Building [8442
Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills]. I had a beautiful
LASKEY: That was the one where you ripped out the
LASZLO: Then we moved to where Regina movie [theater] was
[8556 Wilshire Boulevard], one or two blocks west from La
Cienega [Boulevard] . And then we moved to ray house, which
had a whole floor [of] office space.
LASKEY: Now, is this your house in Brentwood or your —
LASKEY: — house in Beverly Hills? This was the second
LASZLO: Beverly Hills. And then I moved to Rodeo Drive.
I was there at least twenty years until a client of mine, a
Mr. [S. Jon] Kreedman, came and said, "Paul, I am build-
ing — " Now, he wanted to build a hotel, and all the plans
were already finished, and all the contracts are already
signed. When he abandoned the project, instead of building
[a hotel, he built an] office building on Camden [Drive]
and Wilshire, almost opposite of Saks Fifth Avenue, where a
big bank is and has this circular "appendix" [vault] on
LASKEY: OK, I know where Camden and VJilshire is.
LASZLO: And so he built an office building instead of
hotel. And I, since I designed his offices, he said,
"Paul, come over and in the building make your office
there." So, you know how friends are. [laughter] [I
said,] "All right."
LASKEY: "OK." [laughs]
LASZLO: So then I moved to 9601 Wilshire. That was the
address, but actually entrance was on Camden Drive, but the
address was Wilshire. There I was, I don't know, ten
years, or twelve years.
LASKEY: What was it like moving out of your Rodeo office
after all that time? Wasn't it hard to leave your office
LASZLO: No, wasn't hard.
LASKEY: It wasn't hard?
LASZLO: No. It wasn't hard. [laughter] No, wasn't
hard. You know. I was always — I don't want to say
adventurous— but it wasn't hard to leave Hungary, it wasn't
hard to leave Vienna, it wasn't hard to leave Germany, and
it wasn't hard to leave Rodeo Drive. [laughter]
LASKEY: Maybe you're just pragmatic. It makes sense to
LASZLO: So I moved there, and we had a good time there.
And then finally, in '75 or '74, we moved, against my
better judgment, to San Vicente [Boulevard]. A new
building, ugly building, on Bundy and —
LASKEY: Bundy and San Vicente.
LASZLO: San — No, it was on more Barrington [10777 San
Vicente Boulevard] .
LASKEY: Barrington, yeah, that circle of buildings that
LASZLO: And then we took in a partner who worked for us
for sixteen years.
LASKEY: Now, this was — V-Jhen did you move to San
LASZLO: I believe '7.
TAPE NUMBER: V, SIDE TWO
JANUARY 18, 1985
LASKEY: So you were on Rodeo, then, from approximately the
mid forties into the sixties.
LASZLO: No, no. I believe, from '40, because I started to
remodel it '39, so we moved in '40 until, I believe, '62,
LASKEY: And then you moved to San Vicente, and —
LASKEY: I mean to Wilshire —
LASKEY: — and then to San Vicente.
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
LASKEY: OK. I just thought we'd get the chronology
straight. So you had a partner.
LASZLO: Yeah, we took in a partner [James H. Duthie] who
worked for us, before, sixteen years. And my other part-
ner, Fritz, he told me, "Let's give him a partnership; he
worked for us for sixteen years." I wasn't in favor of
it. But I said, "All right." And it didn't work out.
LASKEY: It didn't work out.
LASZLO: As soon as he became a partner, he behaved like a
partner. And it just didn't work out. And at that time we
were already in [San] Vicente, and Fritz, my old partner,
lived here in this building called [The] Penthouse,
[overlooking] the ocean.
LASKEY: Oh, OK.
LASZLO: And I wanted to sell ray house. So, it was —
Finally, we gave the office for the employees. And I moved
over here. I worked here for a few years.
LASKEY: You did your work here? And then the office was
sort of, the business was run at San Vicente? Is that--?
LASZLO: We gave, Fritz Eden and myself, gave the office
for our employees, which included our third partner.
LASKEY: That was very nice.
LASZLO: And two more men who worked for us; very nice
people. But these three couldn't get along. So after a
few months, each went into a different direction.
LASKEY: And then what did you do? You were still working,
LASZLO: Yeah, here [at home] .
LASKEY: You work out of —
LASZLO: It was different, you know. It was a drafting
room. I did a few jobs from here. Big jobs; not big jobs
like a big building, but remodeling. And I went two years
ago--I forget now-- [and then decided that] I don't want
after [all] to do this, you know, work here without help.
So, I eliminated everything and paneled the walls —
LASKEY: Oh, you did this? You had the paneling done?
LASZLO: Yeah. Well, sure.
LASKEY: It's a beautiful room.
LASZLO: Sure. And it's difficult to be here and to work
[for] clients in Beverly Hills or downtown. You know, long
LASZLO: As you know, the traffic and parking [are
difficult] , so I gave up, or the clients gave me up.
[laughter] But it worked out all right, you know. After
all, I was working sixty years. [laughs]
LASKEY: Sixty years.
LASZLO: But I enjoyed every minute, every office. Should
I give you fresh coffee?
LASKEY: Oh, no, this is just fine. I guess this would be
a good time to ask you. We sort of talked about it be-
fore. But talking about your offices, the changes that you
saw in Los Angeles or in Beverly Hills over those very
critical years must have been really amazing. Just in the
immediate surroundings of Beverly Hills where you were, to
watch the city grow.
LASZLO: I didn't foresee that Rodeo Drive will have such a
change. Because if I were to have foreseen, I wouldn't
have moved. [laughter]
LASZLO: Most amazing how in a few years, everything
changed; every building was changed. Gucci came in, and
Hermes came in, and all the French furs came in.
LASKEY: But even when you, before Gucci and before those
shops came in, Rodeo Drive was always considered to be
quite an elegant street, wasn't it? From, almost, from the
LASZLO: When I moved in there were, eighty percent were
LASKEY: On Rodeo Drive?
LASZLO: Did you know that?
LASKEY: No, I didn't know that.
LASZLO: Sure, bungalows. Bungalows. [laughs] People —
LASKEY: That's amazing.
LASZLO: As a matter of fact, when I was on [Rodeo] , one
other building, a bungalow, was a Hungarian restaurant:
Mama Weiss 's Hungarian — [laughter]
LASKEY: That's wonderful. Mama Weiss on Rodeo Drive!
LASZLO: Yes, on Rodeo Drive. Where you got, for fifty
cents, a luncheon, and for sixty cents or so, the dinner
and Mama Weiss was singing. [laughter]
LASKEY: Oh, that's wonderful. That's wonderful.
LASKEY: Did you and she talk a lot, you know, about
Hungary, or, you know — ? It must have been kind of pleasant
company, wasn't it?
LASZLO: No, actually I was not interested.
LASZLO: But the first few months, or half a year — espe-
cially when you don't speak the language — automatically you
seek comfort in talking to people who are talking German or
Hungarian. But after the six months, I made up my mind:
no more German, no more Hungarian; learn English. l-Thich I
did — to a certain degree. And I was not too fond of
Hungarian, so —
LASKEY: Or Mama Weiss.
LASKEY: — or German, you know. And we don't have too many
German friends. We have a few clients who were in the
movie industry, but we don't seek European people, you
LASKEY: VJell, you've been here for almost fifty years. So
this has got to be more home to you —
LASZLO: Oh, sure.
LASKEY: — than Germany.
LASZLO: Oh, sure. This is my —
LASKEY: Or certainly more than Hungary, which was
LASZLO: Oh, sure; this is my home. And we had worked —
Half a year ago, there was advertised that a famous
Hungarian gypsy music, a band, comes over for a week to, I
believe, Bonaventure Hotel, or — no, Hyatt House, Hyatt
House. Hyatt House, where the Broadway [department store]
LASKEY: Yeah, Hyatt Regency.
LASZLO: So we went down, and somehow — And he played. He
plays excellent, but his whole behavior — I felt I don't
want to be Hungarian. [laughter]
LASKEY: VJell, he probably had to do that partly because he
figured people expect, you know, gypsy violinists —
LASZLO: Anyhow, but anyhow, that's my home. And I hope I
am hundred percent American. My wife was born in Los
Angeles, our son [Peter Paul Laszl6] was born in Los
LASKEY: Well, you have seen — you and your family — have,
you know, seen practically a revolution take place in the
city since you've lived here.
LASZLO: Yes, yes.
LASKEY: Beverly Hills must not have been — it couldn't have
been very populated, when you moved here.
LASZLO: Oh, no. As I told you, they were [laughing] all
bungalows. Opposite of my studio was a restaurant called
Pepino. It was Italian style. Then it was a store,
Francis Orr Stationery. And a movie actress, who had
children['s] fashion. Bungalows, bungalows. And Wilshire
Boulevard was all fields, no buildings. It started after
the war, which is now forty years [ago] .
LASKEY: Amazing. Well, you had mentioned, when you were
talking about Mr. Hertz and the bomb shelter, you mentioned
the problems in getting permits and whatever. Did you, all
the time that you were an architect, when you were building
houses, and eventually when you built the stores and the
complexes that you did, did you have much trouble with
building commissions, generally?
LASZLO: No, no, I didn't. I had once a problem with — in
'38 — with a union, which means I didn't know — And the
contractor who I took, he wasn't union. So he started to
build for me, and suddenly, the union came and said, "Oh,
no. You can't build." So, the owner had to pay a few
percent more, and the contractor had to take union labor.
LASZLO: It is the same today, still, you know.
LASKEY: I didn't think that the unions were that strong.
LASZLO: V^ell, they would stop — I mean, they would say
that, well, "We don't let in that union" — a profession like
a plumber, or a painter, or whoever it is. Oh, sure,
because since that time all my contracts were saying, "Has
to be union labor." But at that time I didn't know.
LASKEY: You didn't know. Of the houses that you built,
were there any that were your favorites? Do you have some
that you like best?
LASZLO: It's difficult to say which one, because each
has — Like my [Brentwood] house was, of course, my
favorite. And [the] Harrison house was a good house,
really, because it was a challenge, you know. Because if
you find a lot which is all flat, no trees, then it has a
cinch. But if you find, [laughing] it goes [like this]
inside, that's interesting. And on buildings, I believe,
my best building, was Goldwater [ ' s ] in Scottsdale.
LASKEY: I was just thinking of your residences, your
LASZLO: I believe these two, if — I can't, of course,
recall all the homes, you know, offhand. It's difficult.
But I believe this: my house and [the] Harrison house were
my favorite home[s].
LASKEY: And then talking about your buildings, how — When
did you start building buildings? There was the McCulloch
Oil. Was there significant buildings before that?
LASZLO: What buildings?
LASKEY: You did mostly houses when you first came here, I
LASKEY: And then you, I know, the McCulloch Oil Building
[showrooms, Century Boulevard, Los Angeles, c. 1950] jumps
out as one of the major offices that you did. And then,
later, you started doing major shopping centers like Hall's
and the Goldwater store. And was this a gradual change?
LASZLO: I didn't do major shopping centers, you know.
Hall's was [a] retail area [of] which I was in charge. I
did [the Hudspeth Center shopping mall; unbuilt project]
for Mr. [John] Hudspeth in Prineville, Oregon [c. 1952].
LASKEY: Oh, yes.
LASZLO: I told you the story already, so I don't want to
repeat it. Goldwater was a nice project.
LASKEY: What did you do for Goldwater?
LASZLO: I designed the whole complex [Fashion Square,
LASKEY: This was in Scottsdale, Arizona.
LASZLO: Scottsdale, yes.
LASKEY: VJhen was this, in 'Seventy — ?
LASZLO: Goldwater store and [Hunt's] restaurant and
several mall stores. You know, a whole thing. And it
worked out all right, you know. But later on they build it
three stories high, which means the flair is gone.
LASKEY: Since they added to it.
LASZLO: You know, you design something for a one-story,
important building, and then they are going to put [more
stories on it] .
LASKEY: VJell, what was it particularly that you liked
about the Goldwater project?
LASZLO: In which sense?
LASKEY: You've said that it was one of your favorite
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah.
LASKEY: — and I wondered what made it your favorite?
LASZLO: What made it — I believe I told you the story
before that one day a man came in, he looked like David
[Davey] Crockett. And he came in and said, "I have here
three thousands dollar[s]. If you are willing to take a
chance to make me a design for a store, a real important
store, here it is, the money."
LASKEY: Now, when was this? Approximately?
LASZLO: I believe '59.
LASKEY: 'Fifty-nine. How much was three thousand
dollars? Was that a sizable amount of money, or was that
not very much money in '59? I can't remember.
LASZLO: To me, it was below my fee, but it was nice. You
know, because the challenge was interesting. He had a
property in Scottsdale. So I designed the plan, not in
detail, but the layout, and the front, the fronts. So we
went over to see Goldwater's. They liked it, but they
didn't like the property which the man had because he had a
long lease with a pancake house on their property, so Mr.
Goldwater didn't want. So I forgot it. After two years or
so, somebody calls up from Phoenix that Mr. Goldwater would
like to see me.
LASKEY: Now, is this the senator, or is this his family?
Was it the senator? Senator [Barry] Goldwater that you
saw, or was it his family?
LASZLO: Bob. [Robert Williams Goldwater]
LASKEY: Bob? Is that a brother?
LASZLO: Bob Goldwater. Which means [the] senator wasn't
involved with the store; Bob was. So I came over — he's a
very nice person — and he had three person [s] in charge of
the stores; one is still there. They liked the design and
everything. But no project because he didn't want a pan-
cake house. So after two years somebody called me up and
said, "Do you want to come over to see Mr. Goldwater?" So
I went over, and they found a better location, and a bigger
property. And, to make it short, they gave me the job. It
was a big project. But they let me do many things, which
means they had trust in me that, I don't know— When the
job was finished, they honored me like a king, you know.
They were so happy; and it was a beautiful store. But the
property belonged to a man who lived almost close to my
house. [laughs] * [Harry Lennart lived with his wife,
Yvonne, a few blocks from us in Brentwood on Rockingham
Drive. Actually, my wife met him first and became acquain-
ted with him because she was always collecting funds from
the neighbors for Red Cross and Community Chest and got to
know people in our vicinity. Maxine gave Harry Lennart our
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
phone number, so he called me. And during the Goldwater
job we got to be good friends for many years. He was an
admirer of modern art and had an interesting collection of
paintings and sculpture. He died a number of years ago.]
LASZLO: Mr. [Harry] Lennart, [inaudible] Helena [Drive].
A very nice person, too. So, he owned the property, and he
financed the — He gave the money to the Goldwater [s] , I
don't know: five million, six million, eight million
dollar[s]. And he says, "Is that what I want to spend?"
He could spend more. Then of course, you — "[It's] up to
you." And we finished up the job. [There] was a big
opening, excellent business. Then they wanted to build a
restaurant adjacent to the store. So I designed it, too.
LASKEY: You designed the restaurant. What style was it?
Could you describe it? What it looked like?
LASZLO: Modern, but very simple, very simple. But
elegant. It looked excellent, really. I was pleased, and
all the people were pleased, including the senator and his
wife. Very nice sort of people, you know; really a fine
gentleman. And then because, I believe, because of my
work, they were able to sell the stores to Robinson's.
Which, in turn, is owned by a firm called Associated Dry
LASKEY: I didn't know that.
LASZLO: And Goldwater has now about six, eight branches
LASKEY: But it doesn't belong to the family anymore.
LASZLO: No, they sold it. Unfortunately, because the
shares went down. [laughs]
LASKEY: Oh, really? Well, all of us who've been to
Arizona know — And was it the new firm that made the
decision, then, to add on to, to add the new floors onto
the structure that you did?
LASZLO: Oh yes, because they needed more space. And I
wasn't as motivat[ed] to help here. But more space, you
know. Because good business and Scottsdale developed, you
know, just like Palm Springs. It is a big town. So
Scottsdale [had] tremendous development, more people.
Which means it needed a bigger store. But, I wasn't
LASKEY: Well, and you weren't happy with the design.
LASZLO: No —
LASKEY: Or it spoiled your design.
LASZLO: No, I did not feel like "I am hurt." Because they
have to do it.
LASKEY: Well, I have asked you this, but not when we were
on tape, about the idea of having proprietary feelings
about the buildings that you design, how you feel about
them once you turn them over to the people that you design
them for. Do you still think of them as your buildings?
LASZLO: No. Of course, you can't make it a contract that
you can't change it, you know. I mean, just like my house,
they changed it.
LASKEY: The person who bought your house?
LASZLO: That's his, his property. It's different with a
stage play or a movie, where you retain the control, but in
a building, no.
LASKEY: But even emotionally, you don't feel any
attachment — ?
LASZLO: No, no. I don't feel like that. Fortunately.
LASKEY: Well, I think, particularly in Los Angeles, where
things tend to get changed very quickly, that it could be
very difficult if you had tried to maintain some control.
LASZLO: You know, the whole system here is constant
change. Even a tax rise, you know, the commercial building
which depreciate [s] each year, so which after ten or
fifteen years, the building is depreciated. That I know
about; I don't know about the home [depreciation laws].
But basically, I don't want to— At least it doesn't hurt
me. But I don't go back to look at it. [laughter] I
can't change it, so —
LASKEY: Well, what about the Hall's project? I know that
that was another project that was quite dear to your heart.
LASZLO: Oh, yes, it was. It was, really. I was
fortunate. I was fortunate getting these jobs from
Hallmark. Because here, too, were just outstanding
people: great brain [s], and [laughing] great amount of
money too. And it worked out because at the end I did four
stores for them. Four stores for them. In Kansas City.
LASKEY: They were all in Kansas City? That's what I was
going to ask you. Were they in Kansas City or were they in
LASZLO: In various places [in Kansas City] . The first was
a shopping district, but better — as we have it here. In a
park [Hall's Department Store, Country Club Plaza, Kansas
City, Missouri, 1949-65]. And the owner [Jesse Clyde
Nichols, Jr.] of big properties — I don't know how many
hundreds of acres — controlled the whole acreage. And he
[Nichols] wanted in the best location, center of the whole
thing, a major tenant. Which means people who have the
money and [would] do a good job. So Mr. Hall got inter-
ested. And after three months of looking — I told you the
story before — all over for a designer. Finally, to make it
LASKEY: No, that's just the whole story. It's fine.
LASZLO: — I got the job. It was maybe a fluke or what.
But they were in New York, Chicago, I believe, London, to
find a designer, you know, to design this major building.
And finally, that could not find one, at least not which
pleased Mr. Hall. They were here because he had a house in
Malibu. And so he came out here, with his artistic direc-
tor, who was a lady — a very nice lady — and the president of
the store, Mr. Kaiser. They were here and sent Jeanette
Lee over to, believe, the Broadway [department store] . And
Jack. Kaiser went to Bullock's, and they asked them, "Who is
the best designer in town who you can recommend for an
important job?" And both Broadway people and Bullock's
mentioned my name. And in the meantime Mr. Hall got a call
from his son in Kansas City and said, "Well, I heard the
name — about Mr. LSszl6." [laughs]
LASKEY: They saw a trend.
LASZLO: All three [laughing] came together for luncheon in
the [Brown] Derby — at that time, Beverly Hills. And each
[laughing] said, "Mr. LSszl6." So they called me up. They
came over: Mr. Hall, Jeanette Lee, Jack Kaiser. And Mr.
Hall told me, "I don't believe you are the man. Too much
color; I want everything white." So he says, "I will call
you again. "
After a few days he calls me up again — Mr. Hall, who's
very [laughing] smart — he says, "Mr. Laszl6, I don't
believe that you are the man. But why don't you come out
for dinner Saturday and bring along your girlfriend." So
we came out to Malibu, in his house. And I brought along
some photos which were of my work. And again, he says
before dinner, "No, too much color. Too colorful. Not for
me." So we had dinner with him and his wife, and Maxine
And after dinner he says, "Why don't you come with me
to Kansas City." So I told him, "That's fine, but Wednes-
day." He said, "No; Monday morning, eight o'clock."
[laughter] So I went over and [he] gave me the job to
design the building and the store. And I started out with
the building first. And when he saw my design, [he said,]
"Just wonderful," just excited.
* [My wife and I remember well the day we first went up
to Mr. Hall's Malibu house for dinner. He met us at the
door barefoot and wearing an Army-style jumpsuit in khaki
color. I introduced Maxine to him and right off the bat he
asked her if I had told her what kind of nut he really
was! Maxine got the giggles, and from that moment on he
always liked her. Mr. Hall had a terrific sweet tooth and
loved good candy. He was always indulging himself, and
others he liked, whenever he came across something tempt-
ing. Many times he sent me home from Kansas City with
candy for Maxine.]
LASKEY: Now, as I recall from seeing the pictures, it
wasn't all white. You did use some color.
* Mr. Laszl6 added the following bracketed section
during his review of the transcript.
LASZLO: And so he was all excited about the building. But
unfortunately/ the owner, Mr. Nichols, who owned our prop-
erty, he said, "No, [it] has to be Spanish."
LASKEY: He didn't tell him that before?
LASZLO: Maybe he told him, but Mr. Hall didn't believe
that if he design [s] the store that Mr. Nichols can say
no. So, finally, we made a compromise. Now retaining this
Spanish feeling, but simplified. But [when] it came to the
store interiors, he gave me a difficult time.
LASKEY: Mr. Nichols did?
LASZLO: No, Mr. Hall.
LASKEY: Mr. Hall.
LASZLO: He chewed me out. [laughs] I —
LASKEY: For what reason? What were some of the things he
LASZLO: He showed me a book, a big book — I don't know,
from Spain or from somewhere — and showed me a door. He
says, "This would be a nice door for the store." So,
foolish as I am, I told him, "Mr. Hall, you can't start to
design a store with a door." Oh, boy! [laughter] He gave
me a chewing out from two o'clock until five o'clock!
LASZLO: Boy, oh boy. [laughs] So after five o'clock, we
went out because they were six, eight people in the office;
executives. So I went out in the lobby, and after a few
minutes, Jack came out and said, "Come in. Mr. Hall wants
to talk to you." So he apologized and said, you know,
[laughing] "I got mad."
LASKEY: He got really mad.
LASZLO: Well, it was a good lesson, you know. A good
lesson not to open up your mouth. [laughs]
LASKEY: But it sounded like he was a little extreme,
though, in his reaction.
LASZLO: He was a man, you know, he had a great amount of
knowledge and a great amount of brain and logic, you
know. And he built up, after all, from nothing, this
billion dollar business. So he felt, who is [laughing] Mr.
Laszl6 to tell me how to design a store? But we got along
LASKEY: Even despite that?
LASZLO: Yes. When it was finished, he was [saying,] "Very
nice." And it was excellent — not only design wise, but
business wise; made excellent business. And then came the
flood. Took away the whole store.
LASKEY: When was this?
LASZLO: You ask me this. [laughing] I can't remember. A
few years after I finished the job came the flood.
LASZLO: Took away everything. I believe it was '74.
LASKEY: Well, they just— But in the early seventies,
LASZLO: Yeah, or before. And they waited a year, I don't
know why. Because at that time I wasn't anymore in the
picture. And, yes, and it was '75. And finally they
rebuilt it, but a different way, you know, so to protect
against flood. This was [the] first store, then I rede-
signed the downtown store. Then, they were here [in the
Country Club Plaza] with this store. It was an empty
location here [adjacent]. They were afraid, you know, that
somebody comes in and build a building, which he didn't
like. So he [Hall] bought it, you know. And he bought a
little firm called Swanson, small boutique. He bought the
name, Swanson. VJe designed [the] Swanson store [1966-
67]. It was not too good, really.
LASKEY: Oh, it wasn't too good.
LASZLO: It was not too good.
LASKEY: It wasn't — You didn't like it as well as you had
your other store.
LASZLO: No, you know, they hired a man in charge who
wasn't really an expert in stores. And, you know, it is
difficult to do a job unless you have the proper relation
to the owner, which I didn't have with Swanson's new
president. (He became a president for Swanson.) So, it
wasn't a good job. Then came the Crown Center [1972-73],
which was a big development for a billion dollar [s] or
more. And [it had] hotels, apartment houses, and office
buildings; big projects, big project.
TAPE NUMBER: VI, SIDE ONE
FEBRUARY 8, 198 5
LASKEY: Mr. Laszlfi, this week you had your eighty-fifth
LASKEY: — and I thought, perhaps, we could just start out
by your talking about the party and the festivities.
LASZLO: My son, Peter Paul — we are very devoted to each
other — and his wife insisted to make a party at his new
home, which is out in Brentwood. They arranged about
thirty-six people, sit-down dinner. And with music and
entertainment. But the way the thing was, Peter prepared
the night before, five-by-five masonite, and he made
hundreds of little holes and installed lighting which he
said [was] for lasting [to an] eighty-fifth [year]. And it
[the sign] was [laughing] out in the street! [laughs]
LASKEY: How wonderful. How wonderful.
LASZLO: And inside — I was sure moved, really — they took,
out of the photo album, photos of me from little child-
hood — all ray life, you know — and raade enlargement [s ] and
put [them] in all the halls. [laughs] I can show you
later the photo; I just got it. And it was wonderful. V-Je
had a concert, and —
LASKEY: There was live music?
LASZLO: Yes, partly. They bought a piano, too.
[laughs] And it was a combination of classical music and
light music and songs. We have friends who are profes-
sional singers, and professional piano players, and violin
players. We had a wonderful time. So, it was a very
emotional affair. Of course, all the people are old
friends of mine. Twenty, thirty, forty years, you know.
So it was like a family affair.
LASKEY: Were they mostly people who live in Los Angeles,
or did a number of people come from other areas?
LASZLO: My brother came from Canada, and some people came
from Laguna Beach. But mostly from here, you know.
LASKEY: Now your brother, have you seen him recently? Or
LASZLO: I saw him a few years ago, he and his wife. And
they came down for a week, and it was very nice. It's
difficult to tell you, because — a spirit which you can't
LASZLO: Was wonderful, you know. A lot of kissing,
LASKEY: A lot of tears?
LASZLO: Yes, and it was very nice.
LASKEY: A sit-down dinner for thirty-six people took a lot
of preparation on your daughter-in-law's part.
LASZLO: Yeah, it was catered, you know. But still, a big
job to organize. Any party is a job, but this [laughing]
especially was a big job. They made it — They were happy,
and I was happy, you know.
LASKEY: Well, we wish you happy birthday. Your son, as I
recall, has a lot of your furniture, doesn't he, in his
LASZLO: Oh, yes.
LASKEY: That must have added a little sense of nostalgia
or, you know, something a little special to the party, too.
LASZLO: Unfortunately, the living room furniture which was
in my house are being refinished and recovered. So, it was
not [there] . There is a big room, twenty-four feet by
twenty-nine feet, so we were able to put up rented tables
with a U-shape. And very nice. He made a movie, you know,
LASKEY: Oh, they did? They made a video of the party, the
LASZLO: Yes. A little bit long. I have seen it last
night. [laughs] So, anyhow, I don't know where —
LASKEY: Here you are.
LASZLO: — I was in Crown Center. I don't recall it
anymore, where we stopped.
LASKEY: OK, we were talking about Crown Center. And we
had just really not gotten into it very much, and I think
we determined to stop so that you could really start right
at the beginning —
LASZLO: From scratch.
LASKEY: — of the —
LASZLO: Now, it was — I believe I told you how I got the
job, because so many other architects wanted the job. Mr.
Hall, Sr. , Mr. Hall, who died in the meantime, J. C. [Joyce
Clyde] Hall, he wanted the best. And for one month, when
they were looking in Paris, London and in New York and
Chicago. And finally, it just happened that they were here
in town because Mr. Hall has a house in Malibu, which he
built, I believe, mainly because he was a friend of Mr.
LASKEY: Winston Churchill?
LASZLO: Yeah. And Mr. Churchill told him that he painted
so many seascapes, but had none on [the] Pacific Ocean. So
I speculate this was the impetus to build a house in
Malibu: so Churchill could come out and paint.
LASKEY: And paint the seascape. Did he ever come out and
paint the seascape?
LASZLO: And-- No, he got a heart attack, Churchill.
LASZLO: So then Mr. Hall installed in the house an
elevator for Churchill to be able —
LASZLO: Because the bedrooms were upstairs. But he never
came. They were great friends with Churchill. As a matter
of fact, Mr. Hall bought several Churchill paintings.
LASKEY: Oh, really?
LASKEY: Did they stay with the family, or get dispersed
with the estate?
LASZLO: Oh, he won't sell it, no. It is in the main
headquarters, all the paintings. They have hundreds of
paintings, famous painting [s], in a vault.
LASKEY: Now, are the headquarters in Kansas City?
LASZLO: Yes, Kansas City, yes. Beautifully made, you
know, and everything just so. When you enter into the
employees' cafeteria for eight hundred people, just so —
And the food, excellent. Everything is just so, really.
And so they were here, Mr. Hall, Sr. , and his artistic
assistant. Miss Jeanette Lee, and the president of Hall's
store. Jack Kaiser.
LASKEY: Yeah, I think we talked about this last time, and
then the first building — You had the problems with Mr.
Hall. He seems to have been a man of very strong opinions.
LASZLO: Yes, which means — I was already talking about
that. He gave me a dressing down. But it worked out all
right, you know. And I finished up the job. And they were
pleased very much. And his friend, Henry Dreyfuss — I don't
[know] whether the name means —
LASKEY: Yeah, I think we talked about him too, in that he
[was] from New York. He was the —
LASZLO: So, he wrote me a nice letter and said that I did
a good job. And it worked out business wise too, because
it was excellent business in this particular store. And
after a year or so, I did remodeling for Hall's store
downtown. It worked out all right, but downtown was
already dead. So they closed it up finally, because it
just was nothing, you know.
LASKEY: But this was a building that you liked
particularly, your design, the Hall's downtown store.
LASZLO: No, I didn't, no.
LASKEY: Oh, you didn't? I misunderstood.
LASZLO: I believe [Welton] Becket did it originally.
LASKEY: Well, what was the one that you did for them near
LASZLO: This was [the] so-called [Country Club] Plaza
store. Plaza store.
LASKEY: I see.
LASZLO: V7hich is about twenty minutes from downtown. A
very nice location and big homes, so it was [an] excellent
location. As a matter of fact, I just got a letter a few
weeks ago from the manager of this store. And he writes me
that in the meantime all big stores are there: Tiffany,
Cartier, and Bonwit Teller, and — you know. So it was a
And then after a few years, I believe in '70, they
called me up to come at once to Kansas City. When you
worked for Hallmark and Mr. Hall [laughter] it means "take
the next flight." And they created, it is a big complex
[Crown Center] , similar like here. Century City, which Mr.
Hall created. All new. And they had about half a million
square foot of retail area. Which means they have two
hotels, and office buildings, and apartment houses, and
condominiums, and restaurants, you know. A big project.
But I got the retail area. And they were under the
impression that Neiman-Marcus would take a large part of
this half a million square foot. And when I went there, it
was said that Neiman-Marcus takes hundred, a hundred fifty
thousand square foot, and Hall is going to take fifty
thousand square foot. So, I started to work on this fifty
thousand square foot job. And after two weeks Jack Kaiser
again calls me up. He was the president at the time —
LASKEY: What was the name?
LASZLO: Jack Kaiser.
LASKEY: Oh, Kaiser.
LASZLO: And he was the president, at that time, of the
Hall's store. But I believe I left out something.
In '66, I designed a store for Hall's but under a
different name: Swanson. They bought the name of a little
boutique. And, let me show you how it was. [begins to
sketch] This was the store, plaza store, and here were
buildings. But here was a parcel was which was empty. So,
they didn't want the somebody should build here something
which they don't like. So they bought the property. And
they bought the name of an old, a little fashion store
called Swanson. So I designed this store for them, too.
And they opened up '67. I remember because we went, with
my wife, our son, to the Expo [world's fair], to Mon-
treal. They went ahead, and I went to the opening here
[Kansas City]. So it was '67.
In '71, I believe, started this Crown Center. So
after two weeks, after I was working on this fifty thousand
square foot store for Hall's, they called me up and said I
had to fly back and said that Neiman-Marcus canceled his —
LASKEY: Oh, dear.
LASZLO: And because they are committed. Hall's [is]
committed to create this retail area so I should work on
the whole — [laughs] And it was a wonderful assignment, a
wonderful assignment. And the store was, I believe, the
most beautiful store in the whole world. Because they
wanted to have the best, you know, and they let me do many
things. The opening was great — a forties party,
[laughs] It was excellent, really. Unfortunately —
LASKEY: VJhat was special about it? V7hat were you able to
do in the design there that you weren't usually able to do
in the design of a retail space?
LASZLO: Well, first of all, a store, like say here,
Robinson [ 's] , has a certain system [of] how they want to
show the merchandise. And the plans are mostly pretty
standard plans. And of course, the price, the budget, was
years ago pretty standard. VJhich means each store knew
that it will cost them, if this store [is] hundred or two
hundred thousand square foot, it costs them so much, you
know. How [it] is today, I don't know.
But on this store, it wasn't [on] a budget. He wanted
the best, you know, which means I was able to design each
department artistically. Which normally you can't have it
in a store. A little bit, you know, but not too much.
Each store is normally is the same: racks and many
things. So you change the perimeter a little bit, paint it
differently. But basically, each store is the same,
because they are selling the same type of merchandise.
But this store was a combination of many things which,
normally, a store like Robinson ['s] or Saks or — don't have,
you know. It gives me a chance to create beautiful things.
LASKEY: Can you remember any specific things that parti-
cularly pleased you in the store?
LASZLO: Oh, I have the photos. Oh, sure. I have the
photos. So, of course, it was a big store, and very
interesting. Unfortunately, business wasn't good. It
wasn't the location for such an elegant store.
LASKEY: Would it have made a difference if Neiman-Marcus
hadn't canceled, do you think?
LASZLO: No, no.
LASKEY: That wouldn't have been enough to have kept it
LASZLO: It wasn't the location for an elegant store.
LASKEY: Was it too close to downtown?
LASZLO: Yes, it was too close to downtown. And they are —
[the] Halls — very civic-minded. So — More coffee?
LASKEY: Oh, no thank you.
LASZLO: V-Jhich means they dedicated, in front of the retail
area and the hotels and office building, a big plaza for
entertainment, for the public, instead [of] making it a
parking area. So they were ice skating, and the theater,
concert[s], you know. But in the meantime, they lost this
parking. Of course, they had plenty of parking, under the
buildings: about eight thousand cars. But it is something
people don't like: to go down, you know.
LASZLO: Down to park.
LASZLO: Here we are slowly got adjusted. But years ago it
was — you park on the street.
LASKEY: Were they afraid of going down?
LASZLO: No, it is — I don't like even here to go to these
big garages. You know, you go around, around. Like [the]
LASKEY: Oh, yeah.
LASZLO: You know, it would be easier to park in front of
LASKEY: Oh, yes. But it's just that we have so many cars
that that's just not possible anymore. So I think we're
getting used to parking ramps and —
LASZLO: But anyhow, it just wasn't the location. It
changed in the meantime, I heard, in time. But it just
isn't a location for a big retail area.
LASKEY: What happened to the store, do you know?
LASZLO: Still there; they are losing money.
LASKEY: But Hall's still owns it?
LASKEY: They're still running it?
LASKEY: Well, were you able — Did you use any particular
materials, for example, that you didn't —
LASZLO: All kinds of materials. Wonderful materials.
LASKEY: Like what?
LASZLO: It was [laughing] something where a designer is
dreaming about it, you know. They were wonderful people,
and very artistic.
LASKEY: Well, you had said originally that he wanted
everything white. That one of your first confrontations
with Mr. Hall was that he wanted it white.
LASZLO: [laughs] Yeah, he changed in the meantime.
LASKEY: Now, I've seen the photographs of Hall's, and it
wasn't all white. So, how were you able to convince him?
In fact, there's a lot of color. As I recall, you used a
great deal of color.
LASZLO: Yes, yes. You know, he mentioned at the beginning
that he had seen a store in La Jolla. I believe it was a
Bullock's store or a Magnin store. And it was all white.
He said he liked it; that's what he wanted. So I went down
with my assistant, [laughing] and we took color photos; it
wasn't white. [laughter]
LASKEY: He just remembered it as being white, is that it?
LASZLO: Yes, you know, exactly. We used a lot of white,
especially in the first store, plaza store. But this was a
big store with constant — So you changed, you know. And
they were enthusiastic about the store. But just business
wasn't there [in Crown Center], so they are losing it every
year. But Hallmark can afford to lose. [laughs]
LASKEY: On one of their stores. I hadn't realized that
Hallmark did anything other than the cards. This was, I
think, a department store, a — ?
LASZLO: They started out with the first store [to] find
out how people react, how people are buying, you know. So,
it was first a research store. Later on, became a — Like
they built in New York on Fifth Avenue. The architect was
Edward [Durell] Stone. He designed the Hallmark store.
Highly interesting, on Fifth Avenue and Fifty-sixth
Street. Interesting, you know.
LASZLO: So they —
LASKEY: I didn't know he had done any stores like that.
LASZLO: They got into this store affair more and more.
There are thousands of Hallmark stores, which are mostly
franchised. You know, when you see —
LASKEY: Oh, the card stores. I —
LASZLO: The card stores, yeah.
LASKEY: I had seen them around. The one that you did was,
it was more of a department store, right?
LASZLO: Yeah. Each store had a department for the
cards. A big department for the cards.
LASKEY: Oh, of course.
LASZLO: But anyhow, in the meantime, they diversified even
more. So anyhow, this ended my connection with Hallmark.
And we are still friends, but I gave up my office. So I am
out of the picture, anyhow. But it was wonderful.
LASKEY: Well, you had a number of nice relationships with
store — with business people —
LASZLO: All my clients.
LASKEY: — like Ohrbach's. I was thinking of Ohrbach's and
McCulloch's and —
LASZLO: Robinson [' s ] .
LASKEY: — that feeling that went over a period of time.
LASZLO: All the people, you know. Hudson Bay [Company] in
Canada; we are still corresponding. And mostly they are at
the top; interesting people. Which makes it possible to
work together on the same intellectual level. And so it
worked out all right.
LASKEY: V'Jell, did — Usually, were you able to pursue your
ideas? Were they receptive to your ideas, to trying new
things? Or did they generally know what they wanted and
you tried to fill that need?
LASZLO: Of course, we had many meetings and they had to
approve everything, you know. They approved everything.
But it was always a big presentation where they looked at
everything and they have seen everything in sketch form,
color sketches. But they let me do it. Which means I
wasn't as much scrutinized later on as at the beginning of
our relation, because they trusted me.
LASKEY: Did you use any different approaches,
stylistically, for when you were doing an office building,
or if you were doing a house? For instance, I'm thinking
of McCulloch. I'm looking at a picture of it [McCulloch
offices] , which is an extremely modern —
LASKEY: — spare kind of a room. The house [Robert P. and
Barbara McCulloch House, Palm Springs, 1972; in collabor-
ation with William F. Cody Associates] was also modern, but
it was different. Do you think of them — I mean they're
obviously for different purposes — but when you were
designing, do you use a different set of ideas when you're
designing a house as designing an office, as designing a
LASZLO: Oh, sure. There is a great difference between a
home — what you call a house — and a commercial project.
Because a home is a personal thing, you know, which means
you are pleasing him and her, and her friends who are
coming to play bridge together. In a commercial job, like
here, he wanted to have a showroom where he can display
this merchandise. So, it wasn't the personal thing like
[if] it is [for] McCulloch [himself]. No.
He wanted to show his merchandise. Which was, at that
time, he had this chainsaw, McCulloch chainsaw. And he
started — He brought out an outboard motor. Maybe the name
was Scott. And he was pleased. It was a big job at the
[Los Angeles International] Airport. This was — You see
here the outboard motors.
LASKEY: They're all displayed on a rack. It looks like
it's on a semi-circular, sort of a circular, against a
circular background; circular wall on a rack.
LASZLO: Yes, all wood slats.
LASKEY: This is wood, painted wood?
LASZLO: Yeah, all wood. Highly interesting. But in the
LASKEY: Yeah, you have stainless steel and wood and glass?
LASZLO: Yes, it was polished stainless steel. A very
interesting — I haven't looked at it for years. [laughs]
And it was a great success. And he sold his business to
Black and Decker; it's a big firm.
LASKEY: Oh, yes, yes. Black and Decker —
LASZLO: For sixty-six million dollar[s].
LASKEY: Now, this was very stark. Very straight lines.
LASKEY: Very stark.
LASKEY: Was that new at the time? I mean, was this an
LASZLO: I don't know, [laughing] I don't know. I was
never approached a job that it is new or whatever it is. I
look at the problem and try to solve it, whether new or
half new, I don't know. But each person worked differ-
ently, [turning pages] This — I had a chainsaw —
LASKEY: — mounted on the walls. Now, where was this
LASZLO: It was at the airport. Century Boulevard.
LASZLO: There today are big hotels. He owned two blocks
on Century Boulevard.
LASKEY: Oh, my.
LASZLO: See, everything was highly —
LASKEY: Now, did he have the same approach as Mr. Hall,
essentially, that he simply wanted the best that you could
do? Did you have a relatively free rein?
LASZLO: It was easy to work for him because he had a great
sense of taste and imagination. A wonderful man, really.
LASKEY: Now, it looks like this is the entrance hall, and
you go up the stairs —
LASZLO: This is the staircase to the — his offices.
LASKEY: This is — The tile wall was a beautiful wall.
LASZLO: This was a wall, you know. It was a very small
LASKEY: Do you remember how you came upon the idea of
using mosaic at that time?
LASKEY: Because it's interesting. Everything else is, you
know, so stripped down and so streamlined —
LASKEY: — and then the use of the mosaics is, you know, it
sets if off. And then the bright colors. There's sort of
a combination of things.
LASZLO: Actually, you know, designing is really like you
create a stage play. Which means in a stage play if only
good people are [in] it, it isn't interesting, you know.
Which means you have to have a contrast to make it
interesting. The same if you design such a project. It
needs a contrast in many ways to make it really exciting.
Because at that time I was not thinking [laughing] of all
this, I just made [it] intuitively, you know. [laughs]
But since you ask me how and why, this was the explanation,
TAPE NUMBER: VI, SIDE TWO
FEBRUARY 8, 198 5
LASZLO: You don't start out to design with your brain,
with an intellectual thinking. Just like a painter paints
many times without having a definite problem or image or
whatever it is, you know. The same procedure is with a
designer. You see a problem, you create without thinking
about the — What you asked me: "Why did you approach it
this way?" I don't know. There's always a mixture of many
Like if you do a private home, you know, then you must
somehow digest the personalities of the people for whom you
design and try to speak the same language in artistic
form. Which means normally each designer tries to uplift
the standard of their client, you know, and go higher and
higher. And of course most of the time you give an addi-
tional meaning to a client's life. You influence a client
without wanting it; you create something which makes the
person, or persons, a better human being. I noticed it in
many case[s]. And, not my store[s] or something, but if
you design a home, it does influence the people and gives
an added dimension to their life.
LASKEY: VJhen they came to you, most of the people who came
to you, to have their homes designed, did they know what
they wanted when they came?
LASZLO: Sometimes yes. But many times a design switches
around. Because the person who comes to you, and he tells
in words what she or he wants, this isn't the true what he
or she wants. If she says blue, she doesn't mean blue.
You know, she means green — or red.
LASKEY: Then it's your job, then, to figure out what she
LASKEY: — and not what she's saying. So that's a lot of
LASZLO: Oh, yes, but if you have experience and intuition,
it helps. But experience told me that you have to analyze
a person, because what he or she is telling you, this isn't
what they meant. So, you try to do something which they
meant, really. And many times it worked. The proof is
that we are still friends after so many years. They are
happy and proud of the work I did.
The commercial job is, of course, something else.
Because, first of all, it changes after six, eight years.
They are changing, because the fashion is changing. So a
store is changing, or a bank — I did several banks [begin-
ning in 1962]. Of course, [laughing] he went broke, but —
LASKEY: He did?
LASZLO: Not because of me, you know.
LASZLO: But bad loans, and too big. Even today I was
reading Bank of America lost [a] hundred million dollar [s]
on bad loan[s]. But it was interesting; we are still
friends with the man. As a matter of fact, he came to my
party too, you know.
LASKEY: Oh, really?
LASZLO: Yeah. You know, it wasn't his fault. If a bank
gives out too many bad loans and the people don't pay it
back, any bank goes broke.
LASKEY: Of course. That's generally why they go broke.
LASZLO: So, anyhow, we are still friends. And he is still
proud of the job I did for him. I did five banks for him
[S. Jon Kreedman] .
LASKEY: And what was his name?
LASZLO: The bank name was American City Bank.
LASZLO: They had a downtown store, one on Wilshire, a
Beverly Hills store on Camden and Wilshire, a Century City
store on Santa Monica Boulevard, a store in the Valley, and
two stores in Orange County. And he's a person who liked
LASKEY: Well, most of your work was at a rather exclusive
level, wasn't it? I mean, you were — Like I talked to
someone, Ernst Meer, who worked for you. I asked if there
was a catalog because I wanted to look at some of your
designs. And he said that there was no catalog because you
never did the same thing twice.
LASZLO: That's true.
LASKEY: That you never reproduced or sold anything in any
kind of a quantity that would be in catalog.
LASZLO: Who told you?
LASKEY: Ernst Meer.
LASZLO: [laughter] Ernst Meer tell you that? Is he a
friend of yours?
LASKEY: He's a friend of a friend.
LASZLO: He does now movies, doesn't he?
LASKEY: No, I think he has a little shop. He's doing
mostly chandeliers. He's in chandeliers.
LASZLO: Oh, chandeliers. No, he has beautiful
LASZLO: Viennese mostly.
LASKEY: Well, my friend was selling his chandelier, which
is how I happened to meet him and —
LASZLO: Yeah. No, he has beautiful merchandise. No, he
left many years ago.
LASKEY: But his remembrance of your work and of you was
that everything was absolutely top quality, and that
everything was specifically designed for the person who was
buying the piece, and therefore there really were no
LASZLO: Oh, yes.
LASKEY: That's a challenge.
LASZLO: That was my life. Looking back and analyzing what
I did good and when I was wrong-- But I believe if I would
live again in the same profession, that I would do the
same, because the money wasn't important. I enjoyed doing
it: designing it. It would be simple to buy a chair or a
desk and put it in and camouflage it with some plants, you
know, [laughter] and [be] able to make more money as [than]
to design something. [But] I want a chair this [way] and
this, you know. But I enjoyed it immensely, and I don't
have any regrets.
LASKEY: You never looked at a lamp or a chair or a vase or
one of your artifacts and said, "Now, this is wonderful.
I'm going to turn out thousands of these," and sort of go
into that, go into mass producing one of the items? Like
Charles Eames, for instance, with his chairs.
LASZLO: I designed, for several furniture factories, a
line; what you call a line.
LASKEY: Oh, you did?
LASZLO: Yes, I did. But it wasn't my production. I [was]
just designer; they paid me royalty, that's all.
LASKEY: Right. Then they had the furniture made.
[inaudible] --designer line.
LASZLO: Yeah, a big firm was Heywood-Wakef ield , near
Boston. Old, old. The oldest furniture-making firm.
Heywood-Wakef ield. And I did a line for Ficks-Reed.
Ficks-Reed. They are doing rattan furniture.
LASKEY: Were there any materials that you particularly
liked to work in? Particularly in furniture design? Did
you prefer rattan to steel, or wood to the others?
LASZLO: Now, to me, rattan was always outdoor — outdoor
furniture. But of course, many people are using it
indoor[s] too. But, to me, basically, it is a[n] outdoor
item: a terrace, a garden, you know.
LASKEY: You mentioned once, or you told me, that Le
Corbusier was an architect that you had admired, or whose
work you admire.
LASKEY: And I find that interesting because your work is
much more elegant and much softer —
LASZLO: It's different.
LASKEY: — and more livable than Le Corbusier.
LASZLO: But there's a number — You know how it — I mean, I
still believe that he was the greatest.
LASKEY: VJhy do you believe that?
LASZLO: He created a— He was really— He created the "new
spirit" [I'esprit nouveau] . Which means to me, something
which you design has to have a spirit. Many people — most
of [the] designer [s] and people — are aiming at drama, you
know: to hit the people, you know. To me, it is more a
spirit that you feel. You feel that it is something which
talks to you, you know. And the drama isn't important.
LASKEY: It isn't important?
LASZLO: Isn't important, no, no. Because a drama hits you
once. So it is black, red and — But after once, it is
gone. And spirit is when it stays with you every day;
every day look at the piece and say, "Isn't it wonder-
So that the difference with what Corbusier did — Even
I couldn't design the same way as he did, you know. But
still, still, you feel the spirit of a great man. (He died
in the meantime.) And then his pupil was in Brazil,
[Oscar] Niemeyer, who is [an] extraordinary talent.
Niemeyer designed Brasilia, and he designed a part of the
United Nation[s] building .
LASKEY: Did he design it with Corbusier, or was this after
Corbusier had died?
LASZLO: They worked together in New York on this United
Nation building, Niemeyer and Corbu. And they are just a
few [of the] people who are thinking the same way as I
do. When you read this newspaper article why, when some
buildings are going up here, they are going to architects
who are in Japan or New York or somewhere else?
LASKEY: Yeah, this is an article in the [Los Angeles]
Times that you just handed me about —
LASZLO: Yeah, there's a reason, you know.
LASKEY: Do you think the reason is that they have — that
you feel that these designers have that spirit that you're
talking about? Or at least, the people who are paying the
bills feel that they do?
LASZLO: Now, you have to go back for a hundred years when
an architect was a single man who designed the house and
made all the details himself. But when you have ten or
twenty or fifty or hundred employees — architects, drafts-
men — then of course, first of all, you cannot design your
building like [Welton] Becket or [Charles] Luckman or
Albert [C] Martin or [William] Pereira or whoever it is.
You can't. If you have hundred people within that office —
Alone, the phone calls, the social engagements, the talk to
clients. So he has a designer that — A big office is
having teams: you know, a designer, engineer, et cetera.
So, all these people get a pretty high salary.
LASZLO: Which means they can't fool around to figure out
the best, because the time. Each architect office, as they
get a job, you know, the estimator says you can spend so
many dollars on design, so many hours on details, so many
hours [on] engineering and so many hours [on] color
scheme. It is not possible to tell an artist, you know,
that in ten hours you have to create something. But they
have to do it because otherwise they will go broke.
LASKEY: Well, what do you think this does to the art of
LASZLO: How do you mean?
LASKEY: Well, if our buildings are all being built by
large organizations, which mostly they are for the reason
that you're saying, what are the chances of a truly
monumental building, something totally new and creative,
coming out of that process?
LASZLO: Oh, they are doing it. They are doing it, you
know. From time to time, you find a client who isn't
impressed by big offices. He feels that maybe he finds an
architect who is not able to create something special. So
he finds somebody, and he does the job. So he [the
architect] gets more job[s], and he has to employ more
people! [laughs] And you cannot change it.
And beside [s], labor; we don't have skilled labor
anymore. So, if you build a high rise, you know, you have
to think that no skilled laborer [s] are working on it. [It
is] just like an automobile factory. It is always this
one, this one — The same in the building. That's the
reason they look alike. Maybe the balcony [laughs] is
But the [inaudible] thing that it should be, it should
conform with a system of production where the laborer who
did this building, he can do here without — Because they
don't have the time to think about it, you know. This is a
danger of getting big and building big buildings, of
course. But I heard in New York this Trump building — Have
you heard it?
LASKEY: The Trump [Tower] building?
LASKEY: No, I haven't.
LASZLO: Apparently the man made a fortune. And he put up
a building in New York. Everything is oversized and
marble. And in [the] lobby [is] a piano player, enter-
LASKEY: This is an office building?
LASZLO: Yes, oh yes. Peter told me about it, my son. He
is often in New York. Now, there is a special man [Donald
Trump]. And [it is] difficult to make a beautiful build-
ing — high rise. Very difficult. All people are impressed
with this Seagram Building in New York. I don't know
whether you have —
LASKEY: Oh, the Seagram Building?
LASKEY: Oh, yes. The Mies van der Rohe and Phillip
LASZLO: Actually, only the material was interesting. All
bronze. It is a good building, but nothing — Yes, Mies did
it, and with Johnson. The Four Seasons restaurant is in
LASKEY: Well, I know it's considered to be one of our
great buildings —
LASZLO: Yes, a good building —
LASKEY: — in the United States. I also understand that it
doesn't function as well as it could, as far as the people
who actually have the office space.
LASZLO: Well, I don't know. Of course you can't listen
to — All people —
LASZLO: — have some complaint, you know. I did not design
a high-rise building.
LASKEY: Well, you chose to keep your office small.
LASZLO: Oh, yes. I had chances in '52 to design a — which
I did — high-rise building [seventeen-story condominium] in
New Orleans. And the man [B. Wohl] didn't, couldn't get a
loan in this particular year. So he dropped it. VJe went
together to New York to Irving Trust to get a commitment.
[They said,] "No more; this year we're finished [loan-
ing]." The same year I designed a shopping center which
didn't work out either. So I said, "No more."
LASKEY: No more big-scale projects.
LASZLO: You know, big projects needs a lot of time, you
know. It isn't just, you know —
LASKEY: Well, I would think it would be extremely
difficult, if not almost impossible, for a small firm —
LASKEY: — to do a large project.
LASZLO: I could not even —
LASZLO: — get, without hiring — Boy, oh boy. I am glad I
stayed small, because as soon [as] you have employees, each
has his own problem — personal problem — and I am not good at
it, you know.
LASKEY: Well, you did have around you a handful of
artisans that you worked with quite regularly, didn't you?
LASZLO: I had always five architects who worked.
LASKEY: Well, I was thinking more of artisans in the
glass — the people who designed those wonderful glass murals
in several of the houses.
LASZLO: Oh, well, now this is a part of the decoration,
you know. Oh, yes. I had many. As a matter — You know,
at each job I engaged the people who are good people, but
free-lancer [s] .
LASKEY: But if you stay small, the way you were, wouldn't
that put in a better position, essentially, to be able to
handpick these people, too, on a job? Because —
LASZLO: Yes —
LASKEY: — you were working on a job-by-job situation, then
you could get the people that you wanted, rather than if
you were building an enormous building or complex of build-
ings, you probably — it would probably be subcontracted
LASZLO: Yes, sure. I had handpicked most of my clients
LASKEY: Oh, [laughing] you did?
LASZLO: Oh, sure. Sure. Of course, I couldn't foresee
all pitfalls. But with time, I learn [ed] to eliminate
client [s] which were not compatible to my ideas or my
personality. It takes a certain chemistry between a
professional and a client. And if you don't have it, well,
you can't do a good job.
LASKEY: Well, that put you in an enviable position.
LASZLO: I [laughing] believe so. I remember a gentleman,
a bachelor, who is fifty years [old] . And he has a big
home in Holmby Hills. So he wanted to remodel his house;
big house. So, I knew him, you know, for many years. And
so he said what he wants to do, this way, this way, this
way. So the same evening I wrote him a letter. I said to
him, "You are not the client [laughing] I want to deal
with." He was so proud; even he showed it [laughter] [to]
other friends! You know, it is important to select your
LASKEY: Well, it's wonderful, I would think, to be able to
be in a position where you can select your clients, too.
Which you were.
LASZLO: Now, I never made too much money.
LASKEY: No, but you had a steady enough business —
LASZLO: Yeah, yeah.
LASKEY: — and you were working —
LASZLO: — all the time.
LASKEY: — enough that you could be somewhat selective.
LASZLO: I don't complain; I just say that it was more
important to my life, as [than] to make a lot of money and
make compromises, you know.
LASZLO: And take a lot of punishment, too. [laughter]
But it worked out all right —
LASKEY: Well, you obviously haven't regretted it.
LASZLO: Yeah, I feel happy. And I wouldn't have changed
anything in my life.
LASKEY: And once you got out here to Los Angeles, you've
never wanted to leave, right?
LASZLO: I loved here. On the first day on, I loved [it]
here. And [was] happy here. So this was wonderful; still
LASKEY: Well, for someone who's lived here for fifty
years, and talking about high rises, what do you think
about what's happened to Los Angeles — downtown, our
LASZLO: You know, what happened here — To begin with, it
grew up too fast, which means [there] wasn't correct
planning. Individuals owned most of the real estate. And
now see, we have here, thank god, freedom. You know, you
cannot tell the people what to do with their property. But
it wasn't planned. A small item: in Brentwood, when you
have a home, you have to put all your garbage on the
street. Well, Beverly Hills has an alley. So you put the
garbage in the alley. But in Brentwood, [laughs] it's in
the street, because it wasn't planned to make it correct,
to make an alley. So, the same is —
We have this beautiful Wilshire Boulevard. Instead of
making some parks from time to time, you know, to make it
more beautiful, [it is] all the way just buildings, you
know. The difference to L.A. is Paris. You have some
changes: big parks and this and this, which makes it
beautiful. Here, of course, we have Sunset Boulevard,
which is a beautiful street. Why? Because it is all
green. Well, it is mostly because the buildings are behind
an all-green park. Beautiful streets, you know. Sunset.
But they missed on Wilshire, Olympic, and Pico; all the
other streets. Why? Because it was owned by private
individuals. Of course, they were more interested in the
money as [than] to sacrifice something.
[inaudible] — beautiful — [inaudible] — was on Sunset
Boulevard and VJhittier [Drive] . [going through papers] I
don't know whether you noticed in there — I wrote an
article, many years ago. And [Ed Rees] was a writer for
Time and Life and —
LASKEY: You're hired. [laughter]
LASZLO: — when he sees the article, he —
Anyhow, Sunset and Whittier — [begins drawing] Here
is Sunset; here, a bridle path; Whittier; here starts
Beverly Hills. A bridle path, you know?
LASKEY: Where are we?
LASZLO: Beverly Hills.
LASKEY: Beverly Hills and Sunset.
LASZLO: That's VJhittier.
LASKEY: Oh, OK. Whittier, OK.
LASZLO: And here was a home owned by a Mr. [Benjamin]
Maltz. And here was an empty lot. So he gave it to the
city of Beverly Hills. And it made a beautiful little
park. You know, wonderful. I wrote — a few years ago — I
wrote the mayor — at the time [1973-74] was Mrs. [Phyllis]
Seaton was her name--of Beverly Hills.
LASKEY: What was her name?
LASZLO: I believe Seaton. The wife of a writer, movie
writer [George Seaton] . I wrote to her how beautiful [the]
idea is to make it a park. So she wrote me back that
actually it belonged to Mr. Maltz who lives here, and he
donated his parcel [to] the city. It is now a little park
with benches to sit down.
LASKEY: There are several of those scattered throughout
Beverly Hills. Just every now and then there will be — like
the size of a lot — and it's a little park.
LASZLO: It makes it beautiful, you know. But now too late
to make it downtown or anywhere on Wilshire Boulevard. It
is all our buildings.
Washington is a beautiful city. Why? Because it is —
I mean, their French architect [Pierre L'Enfant] — There's
a plan there — But, to build — Of course — Do you know
LASZLO: You know, it is beautiful because of this —
LASKEY: The wide boulevards and the trees and the greens
and the setbacks of the buildings — the monuments. We don't
have many monuments here, either, in Los Angeles. You
know, arches or public monuments. [laughter]
LASZLO: We are going to have pretty soon a monument of
Martin Luther King — at the monument.
LASKEY: I'm sorry. What was that?
LASZLO: V'Je will have, pretty soon, a monument of Martin
LASKEY: Oh. But we don't — We have statues, you know.
There are a few statues scattered around, but there's no
arch of triumph. No, there's no —
LASZLO: No. We have it in Washington.
LASZLO: Not here. You know, Los Angeles is a new city,
actually. When I came over, Wilshire Boulevard was mostly
just fields. Sunset Boulevard was mostly a dirt road. It
happened, really, only after the war, since '48. It is a
short period of time, you know. Fortunately, we have here
[in] Santa Monica beautiful streets, wide streets and very
LASKEY: And you're very fortunate because you have the
Pacific Ocean at your front door, and they can't take that
away from you. They can't build a high rise out there.
LASZLO: No, no. As I told you, it is a shame, but it is
too late to change it, you know. They are doing today, we
have excellent planning commissions and trying to do the
best for the future. But too late now on Wilshire
Boulevard or —
LASZLO: — downtown. Of course, I wasn't downtown for
LASKEY: You were downtown?
LASZLO: For years, I wasn't downtown.
LASKEY: Oh, you weren't— You didn't go downtown for a
number of years.
LASZLO: So I don't [know] what is on now. But, I don't-
Anderson, Margaret and
133-34, 135, 205,
Atomic Energy Commission,
Barcelona chairs (Mies van
der Rohe) , 27, 28
Barker Brothers, 44
Bauhaus, 25-26, 37-38
Becket, Welton, 34, 197,
Beverly Hills, California
-changes in, 173-74, 176
-parks in, 225-26
Beverly Hills Hotel,
Blanke, Ursula and Henry
Heinz, 85, 118-19
Bleyle, Maria and Max,
32-34, 40, 50-51
Breuhaus, Fritz August,
Broadway department stores,
Brown Derby restaurant,
Beverly Hills, 76
Buchman, Sidney, 121
Buhler, Alfred, 23-24
stores, 32, 82-83,
96, 186, 203
Chotiner, Albert H. , 79-80
Churchill, Winston, 195-96
City planning, 224-27
Clark, James, 151
Cleveland, Robert, 131
Country Club Plaza, Kansas
City, Missouri, 185-
Crown Center, Kansas
City, Missouri, 191,
194, 198-99, 203
Dexter, Raymond C, 81
Dreyfuss, Henry, 98, 166,
Duthie, James H. , 171
Eden, Fritz, 86, 104-5,
Eisenstaht, Sidney, 65
Eschke, Karl, 46
Fashion Square, Scottsdale,
Arizona, 178, 179-83
Frankl, Paul T. , 101
Genis, Sadi and Sam, 136-42
Goldwater, Robert Williams,
Goldwater 's department
stores, 142, 178-83
Gorgl, Hugo, 36
Gosden, Freeman F., 127-28
Griffin, Elmer, 81, 91
Gropius, Walter, 25, 26
Hall, Joyce Clyde,
Hallmark stores, 2
See also Ha
Harrison, Joan, 11
Helicopters as alt
d by —
Herman, Victor, 158
Hertz, Frances, 146, 154,
Hertz, John Daniel, 144,
Hoffmann, Josef, 36-37
Hormel, George Albert,
Hudson Bay Company
Hudspeth, John, 179
Hudspeth Center, 179
Hungary, 1-13, 15, 18, 25,
30-32, 37, 51-52,
70-71, 90, 169, 174-
Huston, Walter, 91-92
Jurman, Walter, 81-82
Kahn, Mr. and Mrs. Walter,
Kaiser, John D. , 95-96,
186, 196, 198
Kandinsky, Wassily, 37
Klee, Paul, 37
See Laszl6, Paul
— buildings designed
or remodeled by
— Crenshaw movie
Kreedman, S. Jon, 168, 211-
Laszl6, Hugo (uncle),
Laszl6, Mr. & Mrs. Ignac
(parents ) , 1-3 , 6 ,
Laszl6, Maxine Fife (wife),
49, 50, 54, 63, 71,
72, 83, 181-82, 187-
Laszl6, Paul. See also
to present system
-buildings designed or
-American City Bank
-Atomville, 150, 160-
-Beverly Hills Hotel
-Rodeo Room, 128,
-Blanke House, 118-21
-Bleyle House, 30, 33,
Club clubhouse, 65-66
-Burchman House, 121
-city hall in
-Fleischer House, 63
-Goldwater ' s
See Fashion Square,
-at Country Club
Plaza, 95-98, 185-
90, 197, 203
-at Crown Center,
191, 198, 199-202
-Harth, Eddy, store,
-Hertz bomb shelter,
-Hertz House, 146-47
-Jeffries houses. See
-Jeittele houses, 57
-Kahn House, 61-62
-Kokusai Theater. See
-Lanz store. See
Harth, Eddy, store
-Beverly Hills, 83-
85, 102, 122
store, 7 7
-Marx House, 60-61
-McCulloch House, 206
-"Peasant Acres." See
-Perlberg House, 143-
School. See Hertz
bomb shelter; Hertz
terminal project, 163
-Rosenfield House, 81
-Saks House. See
-Schmidt House, 24
-Swanson store, 190-
-Weir, Robert, apart-
-other buildings in
Vienna and Hungary,
-other design projects
-ceramic objects, 29
-paper goods, 35,
-feelings about people
changing his buildings,
-location of offices,
-philosophy of archi-
tecture, 209, 216
-preference for small
firms, 19-20, 98-99,
166-67, 217-19, 220-22
-style of architecture
-merging of inside and
outside, 117, 124
-relationship to other
25-26, 36-39, 94-95,
-use of custom-made
materials and indivi-
dualized designs, 46,
47-48, 99-100, 213-14,
Laszl6, Peter Paul (son),
64-65, 176, 192,
193, 194, 219
Le Corbusier (Charles
Gris), 20, 25, 215-
Lee, Jeanette, 96, 186, 196
Lennart, Harry, 181-82
LeRoy, Kitty Spiegel, 144
Liebes, Dorothy, 99
Loewendahl, Walter, Jr.,
Loewendahl, Walther, Sr.,
Loewy, Raymond, 166
Loos, Adolf, 3 7
Loper, Don, 128-29
-changes in, 173-74, 176
-planning of, 224-27
Lovelace Foundation, 151
Luckman, Charles, 34, 217
s department stores,
Albert C. , 217
ch, Robert P. ,
n der Rohe , Ludwig,
25-26, 27, 28, 37,
Eddy, 107, 108
Nagy , LSszl6, 37
Nachtlicht, Leo, 16
stores, 75-76, 108,
Neutra, Richard, 93-94
Nichols, Jesse Clyde, Jr.,
Niemeyer, Oscar, 216
Nymphenburg , Germany, 4 7
Olbrich, Josef, 37
Paris, France, 224, 226
Parker, Maynard, 131
Paul Laszlo (book by
Perlberg, Mr. and Mrs.
Pereira, William, 217
Rees, Ed, 225
Roth, Louis, 107, 108
Rott, Maria, 24, 29
Saks, Leona Hertz, 144-46
Saks Fifth Avenue, 144,
Scherle, Hans, 22
Schindler, Rudolph, 94
Schulman, Julius, 130-31
Seagram Building (New
Seaton, Phyllis, 225-26
Selznick, David, 117-18
Standard Cabinet Works, 100
Stone, Edward Durell, 204
Strakosch, Hans de , 86,
Swanson stores, 190-91,
Szombathely, Hungary, 1-4
Teague, Walter Dorwin, 166
Teller, Edward, 148
tives to present
system, 161, 163-65
Trump, Donald, 219
Trump Tower (New York),
Universal Studios, 88, 89,
V^agner, Otto, 36, 37
Washington, D.C., planning
Weber, Richard, 32-33
Weingarten, Sylvia and
Lawrence A. , 80-81
Weir, Mr. and Mrs. Robert,
Weissenhof exhibit, 25,
Western Dye House, Inc.,
Wiener Werkstatte, 36
Williams, Paul, 137
Wlach, Otto, 36
World V7ar I, 7-11
World War II, 87-89, 111-12
Wolff, Selma, 54
Zacho, Axel, 132-33
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