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The 8.000-square-foot compound in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon neighborhood where Frank Zappa lived with his family from 1968 until his death in 1993 was put up for sale Thursday by his children for $5,495,000.
The historic property at 7885 Woodrow Wilson Drive includes seven bedrooms, six baths, two guest cottages, a swimming pool, rooftop tennis court and the fabled Utility Muffin Research Kitchen where Zappa recorded his jazz-rock albums and composed his symphonies, as well as the Vault, a chamber beneath the house where Zappa stored thousands of hours of unreleased recordings, video and family artifacts. Whimsical touches typical of Zappa, including a door salvaged from a submarine, are found throughout the property.
Prior to residing at the Woodrow Wilson Drive house, Zappa, his wife Gail (who died in 2015), and their then-infant daughter Moon Unit rented a log cabin at 2401 Laurel Canyon Blvd., a former roadhouse with a working bowling alley in the basement. Although the Zappas lived there only six months, in the spring and summer of 1968, the house was quickly established as Laurel Canyon’s rock ‘n’ roll clubhouse, where transient tenants, guests and hangers-on included the GTOs groupie clique, blues legend John Mayall (who wrote the song “2401” about the place), Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart, plus members of Zappa’s band the Mothers of Invention and the original Alice Cooper group.
The sale of Zappa’s Woodrow Wilson compound has been caught up in a dispute among Zappa’s children — Dweezil, Moon, Ahmet and Diva — particularly Ahmet and Dweezil, who recorded two albums together and who have been battling each other since Gail died.
After their father’s death from prostate cancer in 1993, the Zappa Family Trust was formed to administer the rights to Zappa’s vast catalog of songs and to protect copyrights and trademarks. After Gail’s death last October, control of the trust passed to the younger Zappa siblings, Ahmet and Diva, who serve as the estate’s trustees. Dweezil and Moon remain beneficiaries of the estate.
In April, the Zappa Family Trust informed Dweezil that he did not have permission to perform any of his father’s songs on his annual Zappa Plays Zappa tour and could no longer use the Zappa Plays Zappa name, which the trust owns and for which Dweezil said his mother had charged him an exorbitant licensing fee.
The Zappa siblings also have clashed over a yet-unfilmed, Kickstarter-funded documentary about their father to be directed by Alex Winter (Downloaded), which Ahmet and Diva endorse but Dweezil and Moon do not. In an open letter to Dweezil published on Facebook, Ahmet claimed that maintaining the business side of their father’s legacy was “pretty damn expensive. … That’s why Gail told us we have to sell the house: because she knew how much it would cost to maintain the catalog.”
In March, the house was offered for sale for $9 million as part of the Kickstarter campaign to fund the documentary and catalog Zappa’s Vault. The crowdfunding campaign for the movie successfully met its goal of $1 million, and Winter is supervising the archiving and preservation of the Vault’s contents.
The Zappa compound was one of several rock ‘n’ roll landmarks in Laurel Canyon during the neighborhood’s heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash shared a cottage next door to the Zappa log cabin, where Mitchell wrote her 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon and Nash composed the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young classic “Our House,” about his and Mitchell’s life together there “with two cats in the yard.” Not far from the Zappa compound on Woodrow Wilson, Cass Elliot of The Mamas and the Papas lived in a gated Cape Cod house that was the de facto salon for the canyon’s musicians.
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