They're outraged that owners of the Downey houses want to remodel.By Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 16, 2008We've only just begun . . . to learn what is happening to the Downey family home that was made world-famous by the pop duo the Carpenters.
The five-bedroom tract house and a smaller next-door dwelling that was connected to it by an enclosed walkway was where Richard and Karen Carpenter fine-tuned their greatest hits in the 1970s.
The Newville Avenue compound became a magnet for fans around the world when it was pictured on the Carpenters' tri-fold cover for their 1973 hit album "Now & Then." It is also where an anorexic Karen Carpenter collapsed in 1983 before dying.
The pair's parents remained in the residence until Harold Carpenter's death in 1988 and Agnes Carpenter's in 1996. Richard Carpenter sold the place in mid-1997.
Tiring of a nonstop parade of fans paying hommage to Karen Carpenter and her and her brother's music, the compound's current owners have torn down the annex and begun construction on a larger house. They've also submitted plans to Downey officials for the replacement of the 39-year-old main house.
Fans are outraged.
"This house is our version of Graceland," said Carpenters aficionado Jon Konjoyan, a 57-year-old Toluca Lake music writer and promoter who is leading a campaign to save the remaining original house from destruction.
"They were such a huge American act in the '70s," he said. "So many people loved them."
The response underscores the enduring draw of the Carpenters, the vocal duo whose soft -- some say saccharine -- songs were in marked contrast to the harder rock acts also popular in the '70s and '80s.
Although some of their music is now relegated to dentists' offices and elevators, the Carpenters continue to have a loyal fan base.
Konjoyan was a young man in 1974 when he and his brother made a pilgrimage to the Newville Avenue home.
From 1981 to 1990, he worked for the Carpenters' label, A&M Records.
"When they photographed the 'Now & Then' cover here in 1973, the house was instantly immortalized," Konjoyan said. "Actually, when the photographer had come to the house to shoot the cover, they didn't know what to do. The photographer said, 'Why not get in the car and drive by?' "
So they did.
"They used Richard's red Ferrari. People thought it was a Pinto," Konjoyan said.
Music fans quickly tracked down the address -- often with the help of the Carpenters' polite neighbors who would direct the devotees through the neighborhood's maze of streets.
In 1974, Rolling Stone magazine reported that a stalker had driven up and down the avenue's short cul-de-sac looking for Karen. "I guess the Downey police are good -- that was the end of the story," Konjoyan said.
By all accounts, the home's current owners have been remarkably kind to Carpenter fans who still flock to Newville Avenue to gawk at the house and point to the upstairs bedroom where Karen collapsed.
MyLife've just begun