Thursday, October 30, 2014

Architectural Oddities: Seinfeld

Oh, the things you see when you watch a series on a hi-def TV. 

I was recently re-watching Seinfeld and noticed something I'd never seen before. Jerry's apartment building had a name!

As you can see here, his building was called The Shelley. I've been watching the show since it premiered in 1989 and I never noticed that before! For someone who's supposed to be an artist, sometimes I can be shockingly unobservant.

They used the same handful of establishing shots of the building exterior for the first seven seasons.

But then something changed. Starting with Season 8 The Shelley on the awning was painted out. And quite crudely blacked out too I might add, much like the way the cities try to clumsily cover up graffiti on bridges and overpasses.

So what prompted the change?

Was it a squabble over rights? Did the owners of The Shelley, sensing money to be made, start demanding the series pay them a weekly fee to use the name? And then when the Seinfeld staff told them to get lost, they painted out the name in spite?

Eh, maybe, but I would think if it was a rights issue, the owners wouldn't have let the show use the building at all.

I'm betting it had to do with privacy. Seinfeld was extremely popular back then, and it would not surprise me if dedicated fans discovered the real-life location of Jerry's apartment and overran the building, banging on doors in hopes of catching a glimpse of Jerry, Kramer or even Newman.

This actually happened to the owners of the Beverly Hillbillies mansion. Clueless fans barged right in, looking for Jed and Granny. The same thing happened to the owner of The Mary Tyler Moore Show house– people knocked on the door day and night, wanting to talk to Mare and Rhoda.

My theory is that the tenants of The Shelley complained about these unwanted visits, forcing the owners of the building to black out the name on the awning in a desperate attempt to disguise the location.

According to this recent GoogleMaps image, the name's apparently been restored on the awning. No doubt all the hoopla's died down by this point.

By the way, Jerry's fictional New York City address was 
129 W. 81st street. Despite that, the address on the awning reads "757." Whoops!

The real building is actually located in Los Angeles, at 757 S. New Hampshire Ave.

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