Here’s a peek at Jerry Orbach’s home — a brownstone in New York City — looked like back at the beginning of the seventies, when he lived there with his wife and two kids.
How he lived: Jerry Orbach’s home in NYC (1970)
“Putting together a house should never end.”
By Melissa Sutphen – House Beautiful magazine, February 1970
Jerry Orbach may rent out his on-stage apartment to philandering executives every night in Broadway’s “Promises, Promises,” but the Manhattan brownstone where he heads when the curtain falls is his for keeps.
Twenty blocks south of Times Square’s blare and bustle, Jerry Orbach and his wife Marta live on a street so quiet that in summer “the only sound that wakes us is the lawnmower going next door.”
Five years ago, they took a flyer and plunked down all their savings on a rather ragtag boarding house in New York’s Chelsea district.
It was only the second place they had been shown, but it took only a quick tour to sell them.
Once headquarters for a bakers union, it had some distinguished quirks.
On the second floor, Jerry, the coolest pool player in show business, found marks that were obviously made by a true pool table. And downstairs, in the kitchen, his wife spotted a cavernous brick fireplace.
Today, their 22′ by 56′ townhouse swings as a witty, eclectic stage for the Orbachs and their sons Tony, eight, and Christopher, one.
How do they find Chelsea? “It’s actually romantic… full of Saroyan-type people. The week we moved in, we lost Choo Choo, our cat, and the whole block turned out to look for her.”
Illustrious neighbors are an everyday thing. Geraldine Page and Rip Torn and Anthony Perkins all live close by, and of course, there is the arty Hotel Chelsea.
Freewheeling and fanciful, there is a breezy country feeling to the Orbachs’ own triplex.
It is full of surprises. Gardenias and palm trees flourish in pots. There is lots of white wicker furniture and a wine cellar, plus a sauna and sunporch now being built.
Still, the huge kitchen, with 19th-century copper trim over the stove, catches most of the action. Not surprising, for the kitchen was the room for both the Orbachs growing up. (They married in 1958, when both were in The Threepenny Opera in New York.)
Jerry’s father managed restaurants in the East, and out in San Francisco, Marta’s whole family cooked memorable feasts.
What is now on the Chelsea table is of utmost importance, too. The Orbachs together explore old city markets to collect regional foods (sausages from Toronto, tortillas from Los Angeles) the way most people collect Green Stamps.
They also hunt for antiques that can be put to use — an old map case just the size for Jerry’s pool cues, and, at a store called Second Hand Rose, beveled-glass windows to make into coffee-table tops.
Down on the first floor, the red, white, and blue playroom may be the gayest mélange of objects in any 1890s house anywhere. It has funhouse mirrors, a mini-pinball machine, and a rope swing for Tony.
Taking in all the color and happenings and Orbach good times are the puppets Jerry made famous in “Carnival.”
Jerry has been fascinated by pool sharks since he picked up a cue at age 13. To him, “the hustler is much like an actor. He works by his wit.”
He has had the pockets on his living room pool table narrowed “so every other table is just a little easier to play.”
Elsewhere in the house, each room has its own ambiance.
The foyer looks very like a walk-in chiaroscuro painting… all art-nouveau black, white, and grays. On its mirror hangs a gaucho hat Marta often wears when she takes her sons for bike rides.
Upstairs, Christopher’s bedroom wallpaper jumps with silvery jungle animals (“extravagant, but we had to have it”).
And the room where the bakers used to count union dues now has plum-colored walls and bright kilim rugs.
Above its 1920s typewriter: Sarah Bernhardt posters and photographs Marta took of favorite California scenes.
DON’T MISS: Charles Bronson at home (1975)