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David Brenner's home features a new use for the living room
David Brenner's been a busy, busy man.
There's his Vegas gig. His touring (which, by the way, is bringing him to Zanie's in Chicago on Thursday, Pheasant Run on Friday and Vernon Hills on Saturday). And a comedy Web site that he's working on. But that's the small stuff.
The other night, the comedian told us—as we chatted on the phone recently—he hunkered down in his roomy home office ... and went to work to topple Al-Qaeda.
Yes, Al-Qaeda. That's what he said.
"Their computer system with their tapes ... somebody got in there and got a virus and all that. And they're denying it, but in the meanwhile, they haven't been putting out their nasty tapes. Well, I did that the other night," Brenner confided (remember: he's a comedian). "I was kinda bored. I don't watch television. So I just logged in and I threw in a monster virus into the Al-Qaeda system. Well, it starts out playing 'Hava Nagila.' That threw them for a loop."
This confession came flooding out while the comic was telling us about the little sayings he's got on the walls around his computer (that's where he got sidetracked). The computer in his home office where he's got a carousel horse from a Philadelphia amusement park.
That home office, by the way, has a little secret: If someone else were living in this nearly 5,000-square-foot Las Vegas house, this space would be the living room.
"The big living room is my office because I don't entertain—so I'd rather have a big office," he says. "And then when people do come over, they gotta stand. And it eliminates them staying too long."
Other rooms they might miss at the Spanish-style home Brenner shares with sons Wyatt, 13, and Slade, 10, (his eldest son, Cole, 26, is married) and his fiance, former World Figure Skating pairs champion Tai Babilonia, and her son, Scout: Six bedrooms, a billiard room, kitchen, dining and breakfast rooms, the assistant's office and the swimming pool—and lots and lots of personal photos.
If you could change anything about your home, what would it be? That I could move it somewhere else. New York City. I had a love affair with New York City since I saw it in a movie as a little boy. It was a revival theater in the old neighborhood and they had a John Garfield movie. ... And they showed a shot of New York—Manhattan —and I was sitting with my friends in the movie and I go, 'Wow—man—that's a city.' And that was it. And when I was 14, I finally got there. I hitched a ride and I got there. And I just fell in love with that place. … I wrote in one of my books that the only two things that never let me down in my life are my parents and New York City.
One thing on your nightstand: There's a beautiful glass light. ... It's gorgeous, it's an old French—I don't know the artist but it's signed.
Three things we'd find in your medicine cabinet: Oh, a gun, a rope and directions to a cliff. OK ... ah yes, sunblock 45, because it's so important that you don't get skin cancer. And vetiver after-shave. Oh, here's a good one for you, emu oil. It's great for the skin.
What is the biggest collection in your home: I'm not a collector. But I have a great collection of personal photos. [And] my older brother was a war hero and at his funeral, they fired off a 21-gun salute. And his wife sent me a shell from it … something like that, that's different. But, you know, a table, a chair — it's a table, a chair.
Would we find any reading material in your bathroom? No. Never. That's not what it's for. Would you use the library for a bathroom?
If we came unexpectedly, would we find your bed made—or not made? Oh, I make it every morning. I'm one of those neat freaks.
Three things we'd find in your refrigerator: In the old days . . . because I had to eat home all the time as a kid and we never went to restaurants, I promised myself that when I grew up and had any kind of decent life going and became somebody ... that I would eat every meal in a restaurant. And that's what I did. And I had in my refrigerator two things … cartons of cigarettes to keep 'em fresh and, in summer time, socks. Because on a real hot day, right before you go out of the house, you put on a pair of cold socks, for about a block, it's heaven.
Now, there are two refrigerators—this shows you metamorphosis of life—one for everyone else and then mine. Because I am, I've always been, a healthy eater. … I eat about five servings of fruit, five servings of vegetables, all that kind of stuff. But I have Bubbie's sauerkraut. And I have ... goat milk yogurt [and] 100 percent whole-ground flax seed meal. ... On the road, I have to bring along my portable blender for my smoothies.
TV or no TV in the bedroom? What you won't see in my bedroom is a TV. I don't watch TV. [And] the bedroom is for two purposes in life. And TV will interfere with both.
What CD or artist would we find in your player (or on your iPod)? Deacon Jones. I just got it.
Do you do any snooping of your own when visiting friends? Never. I'm the kind who used to put the marbles in the medicine cabinet.
Do you hang your toilet paper with the paper hanging over the front or down the back? Men have it over [the front]. Women have it under. If you want to now who's right. Buy patterned paper. If you hang it going over the back, it won't show the pattern.
One thing you would save from your house: When I was out of college, I was still living in the same [Philadelphia] neighborhood and I was down to 80 cents. I mean really down to 80 cents . . . I had three quarters and a nickel. And I got the phone call giving me my first job as a writer in television for documentaries. And I took the three quarters and the nickel and I put it in a rag, and I thought, someday I'm going to put these coins on black velvet and a sterling silver frame with a sterling silver placard that will read: "Lest we forget." So I never forget how poor I was once. And that's what's on my wall. That frame. So that's my prize possession. And it's interesting because I never really have to look at it. … It's framed inside of me.