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Rand Just Shrugged at the Valley’s Charms

Writer Ayn Rand used to explain that her first name was pronounced like swine.

Born Alice Rosenbaum in 1905 in czarist Russia, she found her last name on her typewriter--a Remington Rand. Obviously, self-invention was the writer’s real forte, although she did such produce controversial bestsellers as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.”

Effectively preaching a philosophy of selfishness and laissez-faire capitalism that came to be known as objectivism, Rand was a rigid, humorless, charismatic individual whose devotees valued her every word. (Among her followers was young economist Alan Greenspan, now the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.)

Rand was also a Valley resident for 10 years. She bought her 13-acre Chatsworth ranch with $24,000 of the then-unheard-of sum of $50,000 she made from the sale of her 1943 novel “The Fountainhead” to Warner Bros. Like the book’s architect hero, she fought to have her vision for the Gary Cooper film brought to the screen intact. Of course, she failed.

The Chatsworth spread included an ultramodern house of glass and steel designed by famed architect Richard J. Neutra. The house, which had a moat and a roof pond with tropical fish off the master bathroom, was at 10000 Tampa Ave.

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Rand’s husband, Frank O’Connor, an actor and painter, loved the ranch. Peacocks strode among his beloved flowers, kept in cages with no tops so they could fly at will.

Rand, on the other hand, hated Chatsworth. It was not New York, for one thing. In that pre-freeway era, it was far from the action in Hollywood and she never learned to drive. In 1951, Rand and O’Connor moved to New York, where the writer would begin a long affair with protege Nathaniel Branden, 25 years her junior.

Rand died in 1982 at the age of 77. Among the floral displays at her funeral was a wreath in the shape of a dollar sign.


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