UnNews:Thanks to "Frank Lloyd Wright," even for the homeless, a man's home can be a castle
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28 May 2007
NEW YORK, NY - Nick Brendon, a homeless artist who goes by the nickname Frank Lloyd Wright, in honor of the architect he “idolizes,” may live on the street, but he does so in the manner of a king. In exchange for drugs, alcohol, sex, thrift shop clothing, and “just about anything else of value,” Wright will construct the contributor’s cardboard house of choice, painting the exterior to resemble “any style of residence,” from brick ramblers to granite mansions. His commissions over the past decade have enabled him to buy enough paint and cardboard to construct a palace for himself. “There’s good income, so to speak, in housing development,” he said.
Wright started building cardboard homes in 1996. The first, a copy of his idol’s Falling Water, was constructed in an alley in the Bowery, north of Chinatown. He used discarded artificial Christmas trees and shrubs he’d “liberated” from Central Park to recreate the famous dwelling’s landscaping, he told Unnews’ reporter Lotta Lies. He “trucked” the shrubs from the park to the “building site” in a wheelbarrow he found "abandoned" at a nearby construction site. The job took two weeks, “between binges,” he said, and “earned me a fortune: I charged 10 bottles of Arizona State champagne for that one,” he confided. Although he said he “has no idea” where the buyer acquired such a “fortune” in wine, the police blotter records the commission of a local liquor store robbery at few days before the sale.
Wright’s success with this first enterprise led him to build more cardboard mansions for other homeless men and women. “I built a replica of Aaron Spelling’s Beverly Hills mansion for Mattie Hingle, which sold for a carton of cigarettes and a fifth of hooch. It took most of a month to complete, and another two weeks to paint. Once the guys and gals on the street saw my homes, they all wanted one. I began to generate quite an income,” Wright confided.
One of the real benefits that can be overlooked is the repeat business that is not available to other construction businesses, except for builders in coastal areas. "When it rains these houses tend to 'fall apart' because they are, well, made of cardboard," Wright said. But on the bright side Wright offers "a discount" to his repeat customers, if they are still in the neighborhood. "After all," he said, "at this stage of the game, I wont miss one bottle of Muscatel," he added confidently.
In April, Wright began work on his own abode, an exact replica of Buckingham Palace. The fortress, constructed in Central Park, occupies 53 acres of prime real estate. To build the 775-room, 77,000-square-meter mansion, he spared neither time, effort, nor expense, including not only cardboard but also papier-mâché, aluminum from melted-down tin cans, and glass from “pop bottles and windows in abandoned and condemned buildings, mostly in Harlem.” The palace’s windows, doorways, columns, frescoes, arches, balustrades, and balconies are painstakingly hand painted, Wright says. He used color photographs from disgarded magazines of the palace to make sure that he got the details correct. Although it took many days of “back-breaking labor” that 'almost interfered' with Wright’s consumption of alcohol, he says the work was well worth it. “It’s a labor of love,” he admitted, “because, after all, a man’s home is his castle.”
Wright is also very proud of the "wine celler" he has put in to his home, showing off his accumulation of "vintage" Thunderbird, Muscatel, and Budweiser. "The only problem," he says "is one of security." It seems that one other drawback of cardboard houses is that "other winos" break through the "walls" to reach his stash. "This is just part of the price of success." he said philosophically.
But with success has come unwanted attention from The IRS. Reportedly, the
Infernal Internal Revenue Service has taken an interest in Wright’s fortune in cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, and other profits. “Bartered goods are the same as monetary income as far as we’re concerned,” IRS spokesman Lee Grave-Robbers said, “and, as such, it is subject to taxation without representation.”
Although the IRS has sent Wright several notices of overdue taxes, the self-styled architect claims never to have received them. “I may have a house, but I have no permanent address,” he said. And the Post Office says I'm only "a bum."
Nevertheless, the IRS has threatened to put a lien against Wright’s home. “One way or the other, he’s going to pay,” Grave-Robbers vowed. "If we have to, we'll foreclose on it and sell it at public auction." "Assuming we can complete the process before it rains again," he added seriously.