Now That's Living! | Eastlake's Tommy Eggleston is livin' the technicolor life
He spent years on the road working for Three Dog Night, running nightclubs, and then as a deejay in Honolulu. And everywhere he went, Tommy brought something home. Now, Tommy and his memories live together in his funky cottage in Seattle's Eastlake neighborhood.
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IF YOU are a fan of contemporary residential architecture and prefer to read your Sunday newspaper seated pertly on a severe metal chair, avert your eyes.
This story comes with a strong warning: contains piles and mounds; things forgotten or unrecognizable; rusty, dusty and musty; springs sprung; mementos galore and just plain galore. Life magazines with the Beatles on the cover; a beer-can collection in the living room; the refrigerator festooned with Kodak moments; Mardi Gras beads over a kitchen chair; an Aladdin Shrine fez, with tassel, over a lampshade; old road signs tacked to the walls. "Exit." "Speed Limit 35." "Lookout Road."
What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the lifelong work of a hunter-gatherer extraordinaire. A true celebration of clutter and chaos tucked into the last real corner of Seattle's Eastlake neighborhood. A development holdout.
This is Tommy Eggleston's funky eggplant-painted trove of 72 years of rock 'n' roll livin'. An authentic blast from the past. Memories floor to ceiling from Tommy's years spent in limos, hotels and arenas as a roadie for Three Dog Night, running nightclubs, and then as a deejay in Honolulu: "KPOI 97.5 on your FM dial! The surf's up, and it's 80 degrees!"
That's probably why the radio's always on. "Woolly Bully" plays. I smell patchouli.
It's a little like a wander through Pacific Galleries. On acid.
The kitchen is painted Pepto Bismol. In the bedroom there is, beneath the parasols, what Tommy calls his workbench. In the spare room is a clothesline, sagging and aflame with Tommy's Hawaiian shirts.
Interior designer Mary Hansen used to be Tommy's neighbor. Over the years she has also been his sorta-secret decorator. There are days when Hansen shows up and announces that a new fence is to be built, or a path laid or the house painted. But it is a tide that cannot be entirely turned back. And the overall look is way more Tommy than Mary.
Sometimes (and please don't tell this to Tommy) when Tommy travels, Mary and Tommy's downstairs tenant, architect and furniture designer, Dane Jensen, fill a pickup truck with Tommy's stuff and take it to the dump. With love. Tommy always hollers about it. They don't care. They just want to keep him off that "Hoarders" TV show. They're like curators.
Oh, sure, stuff bad, spare good. We should all be working toward the one-sofa-one-chair-one-table-no-knicknacks kind of life. But, one is the loneliest number, according to Three Dog Night. And every item at Tommy's was once an adventure. Each waiting to be dusted off and made alive again.
Outside there are Mexican blankets draped over the weight bench, a ceramic donkey, cowboy boots as flower pots, reflectors cemented into rock walls and, of course, a pink flamingo. "See all the colors and everything?" Tommy says, waving an arm loud with silver bracelets. A squirrel scurries past, having found something to cart off for his own.
As we pass through the car-parts store that is the back entry, Tommy cries out with the delight of rediscovery, "I forgot about this, my pirate lamp!" To emphasize, he jabs fingers dwarfed by turquoise rings the size of silver dollars at the top of the fridge. He looks up. "The attic is full of ex-wives and girlfriends and stuff." He means their mementos, not actual humans.
We haven't even talked about why there is a pile of swords on the night stand in the guest room. Or dropped the names of the famous who came to party (Tommy Smothers, Duffy Bishop, Marilee Rush, Junior Cadillac, the Amazing Rhythm Aces and maybe Bachman-Turner Overdrive. He's purple hazy on that one.)
"You have to come back, because I have to show you the sunset!" Tommy says, enthusiasm full throttle, silver clanging, patchouli wafting. We sit on old quilts in the sun porch next to a pile of license plates. A birthday candle, burnt down to age 2, has been lighted in my honor.
"Ramblin' Man" comes on the radio.
Sunset just might be the one thing that could compete with Tommy Eggleston.
Rebecca Teagarden writes about design and architecture for Pacific Northwest magazine. After Tommy's house, she's seen it all. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.