Resident at Westbeth in the 1970s
Living at Westbeth, though for only five years in the early 1970s, remains one of the most interesting periods of my life. Walking down the halls toward my apartment hearing people singing, playing music, and rehearsing lines always made me feel surrounded by so much life.
There were many fun things like the crazy Halloweens when the halls were filled with kids going in and out of apartments—we could wear costumes that didn’t call for shoes or coats!
There were also sad and scary times, like when I was standing in the kitchen with my mother and Christina Maile and a body fell past the window and down to the ground in the courtyard. They tried to shield me from the sight of the body, but that glimpse is something I will never forget.
My mother, Gwen Gunn, was a member of the Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective, and my best friend Lee and I would sell cookies and coffee at the performances. We also loved our hamsters with a passion and hated to be without them. One night we cut holes in the pockets of our jackets so that we could put our hamsters in them, and they could have the run of our coats between the outer layer and the lining. We “wore” our hamsters to the performance—taking off our jackets when it was intermission and we had to get to work. You might not be surprised to hear that when the show was over our hamsters were gone. But we were surprised and heartbroken. We looked all over the big dark Westbeth theater until the middle of the night, but alas, no hamsters. Hopefully they met some nice mice and had a good life.
It was the people, though, that really made Westbeth so great to live in, such a talented and interesting bunch. I think the experience helped make me very appreciative of quirkiness and all kinds of difference forever after.