New York Post
You’ve gotta have Hart
By MICKI SIEGEL
Last Updated: 2:14 AM, May 5, 2011
Posted: 7:28 PM, May 4, 2011
Itâ€™s a warm spring afternoon, and Broadway actress Linda Hart â€” now in the Tony-nominated musical â€œCatch Me If You Canâ€ â€” is pointing out the array of brass angels and holiday decor on the parlor floor of her West Chelsea brownstone.
â€œEvery day is Christmas in our home,â€ Hart says. Thatâ€™s not necessarily because the 1848 townhouse was built on farmland once owned and divided into lots by Clement Clarke Moore, the author of â€œThe Night Before Christmas.â€
â€œIf they make it to Easter,â€ she says of the Yuletide trimmings, â€œthey just stay up.â€
The townhouse, which was landmarked so long ago that neither Hart nor her investment banker husband know when it happened, is extremely wide and deep, measuring 21 feet by 55 feet. Thereâ€™s more than 4,500 square feet of living space spread across four floors, not counting the basement. Hart and her husband reside on the three lower floors, which are laid out with three bedrooms, four bathrooms, two kitchens, a study and two living rooms. (They rent out the top floor.)
Perhaps the homeâ€™s most dramatic space is the 21-by-40-foot living/dining room on the parlor floor, with 12-foot ceilings and wall-to-wall windows. Thereâ€™s also three fireplaces, as well as two decks and a planted garden.
â€œMy husbandâ€™s father bought the house in the 1960s,â€ Hart says. â€œThen, when he passed away, my husband bought it from his mother in the 1980s. We still have furniture from my husbandâ€™s family, and some pieces â€” a sofa, a double hutch and a server â€” that my father-in-law made and hand-carved himself.â€
In fact, they have lots and lots of pieces: antiques, memorabilia, art glass, angels, photos and other collectibles.
Many of the pieces are in the living room. Under an end table are neatly tucked slippers that turn out to be 19th-century Dutch wooden shoes (Hart and her husband are both Dutch). There are two matching red-lacquered, early-1900s curio cabinets and a tabletop of hand-blown Correia art glass.
â€œIâ€™m a collector,â€ Hart says, â€œand I really enjoy interesting things. Everything really sort of does have a story.â€
Then thereâ€™s the pipe organ her in-laws bought from a church in New Jersey. (Both Hart and her husband play.) It stands a short distance from a grand piano, bongo drums, conga drums, an upright bass and a mandolin (all of which Hart plays).
â€œMy husband and I both come from musical families,â€ she says. â€œMy mom alone plays 17 instruments â€” including water glasses!â€
Hart could almost pen a story about her relationship with Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman who wrote the music and lyrics for â€œCatch Me If You Can,â€ based on the movie version and the true life of reformed con man Frank Abagnale, and now playing at the Neil Simon Theatre. (The original cast recording will be released in May.)
â€œTheyâ€™ve been in my life since my first job when I was a backup singer for Bette Midler,â€ says Hart, who was one of the Harlettes; Marc was her vocal conductor.
â€œThis is my third show with Marc and Scott,â€ she says. â€œThe first was â€˜Livinâ€™ Dollsâ€™ in 1982, then â€˜Hairsprayâ€™ in 2002 and now â€˜Catch Me.â€™ â€
Hartâ€™s character, Carol Strong, was inspired by her real family. Sheâ€™d been doing workshops and tryouts of â€œCatch Meâ€ for 2Â½ years and was asked by the director, Jack Oâ€™Brien, what her family did evenings after they finished dinner. Hart, who grew up in a Grammy-winning family known as the Musical Harts, told him they all sat down and made music together. So, a scene was written for the show similar to what actually went on in her home.
While performing in â€œCatch Meâ€ eight times a week, Hart still finds time to plan future shows. They include one based on the life and music of composer Bert Berns, another on the life of stripper Candy Barr and still another about her own extraordinary life. She is writing the latter, called â€œHart Break Motel,â€ herself.
â€œMy parents were both ministers,â€ Hart says. â€œI was born in Dallas, but we traveled all over the country and Europe in a tent revival. When I was just an infant, my mother used to place my bassinet right next to the Hammond organ. Then she and my dad would hold a revivalist meeting. That was my beginning, and Iâ€™m terribly grateful for it.
â€œI think interesting homes are in my blood,â€ she continues. â€œThroughout my childhood, my parents would buy a house â€” or, sometimes, my father would build it â€” my mother would decorate it, and then theyâ€™d turn it over. The first real house I ever lived in had once belonged to [liquor mogul] Hiram Walker. It had 32 rooms, eight bedrooms, 10 baths. And Jean Harlow had once lived in the first apartment I ever rented in Hollywood.
â€œNow I live in this beautiful, historic house in Chelsea. To me, thatâ€™s just wonderful!â€
Linda Hartâ€™s favorite things
* The evening bags and matching compacts (made with Swarovski crystals) created by Jimmy Crystal for different roles and occasions (below)
* Mazeppa, her rescued terrier mix, named after the character Hart played in â€œGypsyâ€
* The Musical Hartsâ€™ albums â€” her family recorded about 20
* Her Theater World Award for â€œAnything Goesâ€
* The wall of photos on the garden-floor level
* Her motherâ€™s shoes and Hartâ€™s dress from the 1960s; they were dressed in identical mother-daughter outfits for an album cover.
* Her doll collection from Provence