Back in 1990 when producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason wanted a Little Rock, Ark., house for Evening Shade, they ventured just three blocks from the Governor’s Mansion, the former residence of their pal Bill Clinton. The Colonial Revival home with a broad porch and loads of charm belonged to Townsend Wolfe, director of the Arkansas Arts Center, and his wife, Jane, a spiritual guidance counselor for the Episcopalian diocese. “They were looking for a small-town house that looked like it had a lot of history,” says Ben Harrell, director of operations for the Thomasons’ production company. “I said the only condition we had was that the house could not change color,” says Wolfe, 61. “The next thing I knew, I got a call from Harry Thomason saying, ‘Townsend, your house needs painting.’ ” The couple rejected the ocher color the Thomasons envisioned and held out for basic white. The producers paid the costs, including a window cleaning, saving the Wolfes more than $8,000. They received no other payment except for the satisfaction of seeing their home look good—and sometimes shockingly different. Once the couple tuned in and saw Christmas lights outside. “I went out and looked all around. I didn’t know how they did it,” Wolfe says. “I called my contact, and he said they did it with a computer.”
A knock on the door in the summer of 1987 was the answer to Dennis and Donna Potts’s prayers. Short on cash for their son Don’s first year of college, the Pasadena residents were preparing to refinance their home when a location scout for a new show called Thirtysomething showed up. Seems the 95-year-old Craftsman-style house was a dead ringer for the kind of suburban Philadelphia home that characters Michael and Hope Steadman would live in. The producers offered the Pottses $1,500 a day to film their house. “The exact right time, the right amount of money,” says Donna, 54, a high school biology teacher. “It was just what we needed.” Explains the show’s production designer, Brandy Alexander: “The architectural style is popular on both the East and West coasts.” The Pottses endured four years of a few grousing neighbors and film crews laying siege to their property, but that didn’t spoil their taste for Hollywood. “If I’d known Thirtysomething was going to be so successful, I’d have negotiated more money,” says Dennis, 54, a spacecraft systems engineer. “But at the time, we thought we were in hog heaven.”
THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW
Evan and Naomi Maurer’s real estate agent had mentioned something about the house being on TV and friends even sent the couple sweatshirts emblazoned with “Mary slept here,” but it wasn’t until the Maurers were moving in with their two sons, Aaron and Noah, in 1988 that they felt the full effect of owning the Minneapolis home immortalized on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. A van pulled up and “12 people jumped out, laughing, just delighted to be there,” recalls Maurer, 52, the director and CEO of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. “They assembled on the steps for a photo. On cue, they threw their hats into the air, then got back in the van and drove away.” Maurer admits that the constant flow of tourists (up to 30 buses a day in the summer) can be annoying, but declares the 1892 Victorian “perfect.” The house features two kitchens, six bathrooms, four bedrooms and a study that was shown from the outside as Mary Richards’s third-floor apartment. Last year, the couple invited Moore for a visit after hearing that she’d never been inside the house. “It was a real treat. I feel a fondness for the house,” says the actress, adding that whenever she’s in Minneapolis, “I get a lump in my throat.”
BEVERLY HILLS, 90210
This is Altadena 91001, but on television Jack Stanton’s Spanish revival home goes by a better known zip code: Beverly Hills, 90210. Stanton, a 51-year-old building inspector and divorced father of two, was skeptical when in 1990 he was asked by a stranger in a Bronco if he wanted the house, with its wide archways and terra cotta tiled roof, in the movies. “I didn’t know whether they were going to come back to rip me off,” he says. Instead production aides returned with a contract and the house became the home of 90210 twins Brenda and Brandon Walsh, whose family had relocated from Minnesota. “We needed a home that would be compatible with the income level of a family moving from the midwest to California,” says E. Duke Vincent, the show’s executive producer. Stanton and his kids Michael and Kristina, themselves fraternal twins now age 16, made the most of their brush with celebrity. Stanton played an extra in a party episode and Michael got his nose accidentally bloodied by Luke Perry in an off-camera basketball game. Kristina discovered her fair-weather classmates. “A couple of girls were really friendly to me,” she says. “I’d introduce them to everyone on the show. Then when we’d go back to school, they weren’t friendly anymore.”
THE COSBY SHOW
Tourists who arrive at the Greenwich Village address of 10 St. Lukes Place hoping to find Cliff and Clair Huxtable’s house are often disappointed to discover that the brownstone is not a single family home. The classic prewar townhouse featured on The Cosby Show is divided into an owner’s duplex and four tiny one-bedroom apartments. “Some people think the inside is really like that house,” says Billy Weiner, 42, an executive administrator of the Screen Actors Guild and a tenant since 1990. Explains the show’s production designer, Garvin Eddy: “We justified the spaciousness by saying they had taken two brownstones and joined them, making one larger one.” Weiner, who never watched the popular ’80s sitcom, says, “I had no idea it was the Cosby house.” He was enlightened by the voices of tour guides outside his window and postcards of his building sent by friends. “I started checking out the reruns, and there it was,” he says. “The camera would zoom up to someone’s bedroom and it was my apartment.” In 1993 the street noise led Weiner to seek a rear apartment previously occupied by Ransom actress Lili Taylor.